The first thing that most children learn about birds is that they fly south for the winter. This winter is no exception, but Eastside Audubon is still offering weekly programs for locals to get out and watch some birds that only migrate as far south as Seattle.
Eastside Audubon, which is based in Kirkland but includes communities throughout the greater Eastside, will host its next Juanita Bay Park tour on Sunday, Feb. 4. During the tour, attendees can observe the Pacific Loon, Trumpeter Swan and Tundra Swan, which have all been spotted at the park.
“Winter is a perfect time to learn about the beautiful water birds that spend these months in our bay,” said Jill Keeney, Eastside Audubon liaison to the organization’s volunteer park rangers, said in a press release.
Eastside Audubon hosts numerous field trips, bird walks and tours throughout the year to educate people and promote wildlife conservation. A calendar for all the events can be found on its website at https://eastsideaudubon.org.
The Juanita Bay Park tour is hosted by volunteer park rangers on the first Sunday of every month. The free event begins in the park’s parking lot at 1 p.m., at 2201 Market St. in Kirkland, and is open to children ages 6 or older as long as they’re accompanied by an adult.
The Eastside Audubon chapter has multiple teams to promote bird education and actively work to conserve bird habitats from the Snohomish County line to Interstate 90 on the Eastside.
“For many people in the world, birds may be the only contact for wildlife,” said executive director Tereza Marks. “Especially if you’re living in an urban area. What else are you going to see?”
Marks added that birding is such an easy way to keep in touch with nature as humans expand and greenspace disappears.
Another group within Eastside Audubon’s focuses on birding or bird watching and simply provides a community for local enthusiasts.
“It’s our more fun aspect,” president Jan McGruder said with a laugh. “There are birds everywhere, people just don’t notice them…(everyone should) look up and go birding.”
The monthly Eastside birding trips focus on Lake Sammamish, Juanita Bay and other local hotspots. These are free and open to non-members, but Eastside Audubon also hosts weekend-long trips, with the next one set for at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, leaving for George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Canada.
“We’re into birds around here,” McGruder said. “(Birding) is just a way to decompress and relax. And you meet a lot of nice people, I’ve made a lot of friends through Audubon.
Birding without borders
Eastside Audubon is partnering with Seattle Audubon and Leica Bellevue to host the Coffee, Cameras and Conversation event and Noah Strycker “Birding without Borders” presentation. Strycker, who will host the events on Jan. 13 and 14, is a world-famous birder who broke the Big Year record in 2015 after spotting 6,042 of the world’s estimated 10,400 bird species in a year-long trip around the globe.
The Big Year record was subsequently broken in 2016 by a Dutch birder with 6,833 species spotted according to world.observation.org.
The presentation will feature Strycker’s photography and a book signing at the Leica Store in Bellevue. Strycker will also lead photo walks throughout Magnuson Park in Seattle starting at 8:30 a.m. during which where Leica will provide sport optics for participants. The event will meet in southern-most parking lot, south of the boat launch where Northeast 65th Street becomes Lake Shore Drive Northeast.
McGruder and Marks encourage locals to attend any of the community events or even just pay more attentions to birds. McGruder said that interactions with birds can be common and many people have bird experiences.
“It’s nice to have some contact with nature and birds are so easy,” Marks said. “Put up a bird feeder in your front yard or plant native plants and you can attract birds year-round…it’s one of the easiest ways to make a difference.”