Methow Valley Bird Language Weekend

Ages 16+

minors must be accompanied by an adult

Pearrygin Lake State Park

Camping included Friday and Saturday nights; no food provided

Sept 28th-29th, 2024
9am-4pm Saturday
7am-2pm Sunday

We’re taking bird language on the road! Join us in the ecologically rich landscape of the arid Methow Valley this autumn to explore the art and science of bird language among ponderosa pine forests, sagebrush steppe, and riparian deciduous edge habitats, all during the height of the fall migration season. 

On the outskirts of Winthrop, in a biodiverse transition zone bordering multiple habitat types,  Pearrygin Lake State Park is both a birder’s paradise –a hotspot on the Cascade Birding Loop–and a naturalist’s playground. We’ll sink in together to discover what stories the land has to share, what new mysteries we can witness, and how bird language might work the same or differently in the more open, drier landscape of eastern Washington. 

This program is for you if:

  • You have attended Bird Language Club, other bird language programs, or read Jon Young’s What the Robin Knows and are excited to take your learning to the next level, OR are a curious novice willing to go with the flow.
  • You delight in embodied experiential learning that enlivens all your senses.
  • You have some experience as a birder, tracker, outdoorsperson, or naturalist, and are looking to deepen your nature connection and/or ecological understanding.
  • You seek to immerse yourself in a welcoming and supportive human community and the more-than-human world.
  • You are an open-minded explorer up for a grand adventure in a beautiful landscape.

So much more than basic birding, the practice of bird language simultaneously engages multiple senses, taps into your intuition, and may even awaken ancestral perceptions that have long lain dormant – with the purpose of sending you on a connection journey that will last a lifetime. Our approach is both intellectual and intuitive. Our Cultural Mentoring techniques are designed to invite you into a multifaceted relationship with your calm, relaxed animal body and your inherent belonging in the interspecies dance.

Program Logistics

While this program isn’t overly strenuous, participants should be comfortable standing and walking up to several miles on uneven ground, and sitting on potentially wet, muddy, or cold surfaces. We will be outdoors throughout the weekend, regardless of the weather. While the Methow Valley is typically pleasantly warm and dry this time of year, cold rain or high heat and wildfire smoke are not unheard of.  

Tent camping is provided in the group campground at Pearrygin Lake State Park, our homebase for the weekend, and is available both Friday and Saturday nights. Formal class times will be Saturday and Sunday, with optional evening activities Saturday night. Those with RVs or wanting to extend their stay on either end can find park reservations information here. Those wanting to make other lodging arrangements in the area, such as in the nearby town of Winthrop, are welcome to do so. Transportation is not provided, though we may be able to help organize carpools.

No food is provided for this course.

Meet Your Instructors:

Heather Durham

After completing several naturalist training programs, a Master of Science in ecology, The Immersion, Tracking Intensive, and spending much of her adult life working in the fields of environmental education, wildlife conservation, and natural areas restoration, Heather Durham usually considers herself a non-specific naturalist, a generalist in her relationship with the natural world. However, when it comes to birds, she’s crossed the line to enthusiast bordering on obsessive bird-nerd. In addition to attending regular bird walks and short courses, Heather spent several years helping with breeding bird point count surveys for the Audubon Society of Portland and several parks departments, has led birdwalks for multiple organizations, and helped start the Bird Language Club at Wilderness Awareness School. 

When not out birding, Heather works behind the scenes at Wilderness Awareness School as bookkeeper and bookstore manager. She is also the author of two nature memoirs available in our bookstore : Going Feral: Field Notes on Wonder and Wanderlust, and Wolf Tree: an Ecopsychological Memoir in Essays, both of which include adventures and immersions in the wonderful world of birds.

Jesse Phillips


Jesse Phillips spent his college years studying the relationship between nature and human culture. He graduated with an honors degree in Environmental Writing and Philosophy from Whitman College, then designed  a summer camp and took over a small farm business to live his passion for connecting and playing with people, plants, food, and wildlife. Jesse is a graduate of various Wilderness Awareness School programs, including The Immersion, the Tracking Intensive, and the Nature Instructor Training, which he now instructs. He has mentored youth and adults at WAS since 2014, and his work feeds his passion for crafting healthy learning cultures that honor the rhythms of nature inside and outside our wild selves. As a mentor, Jesse has always loved learning with humans of all ages–in classrooms, tutoring centers, gyms, gardens, on farm and sports fields, and in forests. He enjoys honing his skills in firemaking, bird language, game design, nonviolent communication, riparian restoration, and the art of wandering. When he’s not work-playing in the woods, you can find Jesse going camping, practicing hip hop dance, playing spikeball, or tending the local food forest.

Wilderness Awareness School