It doesn’t take much to lure me to the Sequim area. Dungeness Spit and its National Wildlife Refuge offer terrific birdwatching. So do the farm fields and wetlands that surround Sequim.
This region supports a variety of bird life that can only be described as outstanding. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds not only abound in the varied habitat but migrants, both expected and unexpected, are part of the scene.
When reports of two emperor geese came in, we waited only long enough for the rain to stop. The two had been seen in the vicinity of what is commonly referred to as “the old oyster plant.” They were in with hundreds of wintering brant geese. It was a beautiful day, but we didn’t see them. Instead we had to put up with several bald eagles, hundreds of brant, dozens of cormorants, shorebirds and many different ducks, grebes and mergansers. That’s the way it goes, but we were in this great area so took advantage of the trip.
You can explore the fields around Sequim and Dungeness much as you would the fields of the Skagit region. Surprises are expected, and they are often just around the next bend in the road.
Hundreds of gulls feeding in one of the fields west of Port Williams pulled our vehicle off the road. It was when we turned and started to leave that things really became interesting. In distant fields on the other side of the road some large white “clumps” caught our eye. Swans, lots of them, were feeding in those fields. More than 50 trumpeter swans were one of those entries you take great delight in writing in your field notes. It was interesting that several of the birds were juveniles, last year’s young. You could recognize them by their darker, grayish coloring.
This surprise sighting, along with all the other species we saw that day, is the main reason the organizers of this year’s Olympic Birdfest are confident that festival participants will enjoy themselves. Birdfest is a fundraiser for the educational programs provided by the Dungeness River Audubon Center in Sequim. The center’s river setting is another good birding spot, especially in the spring. Walks to explore the area are included in festival activities.
Even if you have enjoyed birdwatching on Dungeness Spit and the National Wildlife Refuge, there are other places local birders always check out. The aforementioned “old oyster plant” is one of them. There are even popular stops off the farm roads. You can learn where this area’s best birding sites are by taking part in Birdfest field trips. One of these is a boat cruise around Protection Island, with birds such as the puffins, murres, guillemots and large numbers of glaucous-winged gulls nest. In addition to field trips and pelagic boat cruises, Birdfest includes photography workshops, a silent auction and a banquet with Dr. Jerry Freilich as speaker. Freilich is the Olympic National Park research coordinator. The topic of his speech will address: “The Importance of Birds.”
The list of field trips and other activities is a long one. Details are available on the Birdfest website. From the mouth of the Elwha River to Ediz Hook out of Port Angeles and throughout the Sequim region, every “hotspot” is on the agenda. There is even an “owl prowl” scheduled for two nights. The owls to be listened for and hopefully seen are: Western screech owl, Northern saw-whet, barred and great horned.
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