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What’s that bird in your yard? This collaboration can help you figure it out

North Cascades Audubon Society members helped teach children about urban birding at the Whatcom Museum’s summer bird camp in 2016. Audubon Society volunteers answer questions from 1:30-3:30 p.m. every fourth Sunday at the Whatcom Museum’s Hall of Birds exhibit.
North Cascades Audubon Society members helped teach children about urban birding at the Whatcom Museum’s summer bird camp in 2016. Audubon Society volunteers answer questions from 1:30-3:30 p.m. every fourth Sunday at the Whatcom Museum’s Hall of Birds exhibit. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Sometimes two organizations come together to better achieve their missions. The Whatcom Museum and the North Cascades Audubon Society are an example of this. Through an ongoing partnership, both the museum and Audubon Society have produced a variety of events, and most recently an exhibit, that have informed and inspired people throughout Whatcom County to explore the natural world around them.

The partnership began in 2013 when the museum opened an exhibit in the Syre Education Center that showcased the museum’s collection of taxidermy birds and Native American artifacts on a limited basis (two to three times a year for 2-6 weeks at a time). Shortly after the exhibit opened, society representatives volunteer their time to answer questions and engage in conversations about birds with museum visitors.

More recently, when the museum decided to move its founding collection of taxidermy birds in 2016-17 from the Syre Education Center to Old City Hall and create the John M. Edson Hall of Birds, which is open year-round, the North Cascades Audubon Society played a key role in the exhibit development.

“When planning began for moving the birds to Old City Hall, knowledgeable NCAS birders joined in and we discussed key birds to move and important themes for the exhibit. These became foundational to the new exhibit,” said Chris Brewer, a previous museum educator involved in getting Audubon active at the museum, and the current Audubon board education chair. Ultimately, most of the birds in the exhibit were moved.

The Hall of Birds showcases more than 500 mounted birds and provides opportunities for guests to learn about migration, conservation, birds in peril, and the importance of studying bird specimens today. Audubon Society volunteers answer questions from 1:30-3:30 p.m. every fourth Sunday at the exhibit. The next event is Jan. 28.

The Audubon Society uses the Rotunda Room of Old City Hall as the venue for its monthly meetings and educational presentations on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 7-9 p.m. The public programs are open to the public and highlight a diverse range of topics, from bird habitat to the effects of climate change on migration patterns to highlights on specific bird species.

The Audubon Society has also been a key financial contributor to many of the museum’s programs. It helped fund four summer youth bird camps in 2015 and 2016, co-sponsored two sold-out presentations by well-known bird photographer Paul Bannick and helped with family education events during the Vanishing Ice exhibition in 2013-14.

“Audubon is not only a birding organization, but an educational and conservation oriented [organization] as well,” said Pam Borso, current president of the North Cascades Audubon Society. “The museum has provided us the opportunity to further our presence in the community.”

Colton Redtfeldt is Whatcom Museum’s marketing assistant.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.

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