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Winging It: Puget Sound Bird Fest and Other Hot Spots for Fall Family Birding

Great Horned Owl - flickr - mybulldog

Owls! Raptors! Crafts! Kid-friendly speakers and field trips! These things and more await you at this weekend's Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds. My kids and I have gone to this friendly local event for the past few years, and we always learn something new.

The festival kicks off with Friday night's keynote address “Owls of Washington” by Paul Bannick, nature photographer and author of The Owl and the Woodpecker.

Saturday will be full of family-friendly nature fun. Highlights include a guided bird walk at one of several local parks, the chance to view birds with the help of volunteers at the Edmonds Marsh, and crafts and activities for children at the Francis Anderson Center. In past years my kids have loved playing "The Migration Game," tearing apart owl pellets, and seeing examples of animal pelts and preserved birds.

From 11-12 on Saturday, representatives from the Woodland Park Zoo will be presenting a program about owls and their wonderful adaptations and will bring one of their live owl ambassadors along for you to meet.

kids-guide-to-birding2Another Saturday highlight is a talk by Lorenzo Rohani, a local kid birder, photographer and author of A Kid’s Guide to Birding (written with his dad, Michael). He'll also lead a class about how kids can get started in birding. Families can then join him for a walk at nearby Yost Park to find birds in the forest.

For adults, additional classes will be offered on Saturday, including classes on photography, birds of Edmonds, bird songs and calls, and gardening for birds.

On Sunday the activities continue with more field trips and owl box building workshops.

More fall fun for budding birders

If you have budding ornithologists in your family, they’ll probably be even more excited to go birding after this weekend, so grab a pair of binoculars and a field guide and go for a walk in a park or natural area. Though many songbirds will be migrating south for the winter, other birds spend the cooler months in our area. Fall is a great time to look for returning waterfowl and gulls, geese and raptors.

Some places and guided walks to check out:

- A favorite fall birding spot of Lorenzo and Michael Rohani's is Seattle's Foster Island Trail and Duck Bay (accessible from Lake Washington Blvd. or from the Arboretum) and the Union Bay Natural Area (the “Montlake Fill”) behind the Center for Urban Horticulture.

- In Kirkland, Juanita Bay Park is excellent for birding. You can also take a free walk with a naturalist, focusing on birds or wildlife. Check the website for times and dates.

- Drive north to the Skagit Valley to see several different species of geese and swans, as well as the raptors that dine on these birds.

- Or make a road trip over to the Yakima River or the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge to see the northern shrikes and sandhill cranes.

- In the south end, our family also really likes the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with its wetland boardwalks and interpretive center. It offers guided walks from April through September. There is a $3 fee per family to access the refuge.

- The Seattle Audubon Society has free public neighborhood walks that anyone can attend. If you sign up a week ahead of time, you can borrow a pair of binoculars. Members can choose from many other family-friendly outings. Their website has all the details.

- Seattle's Magnuson Park has family nature programs in their wetlands area on the second Saturday of the month. Many of the topics focus on birds. There is a small fee.

- Mercer Slough Environmental Center has free guided nature walks every Saturday at 2 p.m.

If you go ...

When: Puget Sound Bird Fest's opening address with Paul Bannick is Friday, September 7, at 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, activities are scheduled throughout the day. Some field trips require advance registration and a small fee.

Where: Headquarters for Bird Fest are at the Francis Anderson Center, 700 Main St. in downtown Edmonds. The opening talk is in the Edmonds Plaza Room (above the Edmonds Library), 650 Main St. Field trips are in various parks in and around Edmonds. Check out the Event Map page for directions.

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