Several programs related to birds and birding over the next few weeks highlight the opening of the Whatcom Museum's Syre Education Center with its historical displays and popular collection of taxidermied birds.
For late summer, the Syre Center will be open Thursdays through Sundays from Thursday, Aug. 21, to Saturday, Sept. 13.
"Families really appreciate it," said Chris Brewer, museum educator and public programs coordinator. "People come from out of town; there's a lot of birders, of course."
With that in mind, and with the help of the North Cascades Audubon Society, the museum is offering programs as diverse as walking tours, lectures on building nests boxes, and bird-themes art classes. Several of the programs require advance registration and are limited in size. Check the museum calendar at whatcommuseum.org for more information and a complete schedule of classes and event.
In addition to the classes, there are games and activities in the Syre Center that focus on the bird exhibit.
"We have a collection of bird's eggs we'll be putting on display," Brewer said. "We've been working with the Audubon Society to develop some treasure hunts."
One project will include comparing the beaks of water birds and what they're used for; another involves guessing a bird from information that is provided.
"It's a treasure hunt - you have to find the bird (in the exhibit) from the clues we give."
They'll also have take-home scavenger hunts for identifying common backyard birds, Brewer said. All the games will give those who complete them a chance to enter a raffle for birding-oriented prizes, she said.
Its first program is an introduction to birding called "I See a Bird," with local birder and educator Dick McNeely, who provides an overview of wild and backyard birding and then guides a short walk to nearby Whatcom Creek. Like many of the birding programs, it's free with Syre Center admission and free for museum members from 2-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21.
"He'll give good tips on when and where to see birds," Brewer said.
On Friday, Aug. 22, is an art class called "Everyone Can Draw Birds," from 2-3:30 p.m. It's $10 for the workshop with a $3 materials fee, and includes free admission to the center and a sketchbook to keep. Register at 360-778-8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It's intended for people who are new to drawing, Brewer said.
That's followed by tours of the bird exhibit with the North Cascades Audubon Society, who will be available for questions - and help with clues for the birding treasure hunt - from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, and from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31.
From 2-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, is a program called "Birds on the Move" for learning to construct a paper mobile to take home. Cost is $10 plus a $3 materials fee; registration is limited to 15. Register at 360-778-8960 or email@example.com.
Featured during the second weekend are two "Every Bird Needs a Home" presentations about bird nest boxes from 1-4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29 and Saturday, Aug. 30. "The Audubon Society is bringing their boxes and talking about what kind of boxes are best for what kinds of birds. There are some that are very specific," Brewer said. They'll also have a nesting box with a clear acrylic front so participants can see how a bird built its nest.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, is a Grandparents Day event called "Birds of a Feather," focusing on water birds.'
Syre Education Center, at 201 Prospect St., is one of three buildings that comprise the Whatcom Museum. It's next to the iconic Old City Hall galleries at 121 Prospect St. and just a block away from the museum's Lightcatcher galleries at 250 Flora St.
It closed in 2005 because of budget cuts and is normally open only for special events or educational programs. But museum officials have opened the beloved gallery several times over the past few years, usually when the Lightcatcher is between major art exhibits.
General admission - allowing access to the Syre Center, Old City Hall and Lightcatcher - is $10; $8 for seniors age 62 or older or students with ID; $4.50 for children ages 2-5; free for children under 2. General admission is always $5 on Thursdays.
Built in 1926 as Bellingham Fire Department Station No.1, the Syre Center is a natural history museum focusing on Whatcom County.
Displays include exhibits on the early logging industry and a collection of American Indian artifacts - including those representing Inuit tribes of Alaska and local Coast Salish nations. Also featured is a display of native woven baskets. There are native masks that visitors can hold to their faces.
There's also a full-size diorama of a rural pioneer cabin from the 1900s, next to an urban Victorian bedroom and parlor from the same era - a juxtaposition that contrasts the period lifestyles.