Hansville Greenway and the Secret Lives of Birds

GPC’s second Walk & Talk of the year was a birding expedition out at Hansville Greenway with field ornithologist Dan Froehlich. Dan is an expert bird handler and tour guide with a passion for educating people about the magnificence of birds.

Before the ten excited birders got started on an early morning hike, ornithologist Dan Froehlich went over how to use a field guide which included 700 birds found in North America! Humans love to categorize things which is exactly what ornithologists attempt to do by listing out bird species and their evolutionary lineages. People who enjoy bird watching do this as well by making observations and attempting to identify the birds they see.

After the introduction, a bird swooped over the group’s heads and Dan pointed out that the flight pattern of swooping and making quick turns was the flight style of a swallow. Swallows are aerial insect feeders and catch insects while flying on the wing!

Walking across the lawn to the trailhead, the group listened to background information on robin usage of greenspaces. Robins are favored by humanity’s love of lawns as they provide lots of earthworms for these birds to consume. Different robin populations also have different migratory patterns as well. Some robins stay here year round in Washington while others are migratory and only stop in Washington to feed before continuing on to their summer habitat.

On the edge of a meadow, Dan stops the group to talk about living life as a bird. When birds first wake up in the morning, they are hungry and need to replenish all the energy they lost overnight. This is why birds are known for being very active in the early part of the morning. Many bird species feed in open spaces where there can be grass seeds, insects, and other food sources for birds. But, after they eat all that food, they have to sit somewhere to digest it. For safety, many birds perch in trees or bushes while they work on their meal. Around 11:30 though, for many birds this is now the lunch rush as they become hungry once again. The cycle repeats itself with the birds being very active then finding resting places until right before dark. They feed once again before finding a safe place to wait the night out and repeat the cycle of feeding and resting once more the next day. This pattern of feeding in open spaces and resting in forested areas means that having open grasslands and closed canopy forests near each other is vital for many bird species as habitat.

As the birders enter the closed canopy trails, they listen for how the bird songs they are able to hear change as the species of birds change in comparison to the lawns and meadow. The group is even able to hear a Pacific Wren which lives only in forested areas!

The group was able to spot in their binoculars or listen to the birdsong of many different species and learn to recognize species thanks to Dan Froehlich’s expertise in bird identification via visual and auditory clues.

The following is a species list of the birds seen or heard during the Walk & Talk in order of appearance:

Mallard duck
Canada Goose
Hummingbird (either Anna’s or Rufus)
Band Tailed Pigeon
Pine Siskin
Audubon’s Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Turkey Vulture
Purple Finch
Varied Thrush
Huton’s Vireo
Preoccupied Pacific Wren
Downy or Hairy Woodpecker
Wood Duck