Celebrate winged visitors at birding festival

  • Fri Mar 7th, 2014 3:25pm
  • Life

By Sharon Wootton

It’s unlikely that the migratory ducks on Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay know that they create quite a stir each March during the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival, but they may notice an uptick in the two-legged population that finds them fascinating.

This year the 12th WOW runs March 13 to 16 near Blaine. Naturalist Paul Woodcock will lead a field trip along Semiahmoo Spit.

“Birds face a lot of challenges, climate changes, habitats diminished, human population growing … If we do not have a consideration for all of the migratory birds then we’re going to lose them. We have to appreciate and value them and keep a space for them,” Woodcock said.

One way is to keep people in touch with the small wonders, and that includes bird festivals.

During WOW, there are thousands of wintering waterfowl, especially sea ducks such as scoters, harlequin ducks, golden-eyes, scaups and loons, most working their way back north for the breeding season.

The bay is a popular stopover because of small feeder fish. The eel grass beds provide shelter for small organisms and fodder for brants, a small sea goose.

Eagles and falcons are attracted to thousands of waterfowl in a relatively confined area, so visitors may be able to see predator-and-prey interaction.

“I’ve seen a large rise in eagle numbers this year, especially juveniles,” Woodcock said. “We’re successful in bringing eagles back, but some salmon runs are not sufficient to feed them, especially this year. Eagles will prey on ducks as will peregrine falcons.”

When the salmon that spawn up the Skagit River are gone, eagles move to the Whatcom County coast and other areas.

“Locally, there’s probably twice the number of eagle nests than there were 20 years ago,” Woodcock aid.

Shorebirds may also make an appearance during the festival, including sanderling and black oystercatchers. There may even be a harlequin duck, whose only breeding areas are upper New England and the Cascades, or a king eider, Woodcock said.

Admission to Wings Over Water is free, although there are a few trips that have a small fee, including a trip aboard the historic Plover, a ferry, to explore birds and habitats in Drayton Harbor.

In addition to bird-watching opportunities, participants can sit in on raptor presentations, learn about “Gardening for Birds” from master gardener Sue Taylor, and hear about “Winter Birds of the Salish Sea” from Joe Meche of the North Cascades Audubon.

There will also be art and wildlife exhibits and kids’ activities such as building birdhouses, and a photography workshop by Karen Ulvestad.

One speaker is Noah Strycker. “Among Penguins: Life Down South” is about his three months with a colony of 300,000 penguins in Antarctica.

For the schedule and other information, go to www.blainechamber.com/wow, or call 800-624-3555.

Directions: Going north, take I-5 exit 275 and turn left at the first light onto Boblett Street. Take the next right past the football stadium. Follow signs to the parking lot for the Blaine School Performing Arts Center and Blaine Middle School Cafeteria.

Threatened species: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking updated information about 15 wildlife species as part of a review of native wildlife populations listed by the state as endangered, threatened or sensitive.

The species are brown pelican, Columbian white-tailed deer, gray wolf, greater sage grouse, orca, marbled murrelet, mardon skipper, North American lynx, pygmy rabbit, snowy plover, spotted owl, streaked horn lark, Taylor’s checkerspot, Western pond turtle and woodland caribou.

We’ll take a look at this project over the next months, including the type of information needed to determine if a species warrants its current listing or deserves to be reclassified or delisted.

Sharon Wootton: 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.