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Migratory Birds Erica Keene

Taking Flight at the Migratory Bird Festival

May 22nd, 2014 | Posted by in Field Excursions

By Erica Keene

Smiles, laughter and flapping arms – I mean, wings. Yes, wings. These were the best parts of a sun-filled weekend spent learning about migratory bird species during the fifth annual Migratory Bird Festival at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. On Saturday, April 26, over 120 participants took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties they face during their winged travels. Their goal? Get safely to their next stop along the migration route.

The first round was easy, no obstacles. In the second round, a hunter was introduced. With each successive round, migration became harder and harder. Habitats began to disappear. Predators started increasing and catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and little ones alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how many challenges birds face when migrating long distances.

Migratory bird Erica KeeneYouth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program attempt to migrate safely to their next location while facing challenging obstacles such as hunters and habitat loss. Photo by author.

Groups rotated through three stations where they learned bird identification techniques, discovered ways to help conserve birds at home and participated in the ever-popular migration game. Each group adopted a bird for the day and spent time at each station learning fun facts about the Mallard, Rufous Hummingbird or the Killdeer. Some participants were even able to spot their bird during the bird identification station.

The day ended with students writing and decorating a postcard to be mailed to them in a few weeks’ time and with presentations on their adopted birds. Groups led interactive presentations on the Killdeer’s broken-wing display and the Rufous Hummingbird’s flight patterns while others absorbed the sunshine and listened.

eldersElders and youth from InterIm Community Development Association learn about migratory bird conservation. Photo by: Jim Chu, USFS.
Migratory Birds Erica KeeneOver 120 participants gathered on Saturday in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day at Camp Casey. Coupeville, WA. Photo by author.

A handful of regional community and environmental organizations participated in this event in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, including Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program (O2), InterIm Community Development Association, North Cascades Institute’s Youth Leadership Adventures and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program.

On Saturday evening, 23 youth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s O2 program and InterIm Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) stayed the night at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island in anticipation of a Sunday stewardship project. Pacific Northwest Trail Association Intern, Noah Pylvainen, took students on a walk along the Pacific Northwest Trail and introduced students to the idea of long-distance backpacking.

Migratory bird fest AnekaYouth Leadership Adventures students showing off their migratory bird postcards. Photo by Aneka Singlaub.

The next morning, students loaded onto the bus for a short trip to Fort Ebey State Park. Upon arrival, Operations Manager Craig Holmquist from the National Park Service introduced them to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Students were given a demonstration on how to use a weed wrench and learned to identify Scotch broom: a tall, quick-to-spread invasive weed. Their task? Pull as much Scotch broom as possible out of the ground in just under three hours. Many youth had been to this event the previous year and were eager to get started. They looked at the area they cleared last year and when they realized none of it had grown back, huge smiles spread across their faces as the impact they were making started to seem more of a reality. This year, inn less than three hours, 23 youth and their adult leaders cleared nearly an acre of the invasive, yellow-flowered plant, an act of stewardship that will be appreciated by native plant aficionados to come.

migratory bird Erica KeeneZheonte Payne, 15, and Seth Wendzel from O2 share a high five in celebration of removing a particularly large Scotch Broom plant.
migratory bird Erica KeeneAfter nearly three hours of grueling effort, youth celebrate the two trailer loads of Scotch Broom they removed from Fort Ebey State Park. Photo by author.
migratory bird Erica Keene Lewen Chen, 17, from InterIm WILD loads Scotch Broom into a trailer to be removed from Fort Ebey State Park.

Thank you to the US Forest Service, Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, Ebey’s Trust Board, National Park Service, Skagit Audubon Society, Whidbey Audubon Society and all other staff and volunteers who helped make this event possible. We could not have done it without you!

Leading photo: Ximena Beccera, age 9, from the Kulshan Creek Program, learns how to use a spotting scope for the first time at the bird identification station. 

Erica Keene is the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.




Mosquito Meadow-Gifford Pinchot Forest

Coming full circle

August 15th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

After graduating from North Cascade Institute’s M.Ed. program I began working for the Cowlitz Valley Ranger district as an Invasive Plant Technician. It was really just a fancy way of saying I mapped and pulled weeds in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I have to say it was quite a shift moving from learning and teaching about native plants, to training my eye towards the invasive plants. I spent two summers after grad school walking through the woods alone in hot pursuit of invasive plants such as scotch broom, thistles, tansy ragwort, and Knotweed. While being outdoors all summer long was a bonus, hunting the forest for non-native plants was not my passion, or my calling. I moved on to some jobs in the local school districts—subbing, working as a para-educator, or teaching in the after school program.

Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle, Cisium Vulgare The Most common weed I hunted. Photo by Meghann Wolvert

In August of 2012 I was hired on at the Cispus Learning Center to manage the local AmeriCorps team in east Lewis County. I now spend my time training AmeriCorps volunteers to help in the local schools and provide programming to local youth. I manage the AmeriCorps program budget and leverage funding through the community and through grants. I actively use many of the skills I learned during our non-profit course work in the grad program, as well as many of my lesson planning skills honed over the months of working on the Mountain School Curriculum.

cispus logoThe 2012-2013 Cispus logo, created by Whitney Brooks and Corey Krzan

For me it’s a feeling of coming full circle. I was a member of the Cispus AmeriCorps team before I applied to North Cascades Institute’s grad program and had it not been for the AmeriCorps experience I never would have applied to grad school. Now, because of the skills I learned in grad school, I feel like I am doing a job I’m not only passionate about but a job I’m well trained for.

Leading photo: Mosquito Meadow’s In the Gifford Pinchot Forest. Photo by Meghann Wolvert


Meghann Wolvert was a member of Cohort 8 and graduated in March 2010. After graduation she moved to Randle, WA just southwest of Mt. Rainier. Since graduating Meghann got married and enjoys spending her free time with her husband fishing, camping and playing in their garden. She is now the Project Supervisor of the Cispus AmeriCorps team and works at the Cispus Learning Center in the Gifford Pinchot Forest.