Elementary School Program: The Finding Urban Nature (FUN) program celebrated its 20th year this June at Seattle Audubon’s Annual Dinner. Volunteers, teachers, and students were honored and our fifth grade guest speaker for the evening, Loy Weissman, was a former FUN participant. The program served 800 students in 18 schools last year. In addition, the FUN Explorers provided programming to 100 fifth grade students in three schools. Both programs were heavily supported by volunteers who contributed more than 30,000 volunteer hours.
High School Program: BirdWatch students participated in local field trips, community service projects, trainings, and monthly meetings during 2008. Participants also honed their birding skills and knowledge when they traveled to California for their annual spring break birding trip. In addition, the teens worked with professional scientists from the Puget Sound Bird Observatory (PSBO) in a monthly program at Seward Park to capture and band birds as well as share with park visitors some of results from the data collected through the banding project. During the summer, two BirdWatch students completed our Teen Naturalist in Training program, in which they provided bird and nature programs to over 500 youth at community centers across the city.
Nature Camp: Seattle Audubon’s Nature Camp program had a great summer this year, serving more than 500 campers in grades one through eight at Magnuson Park. Campers experienced environmental education through fun, engaging, experiential learning. They got an up-close view of owls and other raptors during the special presentation by the Woodland Park Zoo’s SOAR program. They also learned more about sharks, reptiles, and insects through other guest speakers. These experiences coupled with hands-on exploration of our local parks, forests, and aquatic habitats, allowed students to become aware of and understand the connections of plants and animals in the natural world.
Adult Education: Seattle Audubon continued to offer diverse programming for adults in our community. Choices included classes, field trips to local birding hotspots, and neighborhood bird walks. Over 500 participants enjoyed a wide variety of classes this year. Field Trips and Neighborhood Bird Walks offered a wide variety of opportunities for members and non-members to get out and enjoy birds and the natural environment. These trips are lead by our expert volunteer birders who make it their mission to ensure that participants see different birds and have an enjoyable time doing it. In partnership with the Zoo, we also trained 40 local teachers and environmental educators through our Teacher Institute on Birds. In addition, Seattle Audubon trained 13 new Master Birders, who graduated from the program in April. These graduates are now giving back to the community by providing volunteer hours in service to Seattle Audubon’s numerous programs.
Regional Issues: Seattle Audubon saw major victories in our long-running efforts to protect Northern Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelets, each listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. For owls, we reached a legal settlement with the state of Washington and the timber industry that protects the remaining habitat in four owl site centers in Southwest Washington as well as establishes a collaborative process that, hopefully, can provide significant conservation benefits for the owl on private forestlands. For murrelets, we worked closely with numerous other groups to defeat a Bush Administration proposal to eliminate three million acres of critical habitat protection for these seabirds, as well as stopped a timber industry effort to “delist” the murrelet. In addition, Seattle Audubon volunteers are helping to strengthen and re-write Washington State’s wildlife guidelines for developing new wind energy sites, providing guidance to the Governor’s Oil Spill Advisory Council, and mobilizing grassroots efforts to protect migrating Vaux’s Swifts that roost at Wagner Elementary School in Monroe.
Urban Habitat: Seattle Audubon’s conservation staff and volunteers helped build public support for protecting city trees and other important habitat for birds in our urban and suburban areas. We conducted numerous workshops for local communities regarding their native birds, wildlife-friendly backyard gardening, and how to “green up” their neighborhood. We also provided support and technical advice to citizens groups trying to create new pocket parks, day-light local creeks, and other urban habitat restoration efforts. At the policy level, we were instrumental in helping pass new laws aimed at the urban environment, from a new Wildlife Sanctuaries Ordinance in the city of Seattle to enactment of the Evergreen Communities legislation to protect city trees across the state. Our conservation staff and volunteers testified in front of House and Senate subcommittees, lobbied individual representatives, and mobilized grassroots pressure on elected officials.
Consumer Choices Campaigns: Seattle Audubon continues to lead the way in our region in educating the public regarding how to harness the power of one’s purchasing decisions to protect bird habitat. Our Shade Coffee Campaign developed a new toolkit for use by other Audubon Chapters as well as launched an affiliate coffee sales program. Our Forest-Friendly Lumber Campaign helped coordinate a tour for architects and builders of sustainably-managed, FSC-certified forestry operations, as well as the expansion of FSC-certified printers and paper suppliers in the region.
Seattle Audubon launched the Puget Sound Seabird Survey in October 2007 to fill the gap in knowledge regarding marine bird populations in central and south Puget Sound. After a successful pilot year, we have refined the survey protocols and expanded this volunteer-driven monitoring project to include over 25 additional observation sites in Pierce, Thurston, and Island counties. Seattle Audubon is collaborating with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Puget Sound Partnership and the Department of Ecology to insure that our data is relevant and readily accessible. Our other citizen science projects continue to generate broad volunteer involvement and critical data for tracking trends in area bird populations. The annual Christmas Bird Count last year was an astounding success with a record 210 participants! And Seattle Audubon’s Neighborhood Bird Project continues to monitor local birds through monthly counts in eight neighborhood parks.
2008 was a year of both tradition and growth for the volunteer program. Volunteers continued to fill vital roles from leading field trips to serving customers in the Nature Shop, and everything in between. True to form, well over 700 volunteers from diverse backgrounds brought energy and enthusiasm to each program. Thank you volunteers for making Seattle Audubon a truly remarkable voice for birds and the natural environment!
The Nature Shop’s 27th year saw steady sales amid a dynamic national economy. It also surpassed a quarter million pounds of birdseed sold since first opening, and continues to grow its reputation for optics, serving customers from Canada, Eastern Washington, and Oregon. The commitment of the Shop volunteers continues to be the benchmark of Seattle Audubon’s volunteer spirit.
Our monthly membership meetings offered a range of lively programs, from authors to photographers to ornithologists. In June, Seattle Audubon’s Annual Dinner brought together members, volunteers, and supporters to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Finding Urban Nature (FUN) program.
Thank you to all of our members and donors who supported Birdathon 2008. We successfully raised over $40,000 in support of our work! Preparations have already begun for Birdathon 2009.
Volunteers with our History Committee have begun recording oral histories and chronicling our past accomplishments in preparation of Seattle Audubon’s centennial celebration in 2016.