Whidbey Audubon to offer bird lovers close-up view during biennial event

  • Tue Sep 13th, 2016 9:43pm
  • Life

Gary Piazzon

A Bird in the Hand, a close up look at birds presented by the Whidbey Audubon Society every other year, is this weekend in Bayview.

The event is noon until 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 at Bayview Farm and Garden, 2780 Marshview Ave. Entry is free.

Volunteers will preside in the nursery’s greenhouse with tables of the society’s collection of stuffed and preserved birds, which are organized by bird families. Visitors can examine their delicate skeletons and unique plumage. There will even be a live raptor or two on the arms of their trainers.

“Every child or adult, who passes by the tables at this event, becomes an enthusiastic birder,” said Robin Llewellyn, Audubon program co-chairwoman, in a recent news release. “As each bird is examined, the enthusiasm grows. Deft fingers carefully spread wings and then attendees pause to get a closer look at the spectacular colors and patterns of common birds like a Rufous Towhee, Black-capped Chickadee, Wigeon and other frequently seen birds of Whidbey Island.”

Study the Belted Kingfisher’s footpads that help to excavate its burrow, see the red of a Red-tailed Hawk, look into a microscope and see the feather structure of an owl feather, she said — it’s worth it.

“Little hands are frequently seen reaching over the tabletop,” Llewellyn said. “They want to see, to touch and to know. To everyone’s delight this up close experience for everyone is encouraged. The exhibit intends to deepen knowledge of local wildlife and to protect the environment necessary for birds to survive.”

This year a selection of the specimens was borrowed by the Whidbey Watershed Stewards Outdoor Classroom program in the Maxwelton Valley. Over 900 elementary-aged children experienced the display.

“The bird specimens were an exceptional teaching tool,” said Lori O’Brien, the outdoor classroom coordinator. “Students were able to examine bird beaks, feet and wings close up and understand how their adaptations help them to thrive in their given environment. Students created their own unique birds using the ideas generated from observing the real bird specimens. They were very purposeful in their creations and were able to explain why they made their bird with certain attributes.”

The Bird in the Hand program has been held every other year since 2008, the last one was June 2014. The chapter has a federal permit to keep and display birds that have met an accidental demise as long as it’s done for educational purposes. A small group of volunteers have been trained by a permitted taxidermist and have spent a considerable amount of time preparing bird specimens from dead birds brought in from the Whidbey Audubon membership for this purpose.

The growing collection of passerine, waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds and a few seabirds represents a unique, museum-quality specimen library. It is used frequently for the various bird classes Whidbey Audubon Society offers to adults and school children throughout the year. An organization or institution wishing to display portions of the collection can contact Llewellyn at 360-678-5403 for consideration.

On Sept. 18, besides the bird specimen collection, other activities include a display of owl pellets and live raptors with their falconers. Longtime Whidbey Audubon member Steve Ellis will host an “Answer Man” table for the most daunting questions.

Habitat-friendly plants will be on display in the greenhouse and visitors may contact Bayview Farm and Garden staff to acquire similar plants in stock. The nursery has a reputation as an innovative business, focusing on a nontoxic approach to gardening and has always maintained a commitment of good stewardship to the sensitive island environment.

Lunch options are available at the Nursery’s Flower House Café and other establishments at the Bayview Corner.