Celebrate the Birds!

Welcome to World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) here at Yaquina Head! On May 12, 2018, the day finally arrived for the bird festivities in Newport. Me and the crew at the park have been organizing and setting up for this event for the past several weeks, investing hours and hours to make sure everything was in place and ready for action. In case you didn’t know, WMBD is celebrated internationally to raise awareness about the migratory birds that fly through our neighborhoods, and how we can help our feathery friends reach their destination safely! Because WMBD is celebrated internationally, the event falls on varying days depending on location. In Mexico, for example, WMBD would be celebrated closer to autumn because a good number of birds that migrate from Mexico will be in their area. Because Newport is right along the Pacific Coast, we like to focus our event on the awareness of migrating shorebirds, and to commemorate the birds of our area as well. We worked in coordination with other entities such as Brian Booth State Park and the Hatfield Marine Science Center to encompass a wider area of Lincoln County. This partnership also allowed us to stagger bird walks, so that our guests were able to enjoy the birds and the activities in all three locations.

 

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

 

We had several activities set up at Yaquina Head for all guests. For our younger audience, we had coloring pages of our featured birds that are on the “Year of the Bird” poster. We even showcased some of their drawings on the wall to display their artistic creativity! We also had a table for “Bird Bingo,” a bingo game based on several behaviors that birds may express. Because bingo required several people to play, it was more popular with our family guests and larger groups of kids. Perhaps my favorite activity (and not just because I made it) was the “Conservation Scavenger Hunt”! Guests were given a half sheet of paper with seven questions that revolved around the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the birds protected under that law. The answers could be found by reading the MBTA poster, and finding the info-squares of the featured birds of this year’s poster. Not only did this activity encourage our guests to explore the Interpretive Center where the info-squares were hidden, but it also provided important information about these birds such as their conservation status and how we can help conserve their numbers. And, of course, we also had the classic Migration Game! In this activity, you pretend to be a bird of your choice and get to discover if you survive or perish on your migration towards your destination! This has been one of the best activities, in my opinion, because it gets children to be active and move around, as well as raising their awareness about the perils of migratory flight. Along with our games and activities, we had videos on rotation that displayed many birds of the Lincoln County area, including shorebirds, Bald Eagles, and the Common Murres of Yaquina Head. We also included Pixar’s animated short film, Piper, in the mix for the little peeps! Simply participating in the activities would award the guests with stickers and prizes, including the “Conservation Calculator,” a fun, compact activity book for Jr. Birders, and the beautifully recognized WMBD 2018 “Year of the Bird” poster!

 

OSU Bird Nerds visiting Yaquina Head for World Migratory Bird Day

 

We were also thankful to have John DeLuca, a Springfield birder from the Fish & Wildlife Department, come to Yaquina Head to give a birding basics presentation and lead the bird walk for the park. I accompanied John on his bird walks to help translate for any Spanish-speaking guest, along with giving brief and insightful information about the birds of our area. The walks were amazing for a multitude of reasons! For one, I was given the opportunity to practice my interpretation skills in regards to birds, a skill I believe will come in handy for my future. Secondly, as we were observing the Peregrine Falcons on the cliffside of Salal Hill, we were given the good news that chicks have hatched!! There could not have been a more special day for them to be born! In addition to the wonderful news, I managed to see a Brown Pelican fly through Yaquina Head for the first time! Now, it wasn’t my first time ever seeing a Brown Pelican in my life, but it was special for me to see one here in Newport. I began to reminisce about the life I had back home. I would help vet techs treat injured Brown Pelicans at the International Bird Rescue Center in San Pedro. This Brown Pelican filled me with glee, as I’ll be going back home soon to see my family and friends for a couple days!

 

Guided Bird Walk with John DeLuca

 

Without a doubt, my favorite moment was being on the bird walks, not only because of the birds but also because of the Latino children who joined us on the walks. They seemed lost at first, having no clue as to what to expect or find. The world of birds has never been opened to their eyes before. John and I made sure it was a priority to get the children engaged in the bird walk, showing the birds to them through the scope before anyone else. Watching them marvel over the birds of the park, I knew that we had sparked a flicker of excitement in them. Out of everybody, they were the most excited to see all the birds we could find. With every new bird we would hear “WOAH” and “This is so cool!”. I remember one moment when we were looking out into the ocean at the thousands of Common Murres in the water. I pulled out my Sibley’s guide to show them what they looked like…and they were in awe. They were begging their parents to buy them the book and even a pair of binoculars, too! I can only imagine that it’s going to be a very birdy Christmas for this family. As they began to leave, they thanked me for showing them around the park and guiding them to see the birds. As they began to walk away with smiles on their faces, I overheard one of them say, with genuine happiness, “That was the coolest thing, ever!”

 

That moment, to me, was everything. That alone was worth all the hard work we put into the event.

 

Cleaning up after the event, I was happy to see all the cookies I’d baked for the staff of Yaquina Head all gone! It was the cherry on top of a perfect World Migratory Bird Day. I could not have done any of this work without the efforts and dedication of  YHONA staff! Also, a special thank you to the EFTA team for providing some important resources for the event, contributing to its success! I’m already excited thinking about what next year’s WMBD will bring!

Christian Cortez
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