Archive for the ‘Local Activities – Puget Sound Area’ Category

Photo: Jon Sullivan, Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo: Jon Sullivan, Commons.wikimedia.org

As a family, we’ve spent most Independence Days here at home, barbecuing in the afternoon or evening and setting off fireworks after dark. Because we’re homebodies, we don’t usually see the aftermath of the fireworks except for the bits of burned cardboard left in our yard.

But there was that one time when our kids were younger…the one time we spent it at the home of friends instead of friends coming to our place…that opened my eyes regarding fireworks and their effect on our environment. Driving home that night, there was smoke everywhere. From one side of our town to the other, nothing but toxic smoke just hanging in the air.

While my eyes did begin to open that night, I must admit I didn’t immediately change my ways. I was still mostly “asleep” back then when it came to issues like protecting the world around us and the creatures who can’t speak for themselves. But it was a start, a gradual awakening that’s been continuing over the years. While my family will still be setting off some fireworks this year, it won’t be as big a show as it’s been in the past, and I’ll be putting my foot down on certain types (floating lanterns, for one).

Another thing I never considered in my earlier years, I’m so sorry to say, was the effect of the day’s loud noises on birds and other animals. But these days I do worry about wildlife on the 4th of July, one reason being that this is still “baby season.” Birds and other animals are still having young, and there are also many fledgling birds and young squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and cottontails (the list goes on) born in the spring for whom this scary day will be a first. I have to wonder how many young are separated from their parents before their time, orphaned because the loud booms cause them or their parents to scatter in fear.


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I’d like to offer some tips for making the 4th more wildlife-friendly, but let’s first talk about how it can harm them.

1. The loud booms startle birds and other animals who have already gone to sleep for the night. If you have pets, you probably do what I do and make sure they’re in a safe place inside your home where the noises won’t scare them too much. (You do keep your pets inside on the 4th, don’t you? More dogs run away and are lost on the 4th of July than any other day of the year.) I even put on the radio for my pets to mask the noise of the fireworks from around my neighborhood. It’s not possible, obviously, to protect wildlife from the noise or the smoke…or even a fire should an accident happen.

2. The extreme amount of litter left over from fireworks not only looks terrible, but it can also be mistaken for food. This especially concerns me regarding fireworks displays on lakes and ocean waterfronts. I go outside with a garbage bag in the early morning on July 5 to clean up our yard, but how do you clean up a body of water? You can’t. (Well, you could try, but you won’t come close to getting it all.) The litter either floats or sinks, and the smaller pieces can be easily mistaken for food by birds like ducks or cormorants or by the fish below.

3. Sky lanterns. I really don’t think I need to say more. Does anyone actually think these things are safe? I remember one year when I reluctantly let one of my kids let one go: I almost had a heart attack when it came close to landing in the neighbor’s tree. Thankfully, it rose higher, but almost settled onto other trees before being carried up, up, and away. (I watched it until the fire went out.) Not only are these lanterns extreme fire hazards, the resulting litter can also harm wildlife, pets, and farm animals. Please read this very important article from Balloons Blow: Sky Lanterns (Flaming Litter). A type of firework that’s let loose and out of sight into the sky with no knowledge of where it will end up is one of the worst, and is a very irresponsible way to celebrate anything. And as I just mentioned, I have been one of those irresponsible people.

Sky lanterns seem innocent but are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Photo courtesy of Balloons Blow.

Sky lanterns seem innocent but are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Photo courtesy of Balloons Blow.

Finally, here are some safer and more wildlife-friendly ways to celebrate the 4th:

1. Go to a public display instead of shooting off fireworks at home. Here in the Seattle area, many fireworks displays are done over water (mainly over Lake Washington and Lake Union), but if more people would attend these than set off their own (and many already do), I guess that’s at least something. Here are listings for 4th of July celebrations around the Pacific Northwest:

    Bellingham area (This article even lists clean-up events on July 5. Way to go, Bellingham!)

2. Stay home and keep a hose or two ready. And a fire extinguisher. Whether you’re setting off fireworks or your neighbors are, being ready to put out a wayward trajectory on your roof or a fire in your shrubbery or grass is just smart.

3. Don’t make homemade sparkler bombs. They’re powerful and unpredictable. You could also get in big trouble if you’re caught. This one really goes along with number 4:

4. Don’t set off M80s, cherry bombs, and the like. You may get lucky and not get hurt, or you may lose a hand. Or worse. (And please don’t let your kids hold roman candles while they’re going off. Do you really want your child holding the one that malfunctions and blows up in the tube?) Besides the possibility of harm or death coming to the humans who use bombs, or mortars stuffed in tubes, innocent bystanders – human and wildlife alike – are often harmed, as well.

