Here are recommendations from our Guiding Committee for watching birds this fall:
As the sun dips lower with autumn’s arrival, many birds look south, flying to warmer, brighter lands. You can catch glimpses of these travelers from many strategic viewpoints, such as headlands, beaches, lakes, or ponds. Within short distances around Port Townsend, you could try Point Wilson, the beaches on either side of Point Wilson, Point Hudson, Kah Tai Lagoon, North Beach, and Fort Worden.
It’s a nice break in the day to take in a bit of nature when you’re doing a few errands. Here are some specific suggestions.
If you’ll be near Safeway, Henery Hardware, or the Food Co-op, walk across the street, and saunter your way along Kah Tai Lagoon. Bird life changes during migration even from one day to the next. Keep your binoculars in the car, so you’re equipped for these spur of the moment walks. And it’s always relaxing to sit on the bench for a few minutes, frustrating the mallards who want to be fed. Do this venture BEFORE you have frozen food defrosting in your car.
Alternatively, on the other side of Sims Way, walk a short stretch of Larry Scott Trail from the Boat Haven parking lot. Always a few birds on the shore or on the water, or songbirds in the brush.
At the other end of town, when you’re on Water Street, walk out one of the docks. Especially as we get later into October and November our wintering waterbirds are arriving. Surely you have time to walk to the end of a dock!
Even more fun for a plethora of various gulls, sandpipers, and often oystercatchers, is to enjoy the spit at Point Hudson. You’ll see the unique Heermann’s Gulls, often a hundred or more — they fly here from their breeding grounds in Baja. Definitely worth 15 minutes to be blissfully enjoying the water and the views as well as the birds.
Lots of possibilities wherever you are. I didn’t even mention —till now— Fort Worden, Anderson Lake, and absolutely the bird bonanza of Oak Bay.
For the past six years, I’ve volunteered with a team of birders for the Seattle Audubon Seabird Survey at Ft. Flagler, one of the best places to see birds in our county. When you drive into Ft. Flagler, turn left at the stop sign, and park near the campground. Walk out along the spit to the left, looking towards Port Townsend, and on the water you’ll see our resident Rhinoceros Auklets and Pigeon Guillemots, as well as many birds returning from the north for the winter months. Look for black and white Surf Scoters with their colorful bills, gray and white Horned Grebes with their red eyes, and Common Loons still in their beautiful breeding plumage in September. If you are lucky, you might see Marbled Murrelets and Red-necked Phalaropes. Sometimes a couple dozen Harlequin Ducks line up and paddle parallel to shore. There are always lots of cormorants, sometimes all three species, and frequently a Bald Eagle in this area. Also look on the inside of the spit, facing the dock, for seabirds on the water. All along the spit you may see scores of shorebirds. (Careful not to scare them!) Check the grassy area near the playground to the left of the parking area, and you will often see dozens of Black-bellied Plovers (but this time of year, without their breeding plumage, they should probably be called by their other common name, Gray Plovers). Sometimes other shorebirds, like Dunlin, mix in with them on the grass.