Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Outdoor Sport Not Just for the Big Screen

Kids visiting Klineline Pond get an archery lesson before trying
it out.

Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
These days when you think archery, or even better, when any kids in your life think archery, what comes to mind? Katniss Everdeen? Brave? Teenagers loving or idolizing Oliver Queen from the show Arrow? Either way, there is no doubt that an increase in bow-and-arrow-toting heroes in pop culture has shed some light on the sport. Even before The Hunger Games though, archery has always been a great way for kids and adults alike to connect with nature. But now more than ever its appeal is enough to rival the fine-looking couch and Xbox. And you don’t need to be the victor of the 74th annual Hunger Games to give it a go.

All-Access Archery
Kids and volunteers gather for Kids Fishing Day at Klineline Pond.
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
This past week, Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek, Washington partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others, hosted its annual Kids Fishing Day. Each year, one day is set aside for children with disabilities to come out and enjoy a day of fishing and exciting activities. They can enter contests and compete with other kids for a number of different prizes, all while spending the day outdoors! Over recent years, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Region (USFWS), has been partnering up with the event to provide an archery booth for the visiting kids. For many of these kids, getting out on a lake to fish was a new experience, but archery seemed even more intangible. Today however, a little bit of Hollywood, and a whole lot of fun in nature took over.

Anticipating the "Swoop"
One of our archery stars for the day!
Credit: Jane Chorazy/USFWS
As groups of kids and parents began to pile over to our archery booth, swarms of USFWS volunteers took turns providing one-on-one support for each child who wanted to try their hand at shooting an arrow. Onlooking spectators watched as the first few arrows bounced out of the bow awkwardly, or flew just a few feet before nose diving into the wet grass (full disclosure: When I tried it out, "first few" was more like "first ten"). But these kids were resilient. It wasn't long before you heard the sound of the first glorious "SWOOP" of an arrow smashing into the target. And then another. And then four more.

Big Screen Heroes
Some kids came back for more! By his fifth go around at
the archery booth, he was a pro!

Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
All day rounds and rounds of kids of all ages and abilities stuck around until hitting their own first bullseye. Almost all of the kids were curious to know more. One parent approached us after her son finished his fourth round-about in the waiting line for an archery spot laughed saying "You'll never guess what he wants for his birthday," while another group of kids asked where they could find local archery classes. One very excited girl, after hitting the target on all of her final five arrows shouted, "just call me the archery queen!" It was an exciting experience had by all at Klineline this weekend. The visiting kids had a blast, while the volunteers enjoyed the reward of being a part of that. I think all of us left feeling a little like a big screen hero.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Put a Little Spring in Your Step

Spring is in the air! Here in the Pacific Northwest (we aren't forgetting our sunny friends out in the Hawaiian Islands, but sunshine over here is a bit harder to come by) spring comes as a welcome surprise. Our grey skies slowly transform to blue, flowers blossom and shed along our streets, and locals, eager to catch their first glimpse of sunlight head to the trails. Spring activities seem to be endless here, especially with a bit of creativity. This week, we asked our Facebook fans to share some of their favorite spring activities and sites with us, so we could pass them along to you! From our nature-loving friends' suggestions – we chose five activities, and now you've got four weeks to complete them all! So check out our suggested activities – and get out there! If you find yourself having the time of your life while you're out there, snap some photos then share them and your story with us!

A Pacific Tree Frog, hanging out nearby and waiting to sing for spring.
Credit: USFWS
Choirs of Frogs
Our friend Nancy reminded us of the fast appearing frogs come springtime. The Pacific Tree Frog (also known as Pacific Chorus Frog) is common in the Pacific Northwest. They love damp places, so find one nearby you and get your ears ready for nature's own frog orchestra!

Pickathon, a late summer music festival in Oregon showcases one great
example of how families and friends can gather outdoors!

Credit: tdstone/Flickr CC
Nature’s Venue
Bobby mentioned that he enjoys attending outdoor music festivals once the spring season rolls around. Festivals start creeping on in late spring and really get going come summer. We think this is an excellent example of taking a passion you have that isn’t regularly outdoors, and getting it outdoors! When the sun starts shining – celebrations of music, art, food, birds and more can usually be found in the form of a festival. Gather up the kids, or friends, get your lawn chairs or camping gear ready and head off to a fest. We’ve heard that natural acoustics are some of the best!

An outdoor classroom activity connecting children, learning and nature!
Credit: Evie Bradley/USFWS Mt. Prairie
Natural in Nature
Nature Explore suggested bringing the classroom outside! What better season to get kids outdoors to learn in their natural environments? "When children feel natural in nature, learn in and love the earth, and develop a sense of wonder they will take care of the earth and pass on their love and what they've learned. Together we are supporting the next generation of environmental stewards!" – Nature Explore

Close up of a banana slug. What kid doesn't love creepy crawlies?!
Credit: Natalie McNear/Flickr CC
Seasonal Hikes
Hiking paths are available year round, but during the spring, seasonal plants and critters make special appearances. Christy of Tweets & Tree Frogs spotted trillium and banana slugs on a recent hike at Tyron Creek. A frequently visited trail never loses its spark when every new hike brings new discoveries!

Western sandpipers are one local species of migratory birds.
Credit: Roy W. Lowe/USFWS
March Migration
Finally, my personal pick for spring activities is spring time birding! Tis' the season to see some of the great migratory bird species you can't see during cold, wet months. The best part about these migrating birds is that they can be spotted right outside your window! Even if you're stuck indoors during the days of spring, you can still catch a glimpse of it flying past!