West coast forests celebrate international migratory bird day

Erica Keene
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; and Kerry Greene, Klamath National Forest, U.S. Forest Service
May 27th, 2014 at 6:30PM

‘Tis the season for migratory birds to make their journey north. Forests along the Pacific Flyway, which stretches from Alaska to Central and South America, recently celebrated International Migratory Bird Day with educational activities, conservation efforts and birdwatching trips.

Staff from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Forest Service’s International Programs hosted an educational event at Camp Casey in Coupeville, Wash., that attracted 120 people of all ages who participated in interactive activities where they learned about migratory birds. In one activity, attendees took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties the birds face during migration. Their goal? To safely reach their next stop along the migration route. The first round was easy, no obstacles. The second round, a hunter was introduced and with each ensuing round, migration became more difficult. Habitats started disappearing and predators started increasing, catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and youngsters alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how hard it is for birds to migrate long distances.

Groups rotated through three stations where they learned bird identification techniques, ways to help conserve birds at home and participated in the migration game. Each group adopted a bird for the day and spent time at each station learning fun facts about the Mallard, Rufous Hummingbird or the Killdeer.  Groups led interactive presentations on the Killdeer’s broken wing display and the Rufous Hummingbird’s flight patterns while others absorbed the sunshine and listened in.

The following day, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the National Park Service held a conservation effort where 23 youth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities program and InterIm Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development removed Scotch Broom from Fort Ebey State Park, about 60 miles north of Seattle. Removal of the tall, quick-spreading invasive weed helps improve habitat for migrating birds by allowing for a greater diversity of food sources for the birds. The youth, who had camped the previous night at Camp Casey, cleared nearly an acre of Scotch Broom in less than three hours.

In California, the Klamath National Forest hosted its 13th annual birdwatching field trip to the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area. Local biologists and birding experts Sam Cuenca, a Klamath National Forest wildlife biologist who coordinated the event; John Alexander, executive director of the Klamath Bird Observatory; and Bob Claypole, author of Klamath River Bird Finder, led 20 bird watchers and nature enthusiasts on the trip. They observed some 70 species of birds, which included an array of raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, warblers, flycatchers, marsh birds, gulls and many other songbirds.

“Birds not only share a key role to the ecosystems that occur in Siskiyou County but they also show us about beauty and perfection in nature,” Cuenca said.  “In many ways, birds define what we know about being in the outdoors. “It is important that we experience them and appreciate their wonder.”

International Migratory Bird Day was established to inspire people of all ages to get outdoors, learn about birds, and take part in their conservation. The daily event is the only international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. More than 450 events are now hosted from South America to Canada.