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BirdFest flies into town

Spring on the North Olympic Peninsula brings a great diversity of birds, so many that the local Audubon chapter is celebrating.

The Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society is holding its fifth-annual Olympic BirdFest, with new and continuing events for bird lovers of all ages and experience levels.

The fun begins April 4 with birding field trips, a live raptor presentation and a First Friday Art walk through downtown Sequim. Then, throughout the weekend, attendees can choose from tours, talks, cruises and a salmon banquet.

“It’s always a lot of fun, even it you just think birds are interesting but have never gotten involved in bird watching,” local Audubon member Sara Ellen Rutkowski said. “Plus, in the springtime, you have a great diversity of birds in the area, from winter birds that are still around and the early migrating variety.”

Tours range from a walk in Railroad Bridge Park, where BirdFest headquarters is located in the Dungeness River Audubon Center, to a boat ride around Protection Island or discussing the impacts of the Elwha Dam removal process on habitat downstream.

Possible bird sightings in the area’s forests, prairies, river valleys and saltwater shores include marbled murrelets, rhinoceros auklets, harlequin ducks, black oystercatchers, peregrine falcons, pygmy owls and a large variety of gulls.

“We have a new event this year, a three-day cruise through the San Juan Islands,” Rutkowski said. “The trip includes lodging at the historic Roche Harbor Resort and, along with birds, there is a good chance you’ll be able to see sea mammals as well.”

An important objective of BirdFest, in addition to celebrating birding, is financial support for the education programs at the river center. The festival will feature a raffle and silent auction of nature and birding-related items including Leopold binoculars and a Vortex spotting scope and tripod.

Registration for BirdFest costs $10 but is not required for the Northwest Raptor Center presentation or the salmon banquet, which costs $25 and includes a talk by keynote speaker David Poleschook Jr. on “Photography for Birders.” Costs for field trips range from $10 to $75 depending on length, commute and whether or not they are on a boat.

“Those who want to sign up for the three-day cruise of the San Juans have to register separately from BirdFest,” Rutkowski said. “Ultimately, contact the river center and we’ll be able to line everything up for you.”

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, a partner in the river center’s construction and operations, is involved in the festival as well, giving tours of its totem poles and hosting the salmon banquet, which caps off most festival activities.

“People don’t have to be present at the banquet April 5 to win the raffle or silent auction, which is why we’ve opened bidding up early at the river center,” Rutkowski said. “Just drive down East Hendrickson (Road) until you are in the park and stop by.”

The Dungeness River Center’s mission is to interpret the natural history of the North Olympic Peninsula, focusing on the Dungeness River watershed, to enable residents, students and visitors to understand the unique environment. For information, visit www.dungenessrivercenter.org or call 681-4076.

The Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society promotes birding and conservation as community educators, volunteers and stewards. For more information, visit www.olympicpeninsulaaudubon.org or call 681-4076.



For a complete Olympic BirdFest schedule, location guide and registration information, visit www.olympicbirdfest.org. A summary of events is as follows:



Friday, April 4

• 9 a.m. – Registration and Jamestown S’Klallam totem tour

• 1 p.m. – Field trips begin

• 5 p.m. – First Friday art walk begins

• 7 p.m. – Northwest Raptor Center presentation at Sequim High School



Saturday, April 5

• 8:30 a.m. – Morning and all-day field trips begin

• 1 p.m. – Afternoon field trips begin

• 5 p.m. – Open totem carving shed and silent auction

• 6:30 p.m. – Salmon banquet at Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center

• 9 p.m. – Owl prowl



Sunday, April 6

• 9 a.m. – Three-day San Juan Island cruise begins

• 9:30 a.m. – Protection Island trip from John Wayne Marina

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