Whidbey bird watchers hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the island’s largest avian visitors this winter can learn tricks of the trade in an online class series hosted by Whidbey Audubon Society.
The classes will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday from Sept. 7 to Oct. 5. The presenter will be Thomas Bancroft, a long-time bird lover from Seattle with a doctorate in ornithology.
The series focuses on raptors such as eagles, hawks and kites. There are 19 species of raptors that occur regularly in Washington state. Of those, 15 have been found on Whidbey Island, with around 12 appearing regularly, according to Bancroft.
Susan Prescott, publicity chairperson of the Whidbey Audubon, said many raptors tend to be active in the winter, so now is the perfect time to prepare for sightings. Bancroft’s classes will go over nesting, mating and feeding behaviors along with calls and markings to give birders the best chance of spotting a raptor.
Bancroft said he hopes to teach Whidbey birders how to recognize the different species of raptors as easily as they would recognize a friend walking down the street.
The series is “really geared for trying to help people get as much fun as they can out of just being out in the wild and seeing things,” he said.
Some Whidbey Island regulars include bald eagles, which Bancroft said can be commonly sighted at Deception Pass and other coastal areas; northern harriers, which hunt for mice and other prey by flying low over grassland areas such as Ebey’s Landing; and merlins and Cooper’s hawks, which have adapted well to development and become common suburban birds.
The cost for the whole series is $100. Interested birders should register before noon on Sept. 7, and Zoom link for the class will be sent out that afternoon. Sessions will be recorded and available to registered students for approximately six months.