Last year in this column, I wrote about the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Kitsap Audubon Society partnering on a count of bird species around Port Gamble Bay.
For a year beginning October 2011, Tribal members and staff and Audubon came together 23 times to count birds in three key locations around Port Gamble Bay, including Point Julia. This area on the shores of Port Gamble Bay has special significance: it has been home to my Tribe since our ancestors were located from their village at Port Gamble in 1853.
Destiny Wellman, a Tribal member who works for our Natural Resources Department, participated in the bird count and was responsible for tabulating the collected data. Destiny was never a part of a bird count before. Destiny worked with Audubon experts, including Fay Linger, Judy Willott and Randena Walsh, to learn how to identify different species with little more than a pair of binoculars, a field book, and her own desire to re-discover nature. “The thing I appreciated most about the bird survey was how connected I felt to nature in a way that I haven’t in a very long time,” Destiny said. “I feel like that’s the missing link for a lot of people in environmental stewardship.
“If we could find a way to help everybody feel that sort of connection to nature and the environment, they might feel more obligated to do their part in helping restore the balance necessary to allow our resources to flourish.”
This sentiment is particularly important as finding a way to secure that connection to the natural world is all the more essential now with our Tribe’s ongoing emphasis on the protection and restoration of Port Gamble Bay.
The information generated by the Port Gamble Bay bird count will also serve as an invaluable tool for the Tribe’s efforts to protect natural resources within the bay. Birds identified around the bay, such as Marbled Murrelet, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Kingfishers and many others, feed on forage fish within the bay and those fish depend on eelgrass and other aquatic vegetation. The data from the bird count is a good indicator of the health and strength of this connected ecosystem.
During the course of the bird survey, there were many wet and windy days. There were days when the counters’ hands felt cold as ice. Others when the sun beamed down hot and bright. They braved it all. For their tenacity and dedication, I am grateful.
On behalf of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Port Gamble Bay bird count. A special thank you to our Natural Resources staff and Fay, Judy and Randena from the Kitsap Audubon Society. We appreciate all of your hard work!
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.