Whatcom County, in the northwest corner of Washington State, is home to six key locations on the Audubon Society’s Great Washington State Birding Trail, Cascade Loop. Patient bird-watchers, looking to fill in their checklists, find a rich variety of viewing sites to spot hundreds of species, especially waterfowl and birds of prey.
In Blaine, there is the Annual Wings Over Water Birding Festival that celebrate the variety of migratory birds that flock to here every year. There is also a permanent exhibit at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall that features a beautiful collection focused on birds, the John M. Edson Hall of Birds.
Bald Eagle viewing
Looking for bald eagles? Whatcom County has a variety of spots to go, especially during the winter when they feed on spawning salmon in the rivers.
One good spot is on Mosquito Lake Road near Deming. From Bellingham head east on the Mt. Baker Highway for 16 miles, turn right on Mosquito Lake Road, then drive one mile to the bridge. Another area is the Deming Homestead Eagle Park. Drive east on SR 542 just past SR 9 (south) and turn right on Truck Rd. The parking lot is on the right.
Bird Watching Cruises on the Salish Sea depart each Saturday throughout the summer. Witness an amazing variety of birds while you cruise through Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, under the Deception Pass bridge, and through the Swinomish Channel.
Situated in the heart of Bellingham next to Western Washington University, this city park offers a variety of birds, including black-headed grosbeaks, pileated woodpeckers and western tanagers.
Connected to Bellingham via the Interurban Trail and Chuckanut Drive. On saltwater watch for harlequin ducks, double-crested and pelagic cormorants, glaucous-winnged gulls, bald eagles and great blue herons along the shoreline. Common loons and mew gulls come in winter. Great horned, western screech, northern pygmy and barred owls live in uplands all year. Also seen are red-breasted sapsuckers and pileated woodpeckers.
Located on the southern boundary of Bellingham, this vast city park offers an abundance of birds. There are many trails that branch off the main trail around the lake.
Several species of ducks are regulars on the south shore. A bald eagle is often seen perched on top of an old snag on the south shore. Search the forest for chickadees, swainson thrush, brown creepers, winter wrens, warblers, hairy, downy and pileated woodpeckers, red tail hawks, brown-headed cowbirds, kingfishers, ossprey, pine siskin, house finches, red breast sapsuckers, spotted towhees, swallows and sparