It can be a tense, nasty business, slogging through wet brush and mud, up and down hills, in search of the remote ancestors of dinosaurs.
Then you hear one, maybe calling to establish territory, and you ease forward quietly and spot it: a yellow-rumped warbler.
Check it off your list.
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Bird-watching can be addictive, and not all that strenuous, really. It’s a great way to get outdoors, get some exercise and learn a little (or maybe a lot) about nature.
We live in a great area for the hobby. Habitat ranges from shoreline and wetlands to mountain forests and alpine terrain, all within a day’s driving time, and much of it in parks or other accessible areas.
It doesn’t take a lot of expensive gear, either. “Really, simple binoculars (about 7- or 8-power) are adequate,” said Mike Blackbird, president of Pilchuck Audubon. “You don’t need an expensive spotting scope, although if you get serious about it, you might want one.”
Also, a field guide helps. “Sibley (‘The Sibley Field Guide to Birds’) is a good book.” Blackbird said.
So, it’s that easy. Just dress for the weather.
Pilchuck Audubon offers regular birding trips around the state and even into British Columbia, and is also open to nonmembers.
“A couple of interesting things about Snohomish County is that it has the largest osprey nesting area (north Everett waterfront) on the West Coast and the second largest Vaux swifts roost in the West, in Monroe,” Blackbird said.
Virginia Clark, a frequent leader of Pilchuck’s Tuesday field trips, lists three areas, although she was reluctant to pick favorites. Spencer Island Regional Park, the Nature Conservancy’s Port Susan Preserve and the Marysville sewage lagoon.
“I like these areas because of the variety of birds. Right now the shore birds are coming back, and you want to be on the shore.”
Art Wait, who also leads Tuesday trips, lives in Snohomish and finds plenty of birds in areas near his home. “Everett waterfront on the north end is good,” he said, “with the osprey nests and activity on the pilings in the summer.”
Annette Colombini is editor of the Pilchuck Audubon Profile, a monthly newsletter. “My favorite place to bird in Snohomish County is the nature trail at Cedar Grove Compost (Smith Island/Union Slough area).
The trail runs along the bank and is mostly paved. There are pretty wildflowers in the summer and a wide range of birds and other wildlife.”
Ron Ramey: 425-339-3443; email@example.com
Snohomish County’s birding hotspots
Edmonds Marsh, Edmonds
One of the few remaining urban saltwater estuaries in Puget Sound, it has more than 200 species, varing with the seasons. Popular viewing spots are along the marsh boardwalk and the waterfront’s fishing pier and beach north to the ferry terminal.
Birds: include yellowlegs, sandpipers, dowitchers, rhinoceros auklets, wigeons, marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots, harlequin ducks, pelagic cormorants and rare Eurasian green-winged teals.
Location: Within walking distance of Edmonds’ downtown shops, restaurants and hotels. Parking available on/off Dayton Street.
Index Cliff, Index
In this mixed forested area along the North Fork of the Skykomish River, birders can view nesting pairs of peregrine falcons April through August along a 400-foot granite cliff.
Birds: peregrine falcons, harlequin ducks, hooded mergansers, cliff swallows and hermit warblers.
Location: At Index, go to Avenue A and drive a half-mile to parking lot.
Jetty Island, Everett
Trails, sandy beaches, tidal pools and fresh marine breezes make this island popular with 45 species of birds. Jetty naturalists offer private group tours by reservation. For group tours call 425-257-8304. Restrooms available.
Birds: pigeon guillemot, killdeer, short-billed dowitcher, yellowlegs, plovers, sandpipers and nesting pairs of Caspian tern and glaucous-winged gulls.
Access: Island open July 1 through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8:50 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. Sundays. Free ferry departs from 10th Street Boat Launch and Marine Park, 10th Street and W. Marine View Drive.
Kayak Point County Park, Stanwood
The 670-acre park is home to numerous bird species.
Birds: Bald eagles, loons, double-crested cormorants, Barrow’s goldeneyes, grebes, song sparrows, chickadees, kinglets, and downy and pileated woodpeckers.
Location: From Marysville, take Marine View Drive/Tulalip Road and drive 12.9 miles to Kayak Point County Park.
Lowell Riverfront Trail, Everett
A 1.75-mile trail with numerous locations to view birds, other wildlife such as occasional Steller sea lions and river otters. Cottonwoods and other trees provide homes for numerous nests.
Birds: bald eagles; red-tailed, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks; fox sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, hermit thrushes, Bullock’s orioles, double-crested cormorants, and Barrow’s goldeneyes.
Location: Trailhead just off Lenora Street. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 1 to Oct. 31; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 1 to March 31.
Spencer Island Regional Park, Everett
A 412-acre sanctuary for more than 200 species of resident or migrating waterfowl and shore birds. Wildlife such as coyote, deer, river otter, rabbits, frogs, and other small mammals and amphibians can also be seen or heard. The dike-top trail system has scenic views of wetlands, sloughs and mountains. Restrooms, picnic tables, interpretive signs and boardwalk.
Birds: bald eagles, great-horned owls, northern harriers, belted kingfishers, ospreys, wood ducks, blue-winged teals, western tanagers, black-billed grosbeaks, dowitchers, pine siskins, merlins and peregrine falcons.
Access: Parking area at city of Everett Water Pollution Control Facility off Fourth Street SE, Everett.
Source: Snohomish County Tourism Bureau
For additional bird-watching locations, visit www.Snohomish.org and check Things to Do.
Pilchuck Audubon: For membership and information on trips go to www.pilchuckaudubon.org.
“The Great Washington State Birding Trail — Cascade Loop” guide and map by Audubon Washington, for $4.95 from Audubon Washington; a limited number of free copies available at Snohomish County Visitor Information centers.
“Birds of Edmonds, Washington — A Complete Checklist,” available as a PDF at www.PugetSoundBirdFest.org.
Bird checklist available as a PDF at www.PilchuckAudubon.org.
“The Sibley Field Guide to Birds, Western North America” by David Allen Sibley, $20. If you want the version that covers all of North America, it goes for about $35. Available online at at bookstores.
“Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” by Kenn Kaufman, $19. Online and at bookstores.
Birds of North America Online, bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna, a subscription resource offered by Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, $5 for one month, $42 per year. A free trial subscription is offered.