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Out With Kids: Snowy owls, migratory birds are focus of Whatcom Museum events

Headlining a month of Whatcom Museum events dedicated to birds and birding is a presentation by noted wildlife photographer and conservationist Paul Bannick, a Northwesterner and former software executive.

Bannick will show photographs — including recent new images — and discuss the “Life of the Snowy Owl” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, in the Rotunda Room of the museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. Admission is $5, with a two-for-one ticket special for museum members and members of the North Cascades Audubon Society, which is a co-sponsor.

Bannick’s book, “The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters With North America’s Most Iconic Birds,” was a Washington State Book Awards finalist.

“He’s well-loved and has amazing photographs,” said Chris Brewer, educator and public programs coordinator for the museum. “He’s just recently spent time in the Arctic gathering photographs and some new video of snowy owls nesting.”

Advance tickets for the show are available online at For more information, go online, or

Snowy owls have been in the public eye the past year because of last season’s migratory irruption, when the strikingly colored species saw its southernmost reach in 20 years. Birding enthusiasts flocked to Sandy Point and other Whatcom County locations where the owl was sighted.

Bannick’s show coincides with a monthlong opening of the museum’s Syre Education Center, which closed in 2005 amid budget cuts that limited its use to school groups and special events. Built in 1926 as Bellingham Fire Department Station No.1, the Syre Center is now a natural history museum focusing on Whatcom County’s pioneer and tribal heritage. Its signature exhibit is a display of more than 500 taxidermied birds.

Syre Education Center, at 201 Prospect St., is one of three buildings that comprise Whatcom Museum. It will be open noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from Jan. 8 to Feb. 5. Admission of $5 provides entry to all three Whatcom Museum buildings.

Brewer said the Syre Center and special birding events fill a cultural gap when the museum’s Lightcatcher galleries are between major exhibits. A focus of the birding events this month is the Pacific Flyway, a migratory interstate freeway for hundreds of bird species.

Special programs include lectures, guided tours of the taxidermy exhibit, and a Family Activity Day focusing on the snowy owl and migration in general. In the Syre Center, visitors will find a videos on the Pacific Flyway and other topics, as well as a copy of the Audubon Society’s “State of the Bird” report.

“We want to let people know that we are a key location on the flyway,” Brewer said.

Upcoming events

•  “Winter Birds of the Salish Sea,” with Joe Meche of the North Cascades Audubon Society, at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, in the Rotunda Room of Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. Admission: $3 suggested donation.

•  “Bird Tour: Not Just a Pretty Face,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Syre Education Center, 201 Prospect St. Audubon Society board member and retired biologist Owen Bamford discusses how various bird species are suited to their environment. Free with museum admission.

•  “Bird Tour: Look Who Just Flew in! Migrating birds of Whatcom County,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at Syre Education Center, 201 Prospect St. Audubon Society member Paul Woodcock discusses local migrating species and their journeys. Free with museum admission.

•  “Bird Tour: Meet our Raptors!” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25 at Syre Education Center, 201 Prospect St. North Cascades Audubon Society President Pam Borso discusses local raptor species. She will be at the museum from 1 to 4 p.m. to talk informally with visitors. Free with museum admission.

•  Family Activity Day: “The Snowy Owl & Other Migration Mysteries” 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, with bird art and activities, including bird feeder construction projects, in Syre Education Center and Lightcatcher galleries. Museum admission is $3.