UW Bothell studying how crows communicate with each other

About 16,000 of the birds roost each night on the North Creek Wetland Restoration near the campus.

Crows are smart. Very smart. So smart that college professors and students spend a lot of time studying them.

Douglas Wacker, professor of animal behavior at the University of Washington Bothell, and his students have been watching and gathering data on crows. They don’t have to travel far on their field trips. About 16,000 crows roost each night on the North Creek Wetland Restoration near the campus.

Large groups of crows fly west every morning, and head east every afternoon to their easily observable roosting site. There Wacker and his students study how crows combine vocal and non-vocal behaviors to communicate in social groups.

Wacker will discuss the findings at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the monthly Pilchuck Audubon Society meeting at Everett Firefighters Hall, 2411 Hewitt Ave., Everett. The program is free to everyone.

Freebie. It’s free admission to state parks on Jan. 21, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Visitors do not need a Discover Pass ($30 annual, $10 one-day permit) for day-use visits. Caution: Free days do not apply to Sno-Parks through March.

All about eagles. Guided nature walks to eagle-watching sites along the Skagit River is, weather willing, a must-do at some point in your life. For others, it’s an annual event.

Stop at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport. Volunteers lead groups at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in January. Guest speakers hold forth on environmental topics at 1 p.m. every Saturday.

The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends in January. It has a children’s corner, informational videos, a replica eagle’s nest, directions to Eagle Watcher sites and details on the Skagit Eagle Festival.

Go to skagiteagle.org for more information. Be sure to look at the photo contest winners. Some of the shots are terrific.

Eagle-watching stations. The Forest Service’s Eagle Watchers program has set up stations to answer questions about eagles, salmon and the Skagit River watershed. Volunteers will have bird identification books, binoculars and high-quality scopes to share from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through January.

Don’t bother. Washington State Parks’ online reservation system will be down from Jan. 8-15 as the agency puts the finishing touches on a new version. During that time, Washington state park campsites, day-use shelters and accommodations will be first-come, first-served; pay at the park by cash only.

Deep Forest Experience. This program is for all ages at Rockport State Park. Experience an ancient forest through guided walks, educational programs, and interpretive activities on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in January and February.

The walks depart from the Discovery Center at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Guides lead the half-mile, 45-minute walk through old-growth trees, some more than 400 years old and topping out at 250 feet. The 500-year-old Grandmother Cedar may be the star.

The family-friendly center offers free hot cocoa by the woodstove, interactive displays, videos and crafts. A $10 day-use or $30 annual Discover Pass is required for parking.

Snowshoe walks. Guided snowshoe hikes are on the schedule at Lake Wenatchee State Park, 25 miles east of Stevens Pass. Arrive early because the outings start promptly at 1 p.m. Jan. 12, 21 and 26; and Feb. 2, 10, 16 and 24. Meet at the north reservation booth.

The hike is easy to moderate, and is a good introduction for first-timers. Take either the guided 1.4-mile route; or a partly guided 2.4-plus-mile loop.

A limited number of snowshoes are available for rent; reserve ahead of time. Participants should wear layered clothing and boots and bring snowshoes, poles, snacks and water. Bring either a Sno-Park permit and Discover Pass or a seasonal Sno-Park permit and Groomed Trail Sticker.

For more information, call 509-763-3101. Participants should contact the park after 9 a.m. on the day of the hike for status updates.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964.