Recap of the 2019 Annual Wenas Audubon Memorial Day Campout

The Wenas campout was a terrific success. We had just over 100 people attend all or part of the weekend. While the Saturday night rain chased a few campers away, most stayed and we had dry weather the rest of the weekend. In all, 13 Washington Audubon chapters were represented along with some Portland Audubon members. There were also a few people with no affiliation with any Audubon chapter.

Seattle Audubon sent 6 Young Birders, along with their two AmeriCorps chaperones. It was good to see their enthusiasm and energy. They said they would love to return next year. One alumnus of the Young Birders from 2018 spotted the best bird of the weekend, the Black-and-white Warbler. Because of him, many people were then able to also see it. The Black Canyon field trip was short a leader and the Young Birders stepped up and took over leading the trip.

We had good representation from the Native Plant Society who were generous in sharing their knowledge. This year we were able to bring back the wild flower field trips both Saturday and Sunday along with having the wildflower board for everyone to enjoy.

The Marcha de la Muerte, also known as the Death March, was offered both Saturday and Sunday. It was a success as the leader returned with all of the participants who started each morning. The Field Sketching held Saturday and Sunday was one of the most popular events. Both newcomers and more experienced sketchers had a great time learning about field sketching and learning different techniques. This year also brought back the field trip drive to higher elevations to locate birds not found elsewhere. Those willing to get up early, had an early morning bird walk that started at 5:30. Participants could also choose field trips to Hardy Canyon, Black Canyon, Wenas Lake, Dry Creek/Yellow Jacket Canyon, Wenas Creek Ranch, and along Wenas Creek. There were also opportunities to bird on your own around camp and elsewhere. Sunday afternoon Carolyn Comeau provided an ice cream social for youth and young adults.

At the Saturday evening program, Michelle Noe with Bats Northwest started us off talking about Washington bats and then gave us an update on white nose syndrome disease in bats. Jeff Kozma then followed up as the guest speaker. Jeff is a Timber, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, who works with Yakima Nation Fisheries. He talked about the life history of the White-headed Woodpecker and then spoke about his work banding the White-headed Woodpecker. It was very interesting, especially as that is the special bird of this campout.

Sunday evening’s program featured Kaeli Swift, Corvid expert. She has received her PhD from the University of Washington. She gave a fascinating talk on crows and their intelligence. She then spoke briefly about her research of Canada Jays in Denali National Park. This was the first year that we used a projector and were able to show the pictures and videos that Kaeli brought to share.

Helen Engle passed away in March of this year and Friday evening there was a tribute to her talking about the many contributions and organizations in the environmental world in Washington she was a part of. As a quote from her daughter said, “A mighty oak has fallen. She spread her branches really far. She touched so many people.” We are very sad to have her gone. She was still interested in the Wenas campout until a couple of weeks before she passed.

In 1993, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Wenas campout, the featured speaker was Hazel Wolf. In honor of that, a portion of her speech that was recently discovered was read again. The points she made 26 years ago are still so valid today. A copy of her complete speech will be located on the Wenas website in the near future.

While we lost a portion of the area that we previously had camped in proximity to the Larrison Tree, everyone agreed that this will be a good thing. The riparian area has been damaged over the years and this will give it a chance to heal. Birding along Wenas creek will be even better than in the past. Birders are now able to walk along the creek from the meadow to the bridge, without having to walk through anyone’s camp.

We concluded our campout with a walk throughout the entire area from the bridge to the end of the campground, to pick up any litter and garbage that we could find. We always want to leave the area cleaner than it was when we arrived.

DNR worked with us and made the entry to the dispersed camp area very accessible and were working on it up to the weekend of the campout. While the changes made to the camping area, and the meeting and program area were impactful, everyone agreed that it was going to be good for the riparian area. After we left the campout, DNR came in on Wednesday and installed three concrete outhouses. One was placed near our program area, which will be a nice addition.

Everyone agreed the 2019 Audubon Wenas Campout was a success and are looking forward to coming back next year on Memorial Day weekend. We hope to see you then!

2019 Campout Update

Some road improvements by the DNR has changed the camping area in some ways. While the improvements may make travel easier, the creekside area will no longer be accessible to vehicles or to camping. This and other restrictions will help protect this important habitat we all enjoy. The meeting location for activities and other campout events will be announced and/or signed when the organizers arrive and have a chance to assess the set up.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Important Information for the 56th Annual Wenas Audubon Campout – Memorial Day weekend

This year the Audubon Wenas campout will have a new look when you arrive. The road coming into Wenas is better than it has been in many years. Last fall DNR made significant road improvements both getting to and through the campground. They are planning a timber harvest this fall on upper Hog Ranch Road. As a result, they have raised the roadbed (Hog Ranch Road) throughout the entire camping area. If you have camped anywhere on the right side of the road, you will no longer be able to access that area. There is a ditch of considerable size that prevents any driving to the right of the main road. However, there is still ample access along the left side of the road and should accommodate your vehicles getting off the road to where you want to camp. You are able to camp anywhere to the left of the main road. This is still a dispersed campground and you can camp anywhere left of the road. Remember to make sure your vehicle is parked out of the way of other campers looking to camp along the internal dirt roads. Because of the changes to the road, our evening campfire program will move to the left side of the road as will the flower board, sign-up sheets, and field trip information. Follow the campout signs and once you arrive, you can look to any of the camps sporting pink flamingos for assistance or questions.

We are excited that the campout will continue for its 56th year! While some things may have changed for our campout, we still have a great outing planned. We will still have a great range of field trips for the three days, including the Marcha de la Muerte, also known as the “Death March” and a driving trip up into the higher elevations (Manastash Ridge), both of which have not occurred for several years. We will continue to have a multitude of birding trips, plus Field Sketching, and the youth ice-cream social. We are looking forward to the Flower Board, Hardy Canyon and the flower field trips returning this year after a one-year hiatus. Look for the Wenas Little Free Library and help yourself to a variety of books and magazines about birds and nature. Feel free to bring books to donate to the library as well. We have two excellent speakers lined up for the Saturday and Sunday evenings programs. Jeff Kozma, Timber, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Yakama Nation Fisheries, will speak on Saturday evening. He’ll tell us about the life history (nesting habitat, nesting success, foraging, etc.) of the White-headed Woodpecker, Wenas’ signature species, and how to report seeing any of the more than 100 WHWOs banded in the Wenas area since 2011. On Sunday we will have, Kaeli Swift, Corvid Expert, as a speaker. Kaeli will discuss some general aspects of crows that contribute to our affinity (and sometimes hatred) of them, with an emphasis on crow habits, including play, tool use, communal roosting and funerals. Kaeli, a graduate of Willamette University, and a PhD from University of Washington, is currently studying the foraging and food storage behaviors of Canada Jays in Denali National Park.

There will be some challenges this year, but we are flexible and we will adapt. The organizing committee very excited for the exciting, full schedule we have planned for this year. We hope to see you there on Memorial Day weekend.

Your Wenas Audubon Campout Committee