Winter Birding Events Take Flight

Desperate to defy the winter doldrums? We have a remedy – and it’s all natural!

Birds of Winter: A Skagit Valley Experience” celebrates this region’s star status as a sanctuary for migratory birds – a natural wonderland boasting fertile farmland, forests, beaches, rivers, wetlands and lakes.

The festival, spearheaded by the Skagit Audubon Society and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC), seeks to capitalize on a seasonal population boom among area birds.

Birds in FlightSeveral months ahead of the renowned Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, visitors are encouraged to look to fallow fields painted parchment white: trumpeter swans and snow geese, some from as far away as the Russian Arctic. On rivers and forested shorelines, the call is out for bald eagles gathered in unusually large numbers as salmon return to spawn.

From the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the shores of Fidalgo Island, Chambers of Commerce and wildlife organizations have collaborated to create what they hope will become an annual event. Bird-watching is rising in popularity across the nation, and along with that is an increased passion to leave home turf on birding excursions.

EDASC representative Andrew Miller sees the Birds of Winter Festival as a natural way for guests to experience the beauty of the birds.

Operating under the umbrella of this regional campaign is the well-established Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival. On the west side of the county, the La Conner Chamber of Commerce established the La Conner Birding Showcase.

Miller said the long-term plan is to work not only with chambers of commerce but with cities, school districts and libraries to develop activities associated with winter birding. “What’s so great about it is that it touches every part of the county,” Miller told the Skagit Valley Herald. “The bird watchers are already here.”  Among six bird-watching clusters identified by the Birds of Winter Festival is Fidalgo Island, hailed for its “… rich array of fresh and salt water, and easily accessible woodlands, rocky beaches, tideflats and marshes.”

Shorebirds in MasseAnacortes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Hamilton sees the island community as a perfect home base for winter birding. “We are excited to partner with our Skagit neighbors on what we believe will become an increasingly popular seasonal event,” said Hamilton. “Anacortes businesses, from hoteliers to restaurant and shop owners, are eager to contribute to making this a wonderful winter adventure for our guests.”  Hamilton notes that in addition to its proximity to migratory birds such as snow geese and swans, Anacortes is home year-round to beautiful shorebirds, osprey, hawks and eagles.

Popular birdwatching spots include Washington Park, Deception Pass State Park’s Rosario Beach, Sharpe Park, Anacortes Public Forestlands and Seafarers’ Memorial Park in downtown Anacortes.

March’s Point is home to one of the largest heron rookeries in the region and Kukutali Preserve, formerly known as Kiket Island, is located near Deception Pass off Reservation Road on the back way to La Conner.

For more information about winter birding, click through some of the stories below, or stop by the Anacortes Visitors Information Center at 819 Commercial Avenue.

  • Paradise for Bird Photographers – From Fidalgo Island beaches and forests to day-trip destinations including the Skagit River and Skagit Valley farmlands, an Anacortes-based photography outing is guaranteed to yield memorable results year-round.
  • Shorebirds and the Magic of Padilla Bay – A stone’s skip east of Anacortes is one of the Northwest’s—maybe the nation’s—best and most accessible winter birding areas, boasting swans, geese, raptors, shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds.
  • Let your Inner Birder Soar – With a pair of binoculars and a favorite birding reference guide handy there is plenty to see while strolling on the beaches, hiking in the forests or taking in the viewpoints.
  • Anacortes: For the Bird-Watchers – When skies ricochet between crisp blue to leaden gray, the air wraps you in a fleece-worthy chill, and twilight sets in at 4 pm, Anacortes birdwatchers and photographers rejoice!

Winter Birding in the Skagit Valley

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