UW’s Burke Museum moves to a new space less than 500 feet away

The 113,000-square-foot building is the 21st-century version of the 57-year-old cramped museum.

If you think that packing for a two-week family vacation has its challenges, consider packing, and unpacking, 16 million artifacts from the old Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus to the New Burke (newburke.org) museum, less than 500 feet away.

Packing, in this case, meant everything from bird eggs and spiders to dinosaur fossils, including the first dinosaur fossil found in the state, and the last object to leave its old home.

The 113,000-square-foot building is the 21st-century version of the cramped museum that opened in 1962. The new version has better climate control, visitors can look through a window at researchers doing their work, and explore the much larger space for exhibits.

You’ll have to settle for anticipation because the New Burke won’t open until fall.

Bird talk. Two festivals celebrating birds are coming up. The Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival (www.shorebirdfestival.com) is May 3-5 in Hoquiam and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Hundreds of thousands of Artic-bound shorebirds rest and eat in the Grays Harbor estuary, including some from Argentina.

Expect field trips, lectures and keynote speaker Noah Strycker, bird nerd of Oregon, who in 2015 became the first human to see more than 6,000 of Earth’s bird species in a single, year-long, round-the-world birding trip.

An earlier option is the Olympic Peninsula Birdfest (olympicbirdfest.org) April 12-14, based in Sequim. Expect boat tours, field trips and featured speaker John Marzluff, wildlife science professor, author and crow expert.

Whale watch. April is prime time for watching for the annual cast of gray whales as they move from the coast of Mexico to Arctic waters, some of them detouring in the waters around Whidbey and Camano islands. They spend about three months foraging on ghost shrimp before moving on. They’ve also been spotted along Everett and Tulalip shorelines. Check out the Whale Center at 115 Anthes in Langley.

Anniversary. The upper 24 miles of Mount Baker Highway from Glacier to Artist Point (elevation 5,140 feet) was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1989.

Just don’t touch. This is the time of year that bats start coming out of hibernation. If you see a bat flying erratically or find a sick or dead bat, it may have died from a bat disease called white-nose syndrome. State Fish and Wildlife biologists are tracking and monitoring the spread of the disease, so if you see a strangely flying bat or a dead or sick one, call 360-902-2515.

First time. Campers who want to stay overnight at Camano Island State Park will now need to make reservations using the new state parks reservation system at washington.goingtocamp.com/home. Or take your chances with a first-come, first-served sign-up.

Staircase Road closed. A rehabilitation project will take about eight weeks, and the plan is to re-open May 24 in time for the Memorial Day weekend. The road is closed to vehicles and pedestrians at the Olympic National Park boundary.

Billions of birds. A study combining thousands of eBird (online database) contributors and 11 weather radar stations from 1995-2015 have yielded insights into spring bird migration along the Gulf of Mexico, and how migration may be affected by climate change.

Researchers estimated that an average of 2.1 billion birds cross the Gulf Coast each spring as they head north to their breeding grounds. The radar data reveal when birds migrate and what routes they take. The highest activity was found along the west Texas coast.

Surprise! In most of its range, the drab-looking cream-venter bulbul has white eyes. But on Borneo, most have red eyes. For a century or so, naturalists thought that the difference was individual variation. But through genetic sequencing, Luisiana State University Museum of Natural Science researchers have discovered that the white-eyed birds represent a completely new species.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or at songandword@rockisland.com.

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