On a recent Sunday a blue jay visited the yard of Mark and Susi Etchell, off Mojonnier Road. The pastor of City Church said Susi got the shot. “It’s a rather rare sighting in this area,” Mark added.
A birder for more than 45 years, since he was 10, Mark grew up in Sonoma County, Northern California, an area populated by scrub jays and Steller’s jays. “When I went to graduate school in Michigan, I knew I’d see actual blue jays — and I did,” he said.
Mark opens the window in the morning to listen for bird sounds. “I was reading in our family room at about 8 a.m. when I heard a bird call that wasn’t usual. I looked out and the blue jay was in our backyard feeder.
The commotion Mark caused while heading for the camera and calling to Susi scared it away.
Hoping to entice its return, “I went to a website with my smartphone and found a bird call for blue jays and played it occasionally for a few minutes, waited a bit and played it again while Susi got her Nikon and telephoto ready. It flew out of the trees to within about 8 feet of my phone and looked around to see where the other ‘bird’ was. Susi took about a dozen pictures, it flew off, and hasn’t come back, even when I play the bird call.”
Mark has heard of other sightings in the Walla Walla Valley but hasn’t had time to call anyone with the Audubon Society to see how rare a sighting it might be.
The key in “The Sibley Guide to Birds” estimates there are 1-2 sightings reported per year, Mark said. “There were no other blue jays — although last week a great blue heron landed on top of a patio umbrella in our back yard!”
"It looks like spring has arrived in our valley and the birds definitely think so,” emailed Joanna Lanning, primary Pioneer Park Aviary caretaker.
The two peacocks, white and blue, are busy displaying their finery for their hens, daily delighting visitors, she said.
One of the breeding pairs of nene/Hawaiian geese hatched goslings on March 12. The babies can be seen exploring in the lower pond enclosure under the watchful eye of their parents.
The aviary’s breeding program with the nene, an endangered species, has been extremely successful. Last year’s five goslings were sent to Utah in February as part of a breeding loan agreement in an effort to help distribute bloodlines to ensure a healthy breeding population, Joanna said.
Two recent hatchlings, grey peacock-pheasant chicks, came — no kidding — on April Fool’s Day. They were being kept in the nursery at the main aviary building. The grey peacock-pheasant is the national bird of Myanmar and lives in lowland and hill forests of mainland Assam and Southeastern Asia.
The aviary received a good spring cleaning from 10 AmeriCorps volunteers on April 4. During the course of the day, Joanna said the hard-working group performed 60 hours of community service.
They spread sand in the pheasant enclosures, raked, weeded, pruned and removed sticks from the lower pond net. Makenzie Frost, a member of Ranch and Home 4-H Club, also contributed to the effort.
Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary is preparing for a benefit yard sale at the aviary, May 10-12. Those who would like to donate quality items for the sale may call 527-4403, 525-3487 or 876-4299. Every dime of the proceeds will benefit the aviary.
Last spring’s sale was a huge success, Joanna said.
Pioneer Park Aviary has friends throughout the Walla Walla Valley and in the music community. Kate Hockersmith put together a “Bluegrass is for the Birds” fundraiser to benefit the popular park attraction “really quickly, in under a month, and sold 60-plus tickets.”
As the Blue Mountain Barnstormers, brother and sister Chris and Emma Philbrook and pal Sam McGowen opened the show on April 19 in the Plaza Theater at 208 Main St. in Waitsburg. This young trio has been playing together for about a year.
“I thought the crowd was a lovely size for the theater,” said Kate, who played with Glenn Morrison, Jimmye Turner, Doc Van Yserloo, Bruce DeLeonard and Bob Johnston as Kate & the Bluegrass Gentlemen.
The adult bluegrass jam group was joined by Kate’s son John Hockersmith, who drove straight down from Washington State University and got on stage cold to fiddle and pick with the rest of ‘em.
“We had a lot of fun putting the concert on. I thought the theater was charming, and the owners turned around and donated the $100 I paid them (for rent) to the aviary. That got us pretty close to my $1,000 goal,” Kate said. “I was happy with the $969 raised though. I’m sure the aviary will get a donation or two mailed in after the show, too.” Coppei Coffee in Waitsburg sold tickets for the event and hosts the bluegrass jam every month.
Morgan Bergevin of Walla Walla received a $1,500 Grange Insurance Association Top Vocational Scholarship Award.
Each year Grange Insurance Association awards scholarships to deserving applicants, according to a release. The applicant or their parents must be GIA policyholders. In all, 27 scholarships were awarded this year among the 48 applications received.
GIA noted the quality of applicants was exceptionally high and the company is extremely pleased with the caliber of students who applied for their scholarships.
Walla Walla High School Chamber Singers and Treble Ensemble did an outstanding job at the Columbia Basin College Choral Festival April 19 in Pasco, earning first place in their division, said director of choirs, Norb Rossi. Choirs from across the Northwest show up for the event.
Judges chose both groups to perform in the evening Showcase Concert, featuring a handful of outstanding groups from the day’s performances.
It is the second year in a row that both groups have received the honor, Norb said.
Competing in the Mixed Choir Division, the Chamber Singers performed a varied program: “All Ye Who Music Love,” “Two Love Songs,” “A Boy and a Girl” by Eric Whitacre and “Ain-a that Good News.”
Members are: Michael Anderson, Matt Bowler, Connor Christensen, Gabriel Cruz, John Gossett, Courtney Griggs, Olivia Hemenway, Cougar Henderson, Elena Janis, Mary Beth Jones, Nathan Loomer, Jaime Quaresma, Doug Rowley, Daisy Schoen, Hirut Senter, Isaiah Stodola, Christina Swanson, Belle Taylor, Piper Titus and Lauren Wardwell.
Winning in the Non-Mixed Division for the third year in a row, Treble Ensemble performed “How Can I Keep from Singing,” “Nigra Sum” by Pablo Casals and “All the Little Rivers of Canada” by Canadian composer Larry Nickel. Treble members are: Anna Apostolidis, Maggie Buob, Bailee Butler, Kaitlin Calhoun, Addy Clark, Alandra Dalan, Romey Drabek, Madison Garrett, Sarah Gibbs, Talia Grandstaff, Lauren Hall, Amelia Hemenway, Brelynn Hess, Sabrina Keenan, Rochelle Kralman, Cady Luxton, Hannah Mitchell, Malyn Osborn, Liya Senter, Aubrey Sinden, Kylee Wagner and Katie Wenzel.
There should be a followup in Etcetera soon with the results from the four ensembles and six soloists who competed at state in Ellensburg this past weekend. These Tuesday columns are prepared in advance on the previous Wednesday.
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at email@example.com or afternoons at 526-8313.