A small group of young adults enjoying a day of birding at Volunteer Park. Photo by Clayton Dahm

Article by Hannah Bleecker and Brett Eaton

To cap off a successful Bird-Safe Seattle week, a small group of intrepid young adults set out on an Oct. 8 birding adventure at Volunteer Park in the heart of Seattle. Hannah Bleecker and Brett Eaton, representatives from the NextGen Advisory Council, led the way through trees, playgrounds, and even a pet costume parade.

NextGen Advisory Council

The NextGen Advisory Council is a group of young Seattle-area nature and bird enthusiasts, working to foster an environment where younger and more diverse audiences are engaged with the organization through events like this young adult bird outing. We are also committed to providing input to the organization that will allow it to continue to grow and change into the future, serving more diverse audiences than in the past.

A small yellow bird with a black cap of feathers is perched on a branch

A pair of walk attendees looks through binoculars at Volunteer Park. Photo by Clayton Dahm

On this particular morning, the motley crew of inquisitive explorers set off at 10:00 a.m., early enough to “get the worm” but late enough to get some sleep. We met at the Black Sun statue overlooking the reservoir, near a rather raucous murder of crows drinking, bathing, and generally making noise. From there the party headed North and East through the trees. On the way to the trees, we happened upon a pair of Bewick’s Wrens in a holly tree that was joined by an Anna’s Hummingbird. As we traveled under the trees we could hear Black-Capped and Chestnut-Backed Chickadees calling, and occasionally poking their heads out to welcome us to their leafy homes.

While we walked we exchanged fun bird facts. Speaking of which, NextGen recently hosted a Beers for Birds trivia event at Great Notion Georgetown on Thursday, October 20. Stay tuned for next time if you love trivia! It is “bird-themed,” so extensive knowledge of bird species is not required by any means. Instead, bring your sense of fun and a willingness to get a little silly.

A small yellow bird with a black cap of feathers is perched on a branch

A backlit Bewick’s Wren sits on a branch at Volunteer Park. Photo by Clayton Dahm

Eventually we came upon the playground and followed the fence that divides the park from the Lake View Cemetery. While we were not able to see Bruce Lee’s final resting place, we were able to spot a Pacific Wren that hopped out from hiding in a fern long enough for everyone to get a good look, and a whole family of Steller’s Jays flew overhead across the grass lawn making their raspy calls. It was a fun experience for everyone.

Varied Thrush

A pair of walk attendees looks through their binoculars at Volunteer Park. Photo by Clayton Dahm

As we continued through the pet parade grounds, the birds became slightly less obvious, but we were lucky enough to catch a low flyover from a Red-Tailed Hawk that offered good, but quick, looks at its tell-tale black belly band. We emerged from the joy of the parade at the southeast side of the park on the opposite side of the reservoir from where we started. Knowing that our adventure would soon come to a close, we pricked up our ears and dialed in our binoculars. Then, just as we were rounding the corner of the final stretch we heard Red-Breasted Nuthatches chattering in a small copse of trees. As we strained our eyes, desperate for just a glimpse of these little tree-clinging birds, we found, much to our amazement, not only a large group of Nuthatches, but also a male and female pair of Downy Woodpeckers. As we watched this small group bounce from tree to tree they were joined by Dark-Eyed Juncos and Anna’s Hummingbirds. With our hearts filled with joy we spent the last short leg of the walk chatting about what we saw and sharing facts about the different birds we had seen that day.

A Downy Woodpecker rests on the trunk of a bare tree in Volunteer Park. Photo by Clayton Dahm

Join the NextGen Advisory Council

If these sorts of events sound like fun to you, keep an eye on the NextGen page for updates on more events and information about the council itself. We are currently recruiting new members to join the council.

The application period is open through November 20, 2022; click here to apply. We will also host an optional information session on Thursday, November 17  from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Click here to register. We hope to see you around soon, whether at a future event or even a council meeting.

Hannah Bleecker

Hannah Bleecker

NextGen Advisory Council Member

Hannah is originally from Indiana, where she learned to love birds by identifying the species that came to the bird feeder using the guide her parents kept on the counter next to the window. Since then, she studied biology at the University of Chicago and worked with birds as a zookeeper all around the United States. (Her favorites were hornbills!) After receiving her Master’s degree at the Royal Veterinary College in London, she moved to Seattle with her partner and loves to watch crows, ravens, and jays bounce around outside her window. She believes strongly in making sure that the wonders of animals and nature are accessible to all.

Brett Eaton

Brett Eaton

NextGen Advisory Council Member

Brett has been a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest and has been in Ballard for the last nine years. After a brief, yet life altering, experience with a Rufous Hummingbird on a spring day about six years ago he quickly became more interested in the comings and goings of our feathered friends. He has found joy in showing people the special aspects of birds that are right under their noses. Through these experiences he has seen firsthand the importance of conservation. Professionally, he has managed teams in a variety of different industries but hasn’t had the joy of working in the conservation space quite yet. He hopes to one day be able to provide 100% of his time in helping out conservation efforts… and finding new and unique species of birds.