Feathered friends

Free workshops, naturalist hikes teach more about bird watching

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If you go

Columbia Springs Backyard Birding workshop: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.

Where: Columbia Springs, 12208 S.E. Evergreen Highway, Vancouver.

Cost: Free, but a $5 donation is suggested for class materials. To sign up, visit www.columbiasprings.org. For questions, call 882-0936, Ext. 224 or email workshops@columbiasprings.org

Other bird watching opportunities: Hikes are offered at Steigerwald Lake and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuges. Limited space is available. The following hikes are led by Ron Escano, a retired wildlife biologist who has been leading bird walks for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon for more than a decade. All hikes last for approximately three hours. To sign up, call 887-4106 or Josie_Finley@fws.gov.

Steigerwald

Hikes meet at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, Sunday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 22. There is no fee to enter the refuge. It is located at milepost 18 on the south side of Highway 14 in Washougal.

Ridgefield

Hikes meet at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 15. A $3 entrance fee applies. It is located at 1071 S. Hillhurst Road.

Stepping onto the hiking trail at Columbia Springs with views of wildlife everywhere, one can forget that they are just a short distance away from Highway 14.

It includes an indoor and outdoor education center which offers events, programs and workshops to teach people of all ages about nature, and practical ways to protect the environment.

Located just a short distance from Camas, the nonprofit will host an upcoming backyard birding workshop on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Those looking for a great spot to bird watch and who are wondering how to attract them to a backyard will learn all about both at the free workshop.

It will include information from local experts and a guided walk around Columbia Springs to spot a wide variety of local birds. Attendees will also get their own chickadee birdhouse to take home.

This is the second time Columbia Springs will host the workshop.

“We have our first one in July and we had a really strong response,” said Erik Horngren, workshops coordinator. “There were 25 people at the class, and at least 50 to 60 people wanted to sign up. I had to refer them elsewhere, so I thought it would be good to offer another class.”

The first class spent half the workshop in the classroom, and the other half outdoors. However, Horngren noticed participants wanted to spend more time hiking and observing birds at the lake.

“The indoor part is mainly informational, such as the different kinds of local birds, but there were lots of questions people had once we got outdoors, so we thought it would be better to allow more time for that,” he said. “People really enjoyed it and wanted more time outside.”

Horngren recommended the workshop for anyone who is interested in learning more about birds.

“It is geared more toward novice bird watchers that are just getting started but want to know more,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot of interest out there, and having 60 people sign up for a workshop is great.

“There will be lots of opportunity for those who attend to get more involved with this.”

The workshop will be held rain or shine, and Horngren recommends attendees wear weather appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Columbia Springs will provide binoculars, birding books and umbrellas, if needed.

“People can bring their own if they want, but we do provide the materials if needed,” he said. “The greatest benefit to attending is that people might find a great new spot to watch birds, and a majority have never been here before.”

Columbia Springs is open to the public for free daily, from dawn to dusk. It is also the historic site of the first lumber mill in the Pacific Northwest, and current home to the Vancouver Trout Hatchery, which was built in 1938 as part of the Works Progress Administration during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. It includes a protected natural area which filters storm water before it reaches the Columbia River, and provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife.

Other local and regional areas that host birding events include the Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Vancouver Audubon Society, Backyard Birdshop and Friends of the Columbia River Gorge.