Take Flight

Winter is for the birds

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In the dreary winter months in the Pacific Northwest, the urge to take flight to warmer climes can be overwhelming. But if your wings are clipped until spring, don’t despair. January is ripe with opportunities to observe the majestic birds that spend the season here, and you can live vicariously through their abilities to soar.

For the next two weekends—from 10am-4pm Jan. 20-21 and Jan. 27-28—the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center at Rockport’s Howard Miller Steelhead Park will continue to host the annual Skagit Eagle Festival. The center offers opportunities to better understand the wildlife of the Skagit River watershed with an emphasis on the winter migration of bald eagles, salmon and the vital role each play in our ecosystem, but it’s also a nucleus for activities. At 11am every Saturday and Sunday, U.S. Forest Service field rangers or Interpretive Center coordinators lead guided hikes, and at 1pm, regional experts give talks on everything from forage fish surveys to glaciers of the North Cascades, native plants of the Upper Skagit, and winter birds of Skagit County. Volunteer guides will also be on site, with telescopes and information about the wintering wildlife, at Mile Post 100 (the rest area on Hwy 20), and at Marblemount Fish Hatchery. Additional (non-staffed) bird-viewing areas in the area include the Bald Eagle Natural Area (off SR 530, just south of the Skagit River Bridge), the Skagit Wildlife Area (Skagit Flats), Bay View State Park (Padilla Bay), Deception Pass State Park (Oak Harbor), Washington Park (Anacortes), and the Nooksack River (Bellingham). More info: http://www.skagiteagle.org

For evidence of how plants and birds coexist in the region, join the Koma Kulshan chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society from 10am-3pm Sat., Jan. 20 for a free Birch Bay and Semiahmoo: Plants and Birds in Winter excursion starting at Birch Bay State Park and continuing on to the wetlands of Terrell Creek and Semiahmoo County Park. Once in the field, attendees will identify plants by their twigs and buds and the marine birds that are typically abundant during this time of year. There will be handouts for identifying plants and several scopes and handouts for the common birds seen in the winter. Feel free to bring binoculars for viewing the closer-in water birds and terrestrial birds. Dress for the weather, and bring a hearty lunch along. More info: http://www.wnpskoma.org/field-trips

From 11am-4pm Sat.-Sun., Jan. 27-28, stop by the La Conner Birding Showcase at the town’s Maple Hall, 104 Commercial.  As part of the Birds of Winter Skagit Valley Festival—which includes the aforementioned Skagit Eagle Festival as well as associated birding events in the area—the two-day gathering will feature demos and sales of spotting scopes, binoculars and mounts, a keynote presentation by award-winning author and wildlife photographer Paul Bannick, a talk by Martha Jordan of the Northwest Swan Conservation Association, information by the Skagit Audubon Society, Master Gardeners, and more. Entry is $5-$10 (kids 10 and under are free). Additional bird-related events happen throughout La Conner.  More info: http://www.birdsofwinter.org

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