5. Watch fireworks on TV. Not as much fun, I know, but it is safer and your pets will appreciate the company.

6. Pray for rain. Western Washington has gotten pretty waterlogged over the last several weeks, and for that I am grateful. If you’re in an area that hasn’t gotten much rain and is dryer than we are, pay particular attention to number 2, above.

Have a safe and fun 4th of July, however you choose to celebrate. Remember, please consider the effects your celebration will have on wildlife who live near you and trust your yard to be a safe place.

What ideas can you share for a safe-for-all Independence Day?


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

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Are you feeling it in the air? Even the light looks different. I’m referring, of course, to the fast approaching end of summer as it hurls itself willy-nilly toward fall. But that’s alright: When it comes to birding, the autumn months are some of the best! There’s always something to do, whether it’s simply enjoying rarely-seen birds as they pass through on their migration routes or heralding the return of “the usuals” once the bug and fruit supplies of summer have dwindled. But if watching backyard birds while sipping your morning coffee leaves you longing for something a little more adventurous, you might want to hit up some fun bird-centered events in your area.

After a somewhat-extensive, caffeine-fueled search through the highways and byways of Google (and receiving some helpful suggestions on Twitter), I’ve found what I think is a pretty good cross-section of fun happenings to keep us all out of trouble…for a while, anyway. Some are family-friendly, which is a fabulous way to get your kids or grandkids bitten by the nature bug.

Take a look! (Click on the title of each event for more information.)

WFO / WOS Joint Conference
When: Thursday, August 22, 2013 through Sunday, August 25, 2013.
Where: Red Lion Hotel, Olympia, WA
Cost: Varies
This one starts tomorrow! The “38th Annual Conference of Western Field Ornithologists, A Joint Conference with Washington Ornithological Society,” is being held this week at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. From the site: “Each year WFO holds a multi-day conference with scientific papers, field trips, workshops, panels, a keynote address, the annual membership meeting, and other events. The location varies each year as WFO attempts to span its region of coverage while also making its conferences accessible to the bulk of its members.” Field trips and workshops are filling up fast, so jump on this if it’s something you think you can attend. Go to this page and click on the registration link to see the cost of this event, which varies for members and non-members. Thanks to @TAudubon for the heads-up on this event!

Puget Sound Birdfest
When: Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8, 2013
Where: Edmonds, WA
Cost: FREE
From the site: “The Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds, Washington is a yearly celebration of the birds and of nature found on the beautiful shores of Puget Sound. Our three-day events include speakers, guided walks, land and water-based field trips, exhibits, and educational activities for children and adults.” Thanks to a previously-planned engagement that I have with a California beach, I won’t be able to attend this one. On one hand, I’m bummed about it, but on the other hand…I’ll be on a beach. If you go, please report back and let us know what you thought! Leave a comment here or post about it on our Facebook page.

Vulture Awareness Day at Portland Audubon
When: Saturday, September 7, 2013 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Where: Portland Audubon, Portland, OR
Cost: FREE
Vultures get a bad rap, don’t they? Here’s an excellent chance to learn why vultures are actually pretty cool creatures. From the Portland Audubon site: “Around the world, vultures are facing hazards in the wild and their numbers are dwindling. As nature’s recyclers, they play an important role in a variety of ecosystems, and it’s up to us to help save them. Portland Audubon’s free celebration of International Vulture Awareness Day is filled with fun and educational activities:
Meet Ruby, Portland Audubon’s Turkey Vulture
Compare your ‘wingspan’ to that of an Andean Condor’s silhouette
Make a crafted vulture and mask
Learn fun vulture facts
Figure out the differences between Old and New World vultures
Discover why vultures are important
Make a pledge to help protect vultures
Go on a scavenger hunt.”
Click on the link above for more details and directions. Thank you, @PortlandAudubon for letting us know about this event.

