Annual ornithology campout

Ornithology students camp in inclement weather during birding trip

 

Students taking an ornithology class from Jim Nestler, professor of biology, traveled to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for a weekend of birding. 

The trip, which took place during the weekend of May 22, included wind, rain, and even some snow, which caused many birds to stay hidden, but students still enjoyed the chance to observe wildlife. 

“It was very relaxed and low-key,” said Avery Stuart, biology pre-med senior. “We were able to just have fun all together while stopping to look around for birds. It was not strenuous in any academic way and felt more like just a good time to get out and look at nature.” 

The distance from Walla Walla to the wildlife refuge is about five to six hours, but the group took their time arriving as they stopped at various locations to look for birds. 

“I would estimate that we saw around 60 to 70 species overall,” said Stuart. “The weather was awful though which caused the birds to hide away for most of the time. We saw many species, but I would say that some of the coolest ones were the Western tanager, the Bullock’s oriole, and the sora. You have to listen to what a sora sounds like! It was so cool to hear and see it in the wild.” 

Students have improved their bird-watching skills this quarter by learning how to better identify defining features such as feathers, size, patterns, and calls. “I think that this field trip was really helpful because it allowed me to learn more birds and also how to better identify them. It is really hard to identify birds in the wild, so it was helpful having Dr. Nestler around to always help us out,” said Stuart. 

Students camped in tents, minimizing the number of people per tent for COVID-19 precautions. They cooked and ate their food on the road to allow for early starts. Due to weather the group chose to come home a day early. 

Posted June 3, 2021

A white Heron in stands in a green field.
The campout included wind, rain, and even some snow, which caused many birds to stay hidden, but students still enjoyed the chance to observe wildlife. 
A Barn Owl tucks her chicks under her wing.
Pictured here is a Barn Owl protecting her chicks under her wings.
A hummingbird sits on a flowering tree.
The group saw around 60 to 70 bird species while on the campout. All photos from Stephen Wilkinson.

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