This Memorial Day weekend we took a break from gardening to join our friends Todd and Kei Chi at the annual Audubon Society campout in the Wenas River valley near Yakima. Since 1963, bird watchers and nature lovers have been coming together to spend an extended weekend in this wonderful place. The birds are definitely the main attraction – you can regularly encounter over 120 different species – but the Wenas valley is also remarkable for its wildflowers, hilltop views, and diversity of habitats.
Wendy and I are not exactly avid birders, but at this gathering of bird enthusiasts it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. Birders may be considered a bit of an oddball group, but they are extremely welcoming and love to introduce newcomers to their passion. When you take the time to look closely – and with the assistance of some high-powered binoculars – you quickly gain a new sense of appreciation for birds. The variety of shapes, sizes, color, and behavior is amazing. We also became more aware of the different calls and songs of various species, ranging from the raucous call of the Nutcracker and the tin horn sound of the Nuthatch, to the sweet trills of the many kinds of warblers.
Some of the birds native to the area are quite rare and birders come from all over the world to see them. We were lucky enough to encounter several of these, notably the White-headed Woodpecker and Lewis’ Woodpecker. Our night-time quest for the Flammulated Owl was not successful, but for us novices it was just as much fun to observe common species such as Red-winged Blackbirds, Kingbirds, or Turkey Vultures.
One of the highlights was inspecting Bluebird breeding boxes. Volunteers visit these weekly to track breeding success. We were assigned a set of 15 boxes and asked to note number of eggs, number and age of hatchlings, species, etc. It was a rare opportunity to see these beautiful birds up close.
Here are some more photos.