A ‘bird nerd’s’ delight in La Conner

January 28, 2019
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Misha Carter of Edmonds pets Maverick, a juvenile red-tailed hawk held by owner Shaylene Davis, on Saturday during the La Conner Birding Showcase.

LA CONNER — The steely gaze of a peregrine falcon looked out on Maple Hall as birders from Olympia to Bellingham made their way around the second annual La Conner Birding Showcase.

Skagit Audubon Society volunteer Jackie Boss stood behind the falcon Saturday as she spoke about the array of preserved birds before her.

“(Peregrine falcons) can reach speeds of 220 mph when diving,” she said.

Nearby listeners raised their eyebrows in surprise.

Now pushing her 80th birthday, Boss has spent decades identifying and appreciating the birds around her, and it all started when she won a bird naming contest in the third grade.

“They gave me a bird guide and I’ve poured over that all my life,” she said, even when it meant using a flashlight under the covers as a little girl.

Fellow Society volunteer and self-proclaimed “bird nerd” Kim Nelson shares Boss’ passion.

“Birds are endlessly fascinating,” she said. “I learn something new every day.”

Nelson joined the Skagit Audubon Society a month ago after dabbling in various facets of the birding world, including zoo-keeping, rehabilitation and field research. She said the allure of all things bird have kept her from pursuing a single focus, though right now, part of her drive is geared toward educating kids.

A table away, researcher and keynote speaker Kaeli Swift spoke of her own love of birds. But unlike Nelson, Swift has dedicated her research to a more narrow interest: crows, and more recently, Canada jays. Both birds are members of the bird family called corvids, which also include ravens and magpies.

One of the most common questions Swift fields is what the difference is between crows and ravens. On Saturday, that question was asked by Alaska-born Misha Carter, who was visiting the festival with her Lynnwood friends, Susan Lentz and Cassandra Soriano.

Other featured vendors were WSU Skagit County Extension Master Gardeners, Airstrike Bird Control, Inc., Skagit Land Trust and Fine Feathered Friends.

La Conner Chamber of Commerce Director Heather Carter said she hopes the showcase continues to grow, and with the repairing of the Maple Hall elevator, the festival is likely to expand to the hall’s upper floor with more speakers and interactive activities.

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