Nature Night: Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest at Portland Audubon
When: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 (7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)
Where: Portland Audubon, Portland, OR
Cost: FREE
You’ll enjoy this fun talk at Portland Audubon, which is part of their monthly Nature Night lecture series. My friends from Twitter, Sarah and Max of @MustSeeBirds, are presenting the talk based on their just-published book, Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest. From the Portland Audubon site: “Ever wondered where to find particular species of birds in Oregon? Or wanted to know more about those birds than you can find in a field guide? Sarah Swanson and Max Smith provide the answers and celebrate Oregon’s favorite birds with their newly published book, Must See Birds of the Pacific Northwest: 85 Unforgettable Species, Their Fascinating Lives, and How to Find Them. In their book, Sarah and Max group birds in a fresh, fun and thoughtful way by using categories based on interesting traits like big birds, colorful birds and killer birds.” I’ve read a little bit of the book so far, and if this talk was anywhere near me, I’d be there with bells on! I hope you will be, too. (And tell them I said hello!) Thanks to @MustSeeBirds for letting us know about this event.

Monterey Bay Birding Festival
When: Friday, September 12 through Sunday, September 15, 2013
Where: Monterey Bay area, CA
Cost: $10-$45
Not a Pacific Northwest event, but I’m listing it for our California birding friends. And it figures — this one happens after I leave California! From the site: “Designed for both seasoned and beginning birders, as well as outdoor lovers, the festival offers a unique opportunity to explore, learn and appreciate world class habitats such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuary, and Pinnacles National Monument. Specially designed field trips will take partic-ipants to Big Sur to see California condors. Join a pelagic trip by Shearwater Journeys to one of the world’s most productive regions for albatrosses, shearwaters, storm-petrels and more. Jump into a kayak and get closer to nature or take a scenic ride at Elkhorn Slough Safari. All field trips are led by top quality, friendly leaders. Online sales is now under way for each birding event offered a la carte, so you’re able to mix and match outings according to your personal interests.”

Hummingbird Super Saturday
When: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Where: Seward Park in Seattle, WA
Cost: FREE
I may see you at this one! If you’re in the Seattle area, this will be held at the Seward Park Audubon Center just inside Seward Park. Kid-friendly and even wheelchair-friendly (but not dog-friendly). From the site: “Celebrate these tiny wonders that flit and zip through the air with amazing speed! Some hummingbirds, like the Rufous, take epic journeys from Alaska to Mexico while others, like our Anna’s, are year-round residents in Seattle. Discover how to help protect hummingbirds, provide them with sanctuaries in our parks and your back yards and explore why they are so adorable! Arts, crafts, games, and activities will entertain and educate hummingbird enthusiasts of all ages.” The link above will take you to the Brown Paper Tickets website, where you’ll be able to explore many other Seward Park Audubon events — too many to list here!

Rogue Valley Audubon Field Trip
When: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Where: Rogue Valley area, OR
Cost: FREE
For our Southern Oregon friends, here’s something for you: “Veteran birding expert Ron Ketchum will lead this trip to the mountain lakes of the nearby Cascades where possible destinations include Howard Prairie Lake, Hyatt Lake, Little Hyatt Lake and Lily Glen Campground. Late migrant warblers, early waterfowl, and such montane species as Mountain Quail and Mountain Bluebird are possible sightings. Meet at the dirt parking lot adjacent to Shop N Kart in Ashland at 7:30 AM. Bring hats, sunscreen, drinks and snacks and appropriate footwear. Carpooling is recommended. Any dogs must be kept in vehicles. Group will return by early afternoon.”

That’s it for today! I’ll post more fall birding events as I come across them. If you’d like to get the word out about your event, you may comment here, talk to me on Twitter (@PacificNWBirds), or message me via our Facebook page. As mentioned in one of the event descriptions, above, please let us know if you attend any of these events. We’d love to know what you thought!


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

The Pacific Northwest is home to literally hundreds of different bird species, making it one of the best places in the country for birding. Knowing this, I have given myself a new goal: to visit as many great birding sites over the coming year as I can, see what I think about them, and report back to you.

The first one I visited is Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA, at 2201 Market Street. We went on Thursday of this past week and the weather was just beautiful for it. My first impression of the park, after we pulled into the wonderfully shaded parking lot and walked past the information center, was how very dry and brown the grass was. I assume that conserving the water at the park was a bureaucratic decision by the city of Kirkland, and I can understand why they did it, but I was disappointed. How nice it would have been to walk barefoot in such a wide expanse of green lawn. I’ll go back after we’ve had a few rains!

My daughters at the information kiosk. You'll find quite a bit of helpful information here, such as what you'll see in regards to wildlife and plant life. Handouts are available, as well, including a map of the park and a checklist of the afore-mentioned flora and fauna.

