By Sarah Schrock
It’s a funny paradox of migrations at spring break. As the birds make their way back up north, people fly south. Families from Mazama to Carlton have taken flight to Hawaii, Baja, Texas, Florida and southern California while those of us who are sticking around are welcoming flocks of feathered friends to our feeders, boxes, brush and fields.
Tree swallows arrived back home on March 4, which marks the exact same day as last year. According to Ken Bevis, an avid birder and wildlife biologist, the swallows have arrived within the same three days over the past eight years of recording at this home along Rising Eagle Road.
Ken spent a day last week cleaning out some 31 nest boxes erected on Earth Day a few years back at Pearrygin Lake State Park and the Methow Valley Area Wildlife Area. The boxes are home to migratory violet green and tree swallows, western bluebirds and wrens. Wrens tend to shove sticks into the cavity boxes while bluebirds and swallow make a softer, more welcoming nest out of grasses. Annual clean-out of the boxes is important to allow new migrants the opportunity to build a pest free nest.
Along with the swallows, back in the valley from their journey south are the turkey vultures, spotted by many birders this week including Teri Pieper and Kent Woodruff. Kent also noted a fox sparrow at his feeder this week, which is unique as it is not a resident here, but a passerby on their way farther north for breeding. Kent, like many bird lovers, is anticipating the arrival of the hummingbirds, which have already been spotted in Bridgeport, so get your nectar ready as they are nearby.
In addition to anticipating the arrival of hummingbirds, Kent is on the cusp of a major rebirth of his own: retirement. Known locally as the bat man and beaver guy, after a long career as a wildlife biologist, Kent is embracing the opportunity to redefine himself and shed the animalistic identity he’s been carrying with him through his adult life. Though he’s happy to have carried the animal torch for so long, he’s excited to have time to take on the role of auto mechanic, ukulele player, and maybe even social networker!
This spring, the stories of migrations and rebirth can’t be understated as the valley continues to grieve and honor the passing of the many beloved who have migrated from this living world to the next. Most notably, the recent passing of James Donaldson, a devoted counselor, activist and friend, and the loss of Rayma Hayes, founder of Little Star Montessori School in Winthrop. Both James and Rayma are regarded as true humanitarians, who dedicated their lives to the betterment of all humanity, through actions of love large and small.
A celebration life to commemorate James Donaldson will converge on Earth Day, April 22, in recognition of his life’s dedication to environmental causes. We await news of Rayma’s day of honor but in the meantime, I relish the insights of life after death of my own children, whom Rayma taught. My eldest son sees her spirit in her favorite bird, the red-winged black bird, and my 4-year-old said last week, “Look mom, I just saw a butterfly — there goes Rayma, she just flew by.”