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Andy Dappen | Springtime naturalist courses bloom in NCW

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20140327-065337-pic-639402407 You can learn about species of flowering plants in the Know Your Native Plants presentation.

Finally we’ve passed the gray months of winter and are headed into the season of color. Consider amping up your outdoor experience this year by taking a local naturalist course. Whether you’re interested in wildlife, native plants or local birds, there are springtime courses for telling the difference between mule’s ear (wyethia amplexicaulis) and the ears mules.

1. Wenatchee Naturalist

Wednesdays starting April 9, ending June 11, 6-8:30 p.m.; Wenatchee Valley College; tuition is $350, persons over 60 receive a discounted price of $315.

Wenatchee River Institute has announced the next Wenatchee Naturalist 10-week course will be offered from April 9 to June 11. This will be the fifth course offering with Susan Ballinger as lead instructor. Four all-day Saturday field trips are co-led by expert scientists on April 26 (White River), May 10 (Stormy Preserve, Entiat), May 24 (Wenatchee area birding hotspots), and June 7 (Leavenworth-Wenatchee geology tour). Free 50 clock hours are available to teachers through the college.

If you have questions or concerns, contact Ballinger at or 509-669-7820). To date, students of all ages (12-80) and all fitness levels have been accommodated by prior arrangement.

Register at

2. Know Your Native Plants

Tuesdays starting April 15, ending May 13, 6-8:30 p.m.; Wenatchee Valley College; $89.

Learn about plant life in our back yard. Continuing Education and the Wenatchee Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society have teamed up to offer this introductory class on local native plants. Learn to identify local wildflowers in the shrub steppe and eastside mountain forests. Students will learn about the structure of flowers and the use of flower characteristics to recognize common flowering plant families. During the final class, participants will venture into the field to identify and observe plants in their native environment.

Class teacher and botanist Julie Sanderson works for Chelan County Weed Board. More than 20 years ago, she founded the Wenatchee Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society and has been an active board member since its founding.

Register through WVC Contuing Education.

3. Rare Bird: The Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet

May 2, 7 p.m.; The Barn at Wenatchee River Institute; $10 for non-members, $5 for current WRI members.

Kick off Bird Fest month with author and “accidental naturalist” Maria Mudd Ruth as she illuminates the secret life of the Marbled Murrelet, an endangered seabird that depends on the contested old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest for its survival.

Ruth traces reports of the bird back to Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery on the Pacific Ocean in 1778, and explores the mindset of 19th- and 20th-century naturalists who, despite their best efforts, failed to piece

together clues about the whereabouts of the bird’s nest for 185 years. Part naturalist detective story, part environmental inquiry, this narrative follows the improbable trail from the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian Institute to the foggy coastal environs of Redwood National Park. This event is part of Wenatchee River Institute’s Red Barn Friday program, and is a partnership with A Book For All Seasons. It is a great introductory lecture for the upcoming Leavenworth Bird Fest, May 15-18.

4. Fish-Eating Birds and Salmon: Resources in Conflict?

May 16, 7 p.m.; Red Tail Canyon Farm; $10 for non-members, $5 for current WRI members.

This presentation describes the natural history and ecology of piscivorous (fish-eating) water birds from inland waterways and their interactions with salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Dauble will discuss conflict among resource management agencies that oversee regulatory protection of colonial water birds and action agencies responsible for recovery of salmon populations. This lecture is preceeded by the Birder’s Barbecue at Red-Tail Canyon Farm, located about two miles from downtown Leavenworth. The barbecue will cost $15 for adults and $7.50 for kids, with children younger than 2 free. Reservations are a must for the pre-lecture barbecue and recommended for the lecture as well.

This lecture will be a feature at the Leavenworth Bird Fest, happening May 15-18.

5. Wildlife Track and Sign Certification Course

June 28-29; 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Winthrop and Mazama;; $185 for both days.

Spend two days in the field with professional wildlife tracker, naturalist and educator, David Moskowitz. David’s approach is highly interactive, with “test” questions starting the moment the course meets. This style is an excellent way to learn and investigate, with the goal being to attain a professional certificate in wildlife tracking through Cybertracker Conservation.

David and a co-instructor will actively engage participants in the process of identification and interpretation of tracks and signs encountered in the field. An interactive approach with time for questions and discussion will provide opportunities for participants to share their thoughts openly and ask detailed questions of the evaluators. Participants will be exposed to the widest possible diversity of tracks and animal signs in the Methow. The two-day class is fun and entirely field based.

Cybertracker’s Wildlife Tracking Certification has become the international standard for professional and amateur certification in the field of wildlife tracking. Certificates are awarded on three levels.

The class is limited to 11 people. Participants may want to study lightly and/or read a tracking guidebook, such as Dave’s “Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.” Lodging and food are on you own. To register or for more information, contact Mary at 509-996-2870 or mary@methowconservancy.