Birding lectures at Whatcom Museum offer advice for beginners



Ashley Torres, 9, points out a bird taking flight for Elizabeth Le, 10, left, Leon Le, 8, and Zoe Bartle, 8, right, Monday, March 31, 2014, during the YMCA Kids Spring Enrichment Program at Sunnyland Elementary in Bellingham. All week kids from kindergarten through 6th grade join YMCA staff for days full of crafts, games and other fun activities.


With the continued popularity of birding - especially in Washington state - the North Cascades Audubon Society is offering a two-part class for beginners to supplement its regular free local field trips.

Audubon member Ken Saltzman is teaching "Birding 101" from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at the museum's Old City Hall galleries, 121 Prospect St. Admission is a $3 suggested donation; it's free for museum members.

Salzman, who has been birding and photographing birds for more than 25 years, is also teaching "Birding 102" from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 19, at the museum. Both lectures are part of the museum's Brown Bag lunchtime series.

"The first one is real basic stuff, it's kind of the Reader's Digest version" of a class Salzman offers through the local Audubon Society. That class is limited to 25 people and is booked full this month, but Salzman urged beginning birders to watch the website at for additional offerings and free field trips.

According to a 2006 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, some 48 million people identified themselves as birders - about one in five Americans. In 2011, a similar survey showed birding was the 15th most popular recreational activity among Americans. Washington was ninth among the 50 states in birding popularity.

In "Birding 101," Salzman will suggest how to choose binoculars and how to find a good field guide and use it properly. For the second class, he'll discuss habitat, range and how to use "field marks" to identify the different species of birds.

"There are certain marks that you can look for in making an ID," he said. "It's kind of like being a detective that you can find enough markings so you can say, 'This is it.' "

Marks for birders to consider include coloring, tail bands or whether the bird has a crest on its head, Salzman said.

Salzman urged beginning birders - especially families with young children - to get a good pair of binoculars, a field guide and go on a guided trip. There's a free guided walk from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 7, at Semiahmoo Spit.

He said birding offers a range of advantages for young minds - including intellectual stimulation, exercise, an appreciation for the environment and the opportunity to foster a closer family relationship.

Novices shouldn't be self-conscious about their lack of birding knowledge, he said, noting that most birders are happy to share information.

"I was lucky to have good mentors," he said. "A lot of people took me under their wing and taught me a lot."


Minus tides this weekend and in early June offer a chance to see the clams, anemones and sea stars that inhabit parts of the shoreline that beachcombers get to see only occasionally.

Tides of minus one foot or more occur in Bellingham Bay and surrounding Salish Sea waters about midday for several days through Sunday, June 1. Another set of low tides occurs starting Wednesday, June 11, and includes low tides of nearly minus 3 feet.

Good places to explore are the sandy shorelines at Semiahmoo Spit near Blaine, Birch Bay State Park and Point Whitehorn. Larrabee State Park has a rocky coast with traditional tide pools, and Marine Park offers a fascinating collection of intertidal life just a short walk from downtown Fairhaven.

For nudibranchs, anemones and sea stars - especially the multi-legged sunflower star - head to Wildcat Cove at Larrabee. At sandy beaches, you'll see clams and other creatures; at Marine Park, look for barnacles and live sand dollars.

To find the times and heights of tides locally, go to and select a location. Stay dry by wearing rubber boots for beachcombing and arrive an hour before the scheduled low tide.


Learn "Everything You Wanted to Know About Printmaking (But Were Afraid to Ask)" at a 2 p.m. lecture Sunday, June 1, in the Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall galleries, 121 Prospect St. Admission is a $3 suggested donation; it's free for museum members.

Dillon Gisch and Miranda K. Metcalf of Davidson Galleries in Seattle will discuss difference between relief, intaglio, planographic and serigraphic processes.


Fans of train lore can ride a piece of vintage railroad equipment known as a "speeder" starting this weekend.

Volunteers at the Bellingham Railway Museum have restored a pair of the speeders, which were motorized carts used to transport railway workers from the 1920s to the 1980s. They were the successor to the iconic hand cart used for years.

Speeders travel at a top speed of about 40 mph.

Rides at $3 for adults and $2 for children are offered 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 31 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays on July 3, July 17, July 31, Aug. 14, and Aug. 28.

They use a restored track near the intersection of West Orchard Drive and Orchard Place, behind the medical buildings along Birchwood Avenue near Meridian Street. Museum workers and volunteers restored a section of track they obtained permission to use at the Bellingham Cold Storage site.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or

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