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Land purchased earlier this year by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from the Van Wyck family is pictured on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 near Cowiche, Wash. (Evan Abell, Yakima Herald-Republic file)

Van Wyk property purchase completed

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the final phase of the wildlife department's purchase of nearly 4,500 acres west of Snow Mountain Ranch and Cowiche.

Last week's unanimous vote allowed the purchase of the last 900 acres from Seattle-based Forterra, a nonprofit land conservancy, which bought the property from the Van Wyk family to hold it until the state received the grant money needed to pay the additional $954,810. The transaction connects the two parcels approved in June that will become part of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

For more information on the recreational and hunting opportunities available on the new public land, go to wfdw.wa.gov.

Knoke to speak at garden workshop

Plant enthusiast Terri Knoke will speak about wildflowers of the shrub-steppe at the free Heritage Garden Workshop held at the Yakima Area Arboretum this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Heritage Garden Program Assistant Ann Autrey will also present "Creating Native Plant Gardens that Inspire", offering step-by-step instructions on how you can create your own unique garden. For more information and to register online, go to hgcd.info or call Autrey at 509-528-2683.

BIRD ALERT

A couple of Yakima birders were out for a walk in their neighborhood when a large flock of birds erupted from a pair of spruce trees at the corner of 66th and Chestnut. The circling birds turned out to be a flock of pine siskin estimated to be around 150 birds. Every few years there are reports of large movements of pine siskin into the lower 48 states and this may be one of those years. Like our state bird, the American goldfinch, pine siskin are seed specialists with short, conical beaks that are perfect for chowing down at your thistle feeder, so keep plenty of seed stock on hand.

One of the most beautiful and most recognizable of American waterfowl is the wood duck, which was hunted nearly to extinction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1918 the hunting season was closed, and for the next two decades numbers rose steadily. There are now well over a million wood ducks in North America. If you want to see these stunning ducks try visiting Yakima’s Sportsman Park, where this week a local birder tallied 150 of these ornately colored birds.

One birder had a pretty good hawk day in the Wenas area where he spotted northern goshawk, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk and American kestrel.

Please email your bird sightings to kdturley@embarqmail.com and be sure to like us on our Facebook page at or visit our website, yakimaaudobon.org.

ON THE CALENDAR

THURSDAY: The Yakima Harman Center will host a birdwatching event from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to give visitors a chance to learn about the birds that live or migrate through the center.

ALSO THURSDAY: Yakima Audubon will sponsor a free program offered by Thomas McIntyre titled "Are Pikas stressed by highways?" The wildlife biologist who worked on the I-90 wildlife connectivity project will explain what he saw when the small furry mammals live along the interstate rather than more natural habitats.

FRIDAY: Kids ages 5 through 12 are invited to the Yakima Area Arboretum for a “Spooky Sights and Sounds” themed Kids Nature Night, where participants will explore the eye shine of animals and some of the spooky sounds heard at night with fun games, arts and crafts, and learning. The event goes from 5-9 p.m. at a cost of $33 per child and $18 for each additional child. Pizza, snacks and lemonade will be provided. For more information and to register, go to the arboretum’s Facebook page.

SUNDAY: Join the Single Track Alliance of Yakima for a volunteer day at Rocky Top to improve and repair trails. Meet in the parking lot at 10 a.m. and prepare to work for several hours, so bring food, water and appropriate clothing.

WEDNESDAY: Washington Trails Association field program manager Alan Carter Mortimer will be the featured speaker at this month's Cascadian General meeting, where he'll share his experiences on trails across the state. Prior to the 7 p.m. meeting in the Meyer Auditorium at the Living Care Retirement Center, new members or those curious about the group can go to an orientation at Englewood Garden Villa Clubhouse. Participants will receive details about group activities and a list of committee leaders with contact info. RSVP is required: email Darrell Patterson at Darrell.Darlito@gmail.com or call him at 503-984-1729.

GETTING OUTDOORS

THURSDAY: The Cascadian Pathfinders will hike three miles with 500 feet of elevation gain to the lower and upper views of Twin Falls near North Bend. They’ll follow the South Fork Snoqualmie River upstream through a lush rainforest of club moss and sword fern with a stop for coffee at Snoqualmie Summit on the way home. Call Carol at 509-833-7989 for meeting time and place.

SATURDAY: Join Cowiche Canyon Conservancy for its annual guided Fall Colors Walks starting from the Cowiche Canyon west entrance at 10 a.m. Options include an easy 2-3 mile leaf photography and identification tips walk, an easy 2-3 mile family friendly walk with Sagebrush Kids, and easy to medium 2-4 mile Paseo walk in Spanish, and a difficult 4-6 mile canyon to cliffs walk. Bring sturdy shoes, clothing for variable weather, water, and snacks. For more information, go to the Conservancy's Facebook page.

TUESDAY: The Cascadian Free Spirits will hike 6.5 miles with 2,400 feet of elevation gain and the option for a longer hike to the Umtanum Ridge Crest, Washington DNR Wenas map, and the Trekkers will hike at a location to be determined based on weather and group consensus. Departure will be from the Chesterley Park parking lot at 7:30 a.m. for the Trekkers and 8 a.m. for the Free Spirits. Drivers with the Free Spirits need a Discover Pass and should contact Jacqui at 509-834-9863 or jacquib781@msn.com with any questions. For the Trekkers' outing, call Brittany Coonrod at 724-316-2610 with any questions and be sure to bring traction for your boots in case they end up in snowy terrain.

WEDNESDAY: Join the Cascadians for the final fall conditioning hike in the Yakima River Canyon along Westburg Trail up Manastash Ridge, with 1,400 feet of elevation gain over the four-mile round trip. These six steep, strenuous hikes will help prepare your legs for the coming ski season, and participants should plan to move at their own pace. Fall weather can be cold in the mornings, so bring layers, gloves, a rain jacket and water. Check the calendar in case of inclement weather and plan to depart from the Chesterley Park parking lot at 8:30 a.m.

THURSDAY, OCT. 31: The Pathfinders will hike three to four miles with little elevation gain in Umtanum Canyon in the Yakima River Canyon. Come dressed for Halloween and call Carol at 509-833-7989 for meeting time and place.