Stormy weather is not the best recipe for bird watching.
But that’s not stopping environmentalists from getting together in Olympia to set their legislative priorities.
And among the festivities celebrating the Washington Conservation Voters’ day of lobbying is the unveiling of a colorful new, hand-drawn bird-watching map.
The new “Puget Loop” Audubon map is the latest in a series of trail maps, used by avid birders.
"It covers the area where most of us live, Puget Sound,” says Woody Wheeler, who now makes a living guiding tourists from all over the country, who come here just to seek out our unique mix of birds.
“And you might think, well there are big cities here and lots of commerce, so maybe there wouldn't be as many birds, but that’s not the case.” Wheeler says.
He can list 4 or five great places to go birding within Seattle’s city limits. They're all on the new map, which he helped create.
Wheeler says one of his favorite places to take people is Union Bay, near the University District, where at this time of year you can find the Pacific Wren. It's a little mottled brown one that doesn't look like much. But he says there's another reason to enjoy finding it.
“It has the longest song of any bird in America. And that's around here. And it's an amazing little song," He says, adding that he had just spotted one there. "They're not singing much now because it's winter. But, when it gets brighter and warmer, they'll start singing more. And they have an incredible song, for such a little bird.”
You can hear the Pacific Wren's long song and see it sing in this YouTube Video:
Christi Norman runs the state’s birding trail program out of another great spot, at the south end of Lake Washington, in Seward Park, where you can see majestic eagles and pre-historic-looking herons, among many others.
But she says that’s just the tiniest taste of what’s on the new map.
“You can see Albatrosses on the Pacific Coast. You can go to eastern Washington to the little, tiniest nooks and crannies and find the Calliopy hummingbird. You can find owls in the Northeast in the Ponderay.”
Or you could seek out the elusive great gray owl that flies into our forested coastlines.
Norman and others attending the strategy sessions in Olympia say this wildlife heritage is part of what brings in scarce funds for essential services, by fueling our tourist trade.
“And we have been growing our wildlife watching about ten times faster than the rest of the country. And that's because we have such fabulous birds all over the state,” Norman says.
She and others attending the Environmental Priorities Coalition day of lobbying say telling people about what we have and then protecting it is something they can celebrate – as they push back against all kinds of rollbacks to environmental battles that are looming because of the down economy.
[You can buy a copy of the map for $4.95 on the web site of Seattle Audubon.]