With the Spring equinox on March 20, when daylight hours equal nighttime darkness, migrating birds are on the move, hibernating mammals begin to emerge from winter dens, breeding and nesting gets underway, and foraging on the first greens of the season is fast and furious for wild animals growing young of the year.
You can view some of the action right from your home. It might be a sudden influx of migrating blackbirds or waxwings descending on a backyard bird feeding station or berry-producing shrub in your landscape. Maybe you’re seeing marmots or ground squirrels out and about, or skunks or raccoons checking out the real estate under your front porch. Or you’re fending off winter-weary and hungry doe deer nibbling the buds on your first crocuses or tulips.
The Spring wildlife action is even greater in scale, scope and diversity at many of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wildlife areas and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuges across the state. You can locate these public lands to plan visits at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/ andhttp://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocatorMaps/washington.html .
Wildlife viewing festivals ramp up this month and next, too. Many provide a great way for families and groups of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and learn more about birds and other wildlife through tours, lectures, displays, and children’s activities. Here’s what’s coming up soon in Washington:
March 14-16 is the 11th annual “Wings Over Water” Northwest Birding Festival in Blaine, WA. This free festival, with the majority of events on Saturday, March 16, celebrates the abundance of wildlife and bird species in this pristine area of the Pacific Northwest. It includes guided field trips, live raptor displays, workshops, educational activities, expert wildlife speakers and more. It’s sponsored by many private groups and individuals, including the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, North Cascades Audubon Society, and Washington Brant Foundation, For more information, see http://wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com/index.html
March 16 is the Tundra Swan Festival at Calispell Lake in northeast Washington’s Pend Oreille County, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department, Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance (PORTA), and others. Pre-and post-swan-viewing talks are at the Kalispel Tribe’s Camas Center for Community Wellness at Usk. For more information and registration see http://www.porta-us.com/pages/activities/tundra_swan_day.asp
April 5 – 7 is the Olympic Bird Fest in Sequim, WA, a partnership of the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, with grants from the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau and Sequim Marketing Action Committee. Events include birding cruises, “owl prowls”, wildlife photography workshops, raffles, auctions and a banquet. Proceeds from this festival help support the educational programs of the Dungeness River Audubon Center. http://www.olympicbirdfest.org/
April 5 – 7 is the 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival in central Washington’s Columbia Basin, celebrating the spectacular spring migration feeding and resting stopover of thousands of these big birds in the local agricultural fields. This festival is sponsored by the Greater Othello Chamber of Commerce and the USFWS Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, and supported by the City of Othello, Othello School District and Othello Community Schools. Details of scheduled crane viewing and other wildlife tours, talks and events, including a traditional Saturday night banquet with keynote speaker, are available athttp://www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org/ .
Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife