The Wenatchee River Institute (WRI) engages students of all ages in experiential environmental learning, and its flagship program, Field Days, partners with local schools to improve science education through hands-on scientific exploration at Barn Beach Reserve. This 9-acre nature preserve on the banks of the Wenatchee River serves as a state-of-the-art green classroom, equipped with microscopes, snowshoes, kick nets, and live animals.

This May’s Field Days are focusing on wild birds, and you don’t have to be a grade-school student to get involved. The WRI partners with the Leavenworth Bird Fest from May 16-19 to celebrate the return of migratory birds in the midst of peak wildflower season. The weekend is packed with field trips for kids and grown ups such as Birding by River Raft, Birding by Big Canoe, Birds & Beer, and Bikes & Birds. Free family activities for all ages include the Blackbird Island Family Bird Walk and bilingual activities with Team Naturaleza.

Rachel Bishop is the community education lead for the WRI and leads events such as Breakfast and Birding, Sleeping Lady Bird Walk, and the Owl Prowl. One of her favorite events to recommend is the birding by river raft trips. “It’s a cool and unique kind of birding. You get close to the birds. It’s really quiet on the water and you can sneak up on them.”

She says it’s relaxing and interesting to see a wide range of birds that nest in and rely on riparian zones, such swallows eating insects on the water’s surface. She also reports seeing Bullock’s orioles, bald eagles, and osprey. The float lasts two hours and connects the Icicle to the Wenatchee River.  She reckons that a lot of birders come from across the country to view the white-headed woodpecker because it’s so specific to eastern Washington. “We don’t have it on west side, probably because it lives off of and east insects on ponderosa pines.”

The Leavenworth Bird Fest is a great opportunity for lifelong birders to tick a few more birds off their life lists and for the bird-curious to learn more about this species-rich region. //