Community, Enrich, Explore, Family Time in Wenatchee, Living Wenatchee

Susan Ballinger’s Free Bird Walks in Wenatchee and Leavenworth

The Wenatchee area offers many different kinds of habitats for birds, from waterfowl to bald eagles. The city has a diverse selection of natural environments: lush riparian growth along the river which slowly dries and thins out into sagebrush; their inhabitants are numerous.

Birding in Wenatchee and in Leavenworth

Susan Ballinger leads free guided bird walks in Wenatchee and in Leavenworth. With her advanced degrees in Biology and Education and decades of experience, she is possibly one of the best people in town to show and explain about the many birds in our midst. Susan also teaches the popular “Wenatchee Naturalist” course at the Wenatchee Valley College as well as works as a Conservation Fellow with the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. 

Susan Ballinger can often be seen around Wenatchee with binoculars in hand. (Courtesy of Susan Ballinger)

Susan’s free walks are for early birds. Here are the three options:

Walla Walla Point Park/Horan Nature Area

Third Wednesday (of the month) at Walla Walla Point Park, 7:30-10:00 am. Gather at the parking lot by the playground. There is no need to sign up in advance, just show up. Dress according to weather, the walks take place no matter what Mother Nature offers on that day.

The group generally gathers at the parking lot, walks along the sandpit across the lagoon by the park and then proceeds to the Horan Nature area, following the paved Loop trail along the river at first and then descending down into the Horan section with its dirt paths and natural, wooded setting. The Horan Loop is about 2 miles total and level ground.

Horan is known for its varied bird population, changing with the seasons.

Susan does the Wednesday walks as a North Central Washington Audubon Society representative. She records the bird sightings and reports them into the eBird registry as a citizen science project. 

Citizen science may sound intimidating, but is actually a way of engaging anyone who is interested in providing data for scientific purposes. There are clear protocols to follow, but none of them require academic decrees.

Ebird is a project managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. According to the ebird website, it is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, amounting to over 100 million recorded bird sightings in a year. The collected data includes lists, photos, maps and audio recordings, for example.

For those interested in getting involved in the ebird data collection and utilization, go to www.ebird.org  for more information. There is also a free mobile app for the project.

For more information, go to www.ncwaudubon.org or contact Susan at skylinebal@gmail.com 

Even at the starting point at Walla Walla Point Park, it’s good to set up the binoculars and observe the waterfowl in the lagoon. (Courtesy of Jaana Hatton)

Horse Lake Preserve

Susan’s second bird walk option takes place up on the Horse Lake Preserve, 6:00-11:30. Check for the dates and information on www.cdlandtrust.org/events.

The observations will be recorded and sent to the eBird registry. Some of the things to note are: which species of birds use each habitat types; how will bird use change after the 2012 and 2015 wildfires?

 Hiking around the Horse Lake Preserve is an enjoyable experience even for non-birders and offers amazing views of Wenatchee and of the surrounding mountain ranges in the distance. The trails meander on the high meadows and along some of the old farmstead’s dirt roads. The old farm buildings are still there, but not in use anymore. Here and there some barbwire fencing still marks boundaries, but the trails are safe and cleared of obstacles. 

The Horse Lake area is popular among hikers and mountain bikers.

Susan’s Horse Lake outing generally begins at the bottom of Horse Lake Road on the asphalt parking area and from there, the participants car-pool the three-mile stretch up to the preserve. 

Up on the high hills of Horse Lake Preserve, the birds are different from those found near downtown. The walk also offers a chance to enjoy the walk through the beautiful Horse Lake landscape, as well as spectacular views of the surrounding areas. (Courtesy of Susan Ballinger)

Mountain Home 

The third bird walk takes place in Leavenworth, at Mountain Home. Susan generally meets the participants in Wenatchee at a park-and-ride location for car-pooling at 6 am, returning at approximately 11:30. 

Mountain Home requires a drive along a dirt road up on the hills above Leavenworth, but it also offers pleasant scenery along the way. Since the location is at a higher elevation, it’s good to bring an extra layer of clothing. 

Some of the things to be observed on this eBird related outing are: which species of birds use each habitat types; how will bird use continue to change over time, after the 1994 wildfires?

For more related information, please check:

www.birds.cornell.edu/landtrust/chelan-douglas-land-trust/

https://ebird.org/pnw/news/using-ebird-as-a-land-trust-stewardsip-tool
http://www.ncwaudubon.org/conservation.html

Everyone is welcome to join these walks, regardless of bird knowledge.

On the Mountain Home bird walk above Leavenworth, the trees are tall and the nature full of greenery. The hike requires going uphill but with several stops to observe the birds, it is not strenuous. (Courtesy of Susan Ballinger)

Jaana Hatton