Bird Migrations at Ebey's Landing

This past Earth Day Weekend, the North Cascades Institute hosted the 3rd Anuual Migratory Bird Festival! The event was sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and brought people together from across western Washington for a day to explore the natural history of migratory birds and the cultural heritage of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.
Students and elders from Seattle’s International District, Mt. Vernon’s Kulshan Creek Neighborhood, and North Cascade Institute’s NC Wild 2012 program joined together to celebrate and learn about birds by migrating through four different educational stations.

Participants dined on a multicultural feast featuring Chinese food from Seattle’s International District and homemade Mexican tamales and sopes from Yolanda Zamora of Mt. Vernon. Delicious!

The first station was the Sea Lab, where students and elders could see, touch, and learn about some of the marine invertebrates that help fuel the birds’ migratory journeys along the Pacific flyway. This hands-on lesson covered the basics of the ecology and dynamic interplay between Puget Sound’s marine life and the migratory birds that utilize northwest marine ecosystems in order to complete part of their journey.

Graduate student Jacob Belsher teaches students all about the joys of being a moonsnail.

Next, students learned about the remarkable but treacherous task of migration through a lively group game. Although the day was filled with smiles and laughter, this station in particular seemed to bring out an unparalleled level of hilarity as elders and youth sprinted up and down the seaside field, racing to suitable habitat. Along the way, they had to be wary of predatory falcons, duck hunters (armed with Nerf balls!), and habitat loss.

Graduate student Erin Soper leads her team into the world of migratory madness!
.Students from the North Cascades Wild 2012 program show off their migratory skills as they race for the best habitat.

At the Lighthouse Hike, groups climbed up a forested seaside bluff to the historic Admiralty Head Lighthouse, built in 1903. Along the way, they learned about the cultural history of Fort Casey and Ebey’s Landing. When they reached the top, students climbed an old spiraling iron staircase to soak in the sun-bathed Puget Sound views from atop the old lighthouse. From this high vantage point, students scanned the waters below for seabirds, waterfowl, and marine mammals, making connections between ways that both humans and birds navigate on perilous journeys.

Students from the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood enjoy the sunny heights atop the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.

Lastly, participants stepped into a bus and drove along the shores of Crockett Lake en route to a bird viewing platform, where groups were treated to great views of short-eared owls, great blue herons, northern pintails, and seabirds such as rhinoceros auklets, harlequin ducks, and pigeon guillemots.

North Cascades Institute staff member Matt Kraska helps elders from the International District scan the prime migratory stopover habitat of Crockett Lake.

Although the event was a just over a week ago, folks up here at the North Cascades Institute are still radiating from all the smiles, laughter, learning, and community building that transpired at this year’s Migratory Bird Festival. Thanks to all who helped make it possible, including the U.S Forest Service, International District Housing Alliance, Mount Vernon Police Department, Ebey’s Landing, and North Cascades Institute staff and graduate students who volunteered their time to make this event happen.

Raphael, Helen, and Noc from the International District are all smiles as they enjoy the 3rd Annual Migratory Bird Festival.

Leading photo of all the crew who participated in the 3rd Annual Migratory Bird Festival. All photos courtesy of Jess Newley.


  1. Laura

    What a great event!

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