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TOGIAK NWR: Bird Walk Spans Over Two Decades
Alaska Region, June 3, 2011
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Supervisory Park Ranger Allen Miller and Biologist Michael Winfree take time to assist Dillingham students with identifying area birds.
Supervisory Park Ranger Allen Miller and Biologist Michael Winfree take time to assist Dillingham students with identifying area birds. - Photo Credit: n/a
A Dillingham student takes to a spotting scope to get a better look at a bird.
A Dillingham student takes to a spotting scope to get a better look at a bird. - Photo Credit: n/a

This past May, the 26th annual Fourth Grade Bird Walk took place at Dillingham Elementary School in southwest Alaska. The event started in 1985, Ronald Reagan was still in office and Simple Minds had the #1 hit song, “Don’t You (Forget about Me)”, the theme song from the iconic movie “The Breakfast Club.” That first walk was organized by Dillingham City School District staff member Erma O’Brien. A lot has happened since that first birding outing.

Fast forward twenty-six years, four presidents and several hundred number one hits. This year’s walk included the fourth grade classes of Janice Larsen and Karen Belleque. Mrs. Larsen has been a part of the walk for over two decades, and Mrs. Belleque has participated in nearly as many.

 The outings included two pre-walk classroom sessions, presented by Refuge staff, followed by the walk itself. Classroom sessions introduced students to birding, birding tools and observation techniques. Students learned how to identify bird species and groups using field guides and use binoculars. The idea of the classrooms visits was to maximize observation time in the field.

After a weather delay due to torrential rains that doused the Bristol Bay area, the walk commenced on Thursday, May 26th. Accompanied by Togiak Refuge staff, volunteers and teachers the young birders ventured out into looming overcast skies and scattered rain. Dressed in rain boots and rain jackets, they recorded each bird species they encountered with the help of adults reminding them how to use binoculars and bird guides.

In all forty-two species were spotted during the three hour event including the commonly spotted: Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, a Northern Harrier, Mew Gulls and Arctic Terns. A few less common birds were spotted including: a Rusty Blackbird, a Red-necked Grebe and a Pine Siskin.

How long will the annual Fourth Grade Bird Walk continue?  There is no end in sight judging from the reactions of both adults and students. The Bird Walk is a great way for students to learn about local bird life as well as get outdoors.  

by Terry Fuller
Telephone: 907-842-1063 ext. 8419 Email: terry_fuller@fws.gov


Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov



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