Lifestyle

Birders flock for Snoqualmie Valley's fall migration

 The Yellow Warbler can be found by enterprising birders in Western Washington. The bird mainly eats insects and spiders, but feasts on berries in winter. - Photo by Larry Engles
The Yellow Warbler can be found by enterprising birders in Western Washington. The bird mainly eats insects and spiders, but feasts on berries in winter.
— image credit: Photo by Larry Engles

By Judy Halone

Contributing Writer

Outdoor enthusiasts take note: Snoqualmie Valley and the surrounding area is for the birds.

Lucky for residents and visitors, the annual migration of thousands of birds — with local stopovers — is providing great opportunities to catch bird watching at its finest.

From natural habitats such as Three Forks Area, Stillwater Natural Area and Carnation’s John MacDonald Park, bird watchers can keep an eagle’s eye out for several species including ducks, songbirds, ruby-crowned kinglets, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles.

Andy McCormick, conservation committee chair for Eastside Audubon Society, estimated some species’ journeys may average 1,500 miles.

“They do it over a course of several days or a week,” he said.

McCormick said the migration begins from locations as far away north as the Brooks Range in northern Alaska and Canada and the Boreal Forest, with an expanse reaching from eastern British Columbia to as far east as Ontario. While some continue on until they reach warmer climates, many birds remain here over the winter.

Species vary but McCormick explained there are a few ducks especially worth taking note of. They include the northern shoveler, with its long and wide, flat bill used as a sieve in the water; the common merganser, a large and mostly white duck with a dark green head and red bill; and the bufflehead, the smallest variety that sports a unique black and white patch on the sides of its head.

Finding the birds takes patience, determination and knowing where to look.

“They’re typically active shortly after sunrise, but some species are active all day,” he said. “The morning is best because they’ve slept through the cool night and want to take food in.”

Bird watchers should not only keep their eyes — and ears — peeled toward ponds and marshlands but woodlands and grasslands.

In addition to ducks, other abundant birds making an autumn show include the red-tailed hawk and bald eagle; the latter has made a feast on this year’s salmon runs, he remarked.

“They migrate down and they’ll follow the salmon,” he said. “They’ll follow one run of salmon and then go back up north to follow another run.”

With discoveries like that, it’s no wonder McCormick said bird watching is now the nation’s fastest-growing hobby.

“There’s a sense of discovery and wonder,” he said. “Each time you go out, you’re not sure what you’re going to find,” he said. “And there’s a connection to nature.”

For more information about bird watching in the Snoqualmie Valley call (425) 576-8805 or visit www.eastsideaudubon.org.

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