Tuesday, June 11, 2013

¡Celebración de Las Aves!

Volunteer Naturalist, Gary, prepping a group of excited bird lovers
for a trail around the refuge!

Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
As bird migration season flies on (pun intended), bird festivals continue across the globe. Near Portland, Oregon, a particularly urban festival comes around each May, inviting bird lovers and friends out to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. This year, the day began with hundreds of volunteers swarming the refuge, enthusiastically setting up various booths around the grounds. From the entry way, local partners were seen setting up activities from archery to birdhouse building. Inside the visitor center, arts and crafts tables were quickly covered in colorful paint jars, while the telescope in the corner was positioned to view an eagle fledgling in its nest. Just a short trail's journey away from the busy entrance, volunteer naturalists scurried to set up their stations, from a pond critters area to a casting target practice area. The refuge was poised and ready for the annual TualatinRiver Bird Festival.
One of the many families who came out to enjoy bird festival!
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS

Expanding Accessibility
One of the most exciting parts of this year's festival was the recent partnership between U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Univision. Over the past year, the USFWS Pacific Region has been working to make our events and information more accessible to the flourishing Latino community in and around the region. This year, programs and other materials at the festival were available in both Spanish and English, while a number of bi-lingual volunteers around the refuge were available for Spanish speaking guests. This milestone marks the first steps from USFWS in assuring our programs are easily accessible to all members of the community.

Excited to make a close-up investigation of what was left behind
by a Spittlebug!

Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
 If It's Gross...
As the morning rolled forward, my first stop at the festival was a "Slugs and Bugs" nature walk led by volunteer naturalist, Gary. A group of about twenty, made up of tots, children, parents and grandparents took off on the trail ready to spot bugs, birds and more. Our first find was a flower that appeared to be covered in spit. A small group of boys perked up at the mention of something potentially gross. One of the boys wasn't fooled though, explaining to the rest of the group that the substance was from an insect called a spittlebug. After continuing through the trail, spotting a few birds, and learning about the Tualatin River, the group parted ways to enjoy more of the festival.

Homemade binoculars, great for bird watching!
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
All Things Migration
Next, I headed back up to the Refuge entrance. I first visited the salmon migration miniature golf course, where throughout the day children and families would stop before and after trail hikes. The USFWS Pacific Region Fisheries department also set up a tank housing live Pacific lamprey ammocoetes, which were a huge hit among the kids! Like birds, salmon and Pacific lamprey also migrate, so they were welcomed guests at the festival. Closer to the visitor center, Audubon Society of Portland sparked excitement among all visitors with their live birds of prey. Some of the happy visitors were even seen using homemade binoculars to get close-up views of the birds. Though as the day pressed on and the weather clouded over, it didn't stop the crowds from throwing on their raincoats, dressing up the kids in Puddle Stomper gear and enjoying the rest of the refuge. At the end of the day, it was another successful Bird Festival at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge!

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