By Irene Perry
November brings the season to gather family and friends to reflect on reasons we're thankful. For me, it's time to grab binoculars and scope to get outdoors in search of the return of our winter migrants. I'm so thankful to live in Skagit County.
With the fall harvest complete and winter crops planted, the “flats” are a great place to bird. The Skagit Flats offer the best sightings for Snow Geese and Swans. Find your way to Fir Island and the Skagit Wildlife Area where there are multiple stops to view the estuary and Skagit Bay, a globally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA). The only non-hunting location is the Fir Island Farms Reserve, which has recently undergone restoration to the intertidal estuary. This is a good location to look for ducks and the many raptors, who prey on them including eagles, hawks, and falcons. Next, head to the Samish Flats to search for raptors at the “West 90.” This location is left at the end of Bow-Edison Road onto Samish Island Road. You will see the parking lot straight ahead at the 90 degree turn. This is an active hunting area October through January, so stay in the parking lot where great birding can be viewed; particularly look for raptors. Scan the area for Northern Harriers, Rough-leg ged Hawks and multiple Falcon species. This is a great spot to look for Short-eared Owls too.
Moving to the shoreline of Skagit County you can find a “flight, fling, or trip” of Dunlins. These are terms to describe a group of Dunlins. And yes it is a “trip” to see thousands of Dunlins take flight as a predator approaches the shoreline. Great places to observe Dunlin are Padilla Bay and Fidalgo Bay at March Point. On those bays look for loons, ducks and grebes. However to find the best views of grebes and alcids drive over to Fidalgo Island and the great shoreline parks there. Green Point in Washington Park is a favorite location to view Marbled Murrelets and Red-necked Grebes in winter plumage. Head to Deception Pass State Park for views of loons, especially the Red-throated Loons hunting using the current in the Pass.
These are just a few of the locations to take family and friends before and after the Thanks-giving feast. Also, what a great way to escape for fresh air and birds while you fend off the seasonal pounds. I'm thankful for the opportunity to bird in Skagit County and be part of our active Skagit Audubon Chapter. Look for field trips and additional birding locations on our chapter website skagitaudubon.org.
So be sure to have a current Discover Pass to access lands managed by the Washington state departments of Natural Resources and Fish & Wildlife. This includes area State Parks. Visit discover.wa.gov to find a convenient location or vendor to purchase your pass. Enjoy the season!