Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
What do you get when you combine the great outdoors, conservation, research, education, exercise, birds, and binoculars? Give up? You get the Yakima Valley Audubon Society (YVAS).
Formed in 1969, the group today busily spends most of its time maintaining and monitoring a “Bluebird Trail”, hosting weekly walking trips on the Popoff Trail and monthly fieldtrips to local birding hotspots, maintaining a bird feeding station and blind at the Yakima Area Arboretum, participates, hosts and organizes bird counts and surveys in the Yakima area, along with a host of educational events and other activities.
“Soon after I moved to Washington from Canada in 1978, I joined the Yakima Valley Audubon Society,” said Andy Stepniewski who is the current YVAS President. “I started participating in chapter fieldtrips and attending the monthly meetings, which always feature an exciting program on birds, their natural history, or conservation.”
The club is open for anyone to join, the only caveat is an interest in the “World of Birds”. And with the myriad of activities, there is bound to be something for everyone.
Stepniewski, who got into birding in his teenage years, finds that birding feeds his love for wild places and habitats. “Birding gets me into the places that I most want to visit. Whether it be viewing thousands of ducks and geese at Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge in February, the lovely Wenas Creek stream sides, pine woods and the flower-studded shrub-steppe in May, on a boat 30 miles off Wesport in August, a Cascade Range trail in fall, or around an Okanogan forest edge in December.”
The Yakima Valley is an especially prime birding area due to our unique and varied habitats that surround this region providing the average birder with more sighting potential then the west side of the state.
“The Cascade Range causes a very pronounced rain shadow east of the mountains. Precipitation decreases dramatically from near 100 inches per year at the cold Cascade crest to about 8 inches around warm Yakima. A phenomenal mosaic of habitats exist along this temperature and moisture gradient,” said Stepniewski.
Even after several decades of bird watching, Stepniewski still has birds that he has yet to see. “Despite many searches I still have yet to see a ptarmigan (an alpine grouse that turns snow white in the winter) in Yakima County. I dearly hope to spot one before my hiking days are over.
To learn more about the Yakima Valley Audubon Society, click the link.
Have questions about a bird that you spotted in your backyard or on a recent hike? Head over to BirdYak.
Check the “Outdoor Happenings” every Tuesday in the Yakima Herald for juicy bird sightings in the “Bird Alert” section.