Skein of migrating Canadian geese framed by the moon. Migrating birds are affected by light pollution. Photo by David Welton in 2020
Note–I am printing this press release from the Whidbey Audubon Society. Some of the events have already taken place. This article is a way for us to become acquainted with the amazing birdlife here on Whidbey. –Kate
Flock in for some great family fun! So says the Whidbey Audubon Society which is holding its first ever bird festival, Wings over Whidbey, May 18 to 20 — and it’s free. Based in Coupeville, there are lectures, classes and lots of outdoor field trips. A full schedule is on the society’s website: Wings Over Whidbey Festival. Please visit to learn details and to register for lectures and field trips (birding walks.)
“Whidbey Island is a flyway for hundreds of migratory birds and we have several spots that fit the criteria for Important Bird Areas, so why shouldn’t we have a bird festival,” said Stephanie Neis, festival coordinator.
At the heart of the festival is the Bird in the Hand event featuring dozens of exhibits of preserved birds allowing visitors to hold and examine closely all the parts of a particular bird. It is at the Coupeville High School Commons from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 20. The society has developed the collection of specimens mostly from birds that have been brought in from community members who find birds in their yards that have met an untimely demise. A team of trained bird preparers under the watchful eye of Matt Klope, a local taxidermist, prepare the birds as specimens to be used as educational bird ambassadors at many community events held throughout the year by Whidbey Audubon Society. The society has a federal permit to keep and display birds that have met an accidental demise as long as it’s done for educational purposes. The Migratory Bird Act makes it illegal for anyone to possess bird parts including feathers.
Families are encouraged to bring youngsters to the Bird in the Hand event on Saturday, and to get up close to the normally elusive winged ones. No preregistration is necessary. There will be microscopes to discover the details of such parts as bird feet, wings and even the contents of owl scat. Steve Ellis will be the “Answer Man,” bringing his knowledge from a lifetime of experience observing the natural world.
Robin Llewellyn is one of the guiding forces working with the bird specimen library. She has organized at least three previous Bird in the Hand events.
“We took a hiatus during the pandemic and we’re excited to be bringing this vital collection to our community again,” she enthused.
Eleven guided bird walks are available Friday and Saturday mornings. Most are limited to 10 or 12, so please register online. The walks include South Whidbey, Fort Ebey and Deception Pass State Parks, Pacific Rim Institute, Deer Lagoon, Price Sculpture Park, and Greenbank Farm Forest Trail. Nathan Pieplow, bird call expert, leads the Greenbank Farm walk.
“Diving into Bird Photography” with Bill Ray is 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. In addition to tips on the ways and means of getting the best photograph of a bird, Ray is judging the photos submitted to the Youth Photography Contest. The young winners will be introduced and awarded prizes. This lecture is live only in the Coupeville Recreation Hall.
There will be passports for children to collect bird images as they visit displays in the high school, if they fill their card, they receive a prize. Several businesses have provided prizes to be raffled also. Affiliate organizations with displays include: Puget Sound Birds Observatory, Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Whidbey Watershed Stewards, Pacific Rim Institute, Salish Sea Guillemot Network, Puget Sound Energy Conservation Program and WSU Shore Stewards.
This event is free thanks to the generous support of local businesses and individuals, including major donors: Whidbey Island Bank, Whidbey Telecom, Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, The Goose Community Grocer, Puget Sound Energy, Whidbey Weekly and Printing and Rick Matsen, in memory of his late wife, Anne.
The poster design for the first bird festival was by Oak Harbor High School Student, June Braunstein. She won $100 for the poster design, launched in late February. Oak Harbor High School graphic arts instructor Jana Jansen embraced the idea and provided entries from all of her students.