Eco-tourism is at your backdoor

birding field trip at Horse Lake Reserve.

Susan Ballinger photo Chelan-Douglas Land Trust Stewardship Director Neal Hedges leads a group of Wenatchee locals on a birding field trip at Horse Lake Reserve.

For me, the change of season to spring makes me want get to outside to explore new places and see wildlife, wildflowers, and expansive views.  Similar to being a tourist in a foreign county, it makes sense to engage a local guide who knows exactly where to go, and what to be looking for.  This spring, I’d like to invite you to take part on guided outing or even attend a regional wildflower or wildlife festival!

Many local conservation organizations offer volunteer-led natural history outings that are often free with sign-up open to all.  Volunteer guides have a sincere desire to introduce our region’s special plants, animals, and landscape to new people.  The dates and locations for guided walks are typically selected to best showcase the land and there is a high likelihood of seeing target species.  Participants are asked to sign up ahead of time and communicate with the hike leader if they have to cancel.  Trips size for a guided walk is often limited to 12 people so that the group can stay together, hear-one another, and often car-pool in order to limit the number of cars at a trailhead. Guides ask participants to enjoy the lands responsibly and to minimize human impact.  Check out these organizations’ spring field trip offerings:

  • great blue heron

    Susan Ballinger photo The great blue heron is one of many water birds you will see during a guided walk at a Washington bird festival, or on a local Audubon Birding-Buddies outing.

    Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (CDLT) field trips

This month, plan a short trip south along the Columbia River to Vantage to attend one of Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse Windfarm weekend wildflower programs..  A spectacular shrub-steppe landscape surrounds the visitor’s center at 3500 feet on Whiskey Dick Mountain, with a sweeping view of the Cascade Mountains. An opening day festival with speakers, nature walks, kid activities, and food is set for April 4 (10-4).  A full day of wildflower walks, talks, and wind turbine tours are offered on April 25, 26, and May 9, 2015. Learn more at call 509-964-7815.

Springtime in Washington is an especially good time to find ways to learn more about resident wildlife, especially birds.  Five local bird festivals are designed to introduce newcomers to great places to go to see a wide variety of birds unique to a local area.  Trip leaders are typically local expert volunteers who have reconnoitered their routes and know exactly what to look for. Pre-registration is expected, to keep trip size low.   Festival fees help to cover costs and evening guest speakers.  Festival organizers welcome both locals and travelers and try to keep participants costs low and to include several free event options.    Plan now to attend a regional bird festival:

blooming bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva)

Susan Ballinger photo You are likely to see blooming bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) if you attend one of the Wild Horse Wind Farm April weekend wildflower walks.


Susan Ballinger photo This Western Trillium was in full bloom at Lake Wenatchee State Park during a Leavenworth Bird Fest field trip. The group had just watched a large Pileated Woodpecker fly by and then looked down to see the trillium.

 Leave No Trace Principles for Kids

(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

  • Know Before You Go
  • Choose The Right Path
  • Trash Your Trash
  • Leave What You Find
  • Be Careful With Fire
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Kind To Other Visitors


Visit the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center’s new exhibit about the Wenatchee Naturalist program and try out binoculars to look at true-to-life models of 15 common native birds. Susan is offering a 3-day, back-to-back field trip mini-Wenatchee Naturalist course Jun. 23-25, through Wenatchee Valley College Continuing Education.  Register at



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