Wings Over Water

Celebrate Semiahmoo

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It is almost impossible to put into words the convergent forces of land, sea and ornithological reverie I encountered during my inaugural sojourn to Semiahmoo Spit many years ago.

But being that the 16th annual “Wings Over Water” Birding festival is fluttering right around the corner, I feel compelled to try.

Spending four months in a cabin full of musty jackets, rank socks and mossy-eared snowboarders had its benefits. Our backyard abutted the North Fork of the Nooksack River and the lower chairlifts at Mt. Baker Ski Area stood a paltry 20 miles away from our front door.

But there inevitably came a time when escape from the upper valley became essential, so we hightailed to the uppermost northwestern corner of the flatlands.

“The spit is a curiously shaped but scenically well-endowed stretch of local seashore,” our guide explained. “It’s a low-slung finger of land that threads the gauntlet between Georgia Strait and Drayton Harbor—the polar opposite of Glacier.”

When our seasonal-affected posse of beardos finally poured out of our van onto the spit, the immense expanse of mountain-rimmed seashore engulfed us in an ecstatic, trancelike state.

Out on the beach we kicked off our moldering mountain shoes and started dogging around with our footballs and Frisbees, doing our best to soak up every available ounce of unimpeded sunlight.

Unfortunately, it had been so long since my bare feet had last enjoyed the accommodating effects of so much soft pebbly earth beneath them that I soon became overstimulated and started to stumble.

Lurching between a pair of half-buried driftwood logs, I threw myself belly first into the sand and started rolling around in a manner most mammalian until I settled into napping position.

When I awoke, the posse had migrated up the beach to engage in some cold-water submersion therapy. It was then—as I sat thoughtfully on a log contemplating my next move—the first flock of ducks came whistling overhead.

I don’t recall precisely what type of ducks they were, but as I listened closely through the wave-lapped silence, I could hear their beating wings and exclamatory quacks with a clarity that struck me as being uncanny, slightly humorous and quite profound.

I stayed put for the rest of day. There were thousands of ducks splashing through the water that afternoon, and I was perfectly content to behold them.

There’ll be no shortage of waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors to feast your eyes on during the bevvy of bird-oriented activities that are on the docket for this year’s edition of “Wings Over Water.”

Steep yourself in local migratory bird habitat and maritime history during a guided hike on Semiahmoo Spit. Take a field trip around the Blaine Harbor Loop. Board a charter bus and head across the border into the photogenic confines of Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC.

Climb aboard the 50-foot Salish Sea or historic Plover Ferry for on-the-hour bird and wildlife watching cruises on open water between Blaine Harbor and Semiahmoo Marina. Attend lectures about trumpeter swans, eagles and warblers. Have an up-close experience with live birds of prey at the “Hunters of the Sky” presentation by Sardis Raptor Center.

Ultimately, you’ll learn a ton of neat stuff. And you’ll never forget it.

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