Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
TOGIAK: Dillingham Celebrates 28 Years of 4th Grade Bird Walks!
Alaska Region, May 28, 2013
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A Dillingham Elementary student tries to distinguish between several types of gulls.
A Dillingham Elementary student tries to distinguish between several types of gulls. - Photo Credit: USFWS/Togiak Refuge

On May 20th, the 28th annual Fourth Grade Bird Walk took place at Dillingham Elementary School in southwest Alaska. This event has an uninterrupted history at DES and owes its nearly three decade popularity to the efforts of area educators such as Janice Larsen, Joanne Nelson, Karen Belleque and other teachers that have made the walk a priority as a way to teach Dillingham students about area birds and birding.


That first walk was organized by Dillingham City School District staff member Erma O’Brien. A lot has happened since that first birding outing. When you consider that in 1985 Ronald Reagan was president, Nintendo had just released their Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Mario Brothers, a gallon of gas was just over a dollar and a major player in the computer market was Commodore, well a lot has certainly changed. Not the bird walk though; it continues its march through the years.

Refuge involvement in this event has been long-standing as well, though the exact number of years is unknown. In its present format it includes two pre-walk classroom sessions, presented by Refuge staff, followed by the walk itself. Pre-walk classroom sessions introduce students to birding, birding tools and observation techniques. Students learned how to identify bird species and groups using field guides and use binoculars. These classroom visits help students to take maximum advantage of time during the actual walk.

The 2013 walk brought with it an atmosphere of apprehension because spring has been delayed in fully reaching the Dillingham area. More than normal snow and ice still covered much of the walk area and it was uncertain how that would affect the birds. In the end, all worry was for not, as hundreds of birds representing 35 different species were documented, including a wider array of shorebirds than is normally seen, including several plovers and bar-tailed godwits.

So just how long will this popular spring school event continue? Judging from the enthusiasm of both students and adults, the Bird Walk is almost as ironclad as the migrations of the birds them-selves. This event continues to be a great, no-cost-way for students to learn about local bird species as well as to just get outdoors and connect with nature in a positive way.

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