My daughters at the information kiosk. You'll find quite a bit of helpful information here, such as what you'll see in regards to wildlife and plant life. Handouts are available, as well, including a map of the park and a checklist of the afore-mentioned flora and fauna.

Beautiful park, very dry grass. We'll go back to see it when it's green.

Beautiful park, very dry grass. We'll go back to see it when it's green.

Beautiful boardwalks, like this one, lead visitors through woods and wetlands (marshes) to the very edge of Lake Washington. This is the East Boardwalk Nature Trail.

Beautiful boardwalks, like this one, lead visitors through woods and wetlands (marshes) to the very edge of Lake Washington. This is the East Boardwalk Nature Trail.

Just one portion of the beautiful marshland at Juanita Bay Park.

Just one portion of the beautiful marshland at Juanita Bay Park.

Tree swallows were numerous at the park. (That may have been an understatement.) They were very noisy, too, but it was a cheerful noise.

Tree swallows were numerous at the park. (That may have been an understatement.) They were very noisy, too, but it was a cheerful noise.

It's such a lovely stroll...

It's such a lovely stroll...

...to the end of the East Boardwalk. The pole standing in the water to the right of the boardwalk is an osprey platform (see below).

...to the end of the East Boardwalk. The pole standing in the water to the right of the boardwalk is an osprey platform (see below).

The osprey platform was, sadly, unused this year. At the bottom of the pole, about 10 feet above the water, are purple martin nesting gourds.

The osprey platform was, sadly, unused this year. At the bottom of the pole, about 10 feet above the water, are purple martin nesting gourds.

Informational plaques like this one are common throughout the park.

Informational plaques like this one are common throughout the park.

This great blue heron was one of the day's highlights. As we stood at the end of the East Boardwalk, he swooped in, heading almost straight for us. He then made a 90-degree turn and landed on a log, where he stayed for the remainder of our time at the park.

This great blue heron was one of the day's highlights. As we stood at the end of the East Boardwalk, he swooped in, heading almost straight for us. He then made a 90-degree turn and landed on a log, where he stayed for the remainder of our time at the park.

Herons will stand stock still and wait for a frog, fish, or snake to make an appearance, then snatch it up for dinner.

Herons will stand stock still and wait for a frog, fish, or snake to make an appearance, then snatch it up for dinner.

"If I can't see you, you can't see me...right? Oh, hello!"

"If I can't see you, you can't see me...right? Oh, hello!"

At the end of the West Boardwalk, we saw this gorgeous pair of wood ducks. They kept turning their heads and bodies as if they were posing. (They were just sunning themselves, but I like to think they saw my camera.)

At the end of the West Boardwalk, we saw this gorgeous pair of wood ducks. They kept turning their heads and bodies as if they were posing. (They were just sunning themselves, but I like to think they saw my camera.)

Besides the wood ducks, we also saw turtles on logs and a fledgling red-winged blackbird on a cattail. (We heard more birds than we actually saw.) The photos above and more will be posted in a photo gallery very soon on our Facebook page.

My overall impression of Juanita Bay Park was a good one. It’s family- and dog-friendly, with miles of walking trails and boardwalks. Benches are interspersed throughout the park if you need a rest. There are picnic tables, too, so bring your lunch. Though we didn’t see the whole park (we’ll see the part we missed next time we go), I’m giving this park four stars out of five, mainly because the dead grass was quite a shock and disappointment to see right when we walked in.

For more information on Juanita Bay Park, check out the following links:

Juanita Bay Park
Juanita Bay Park Tours
Eastside Rangers Nature Walk

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

Also available at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

It seems to be a natural conclusion that people who love birds also love art, so I want to let you know about a local art exhibit you really must attend.

The artist is Abigail Platter, a lovely young lady who hails from a seriously talented family. She’s taken up the art of wood burning, and has given me permission to show you the following pictures of her work. (What makes her artwork even more amazing is that she does each one freehand.)

I do have to tell you that the following pieces are no longer available, which should really inspire you to quickly get yourself to the gallery (details below) and pick up one of her new pieces before those are gone, too!

Details:
UP Front Gallery
95 Front Street North
Issaquah, WA 98027
p: 425-996-8553

Abigail is having a welcoming party this Friday at the gallery. Call the UP Front Gallery for more details. Congratulations, Abbie!

Do you know of a local activity your fellow birders in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho might enjoy? Send me an email at sally@pacificnorthwestbirds.com or simply leave a comment below. I may feature your event in a blog post here and also on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/PacificNorthwestBirds.

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

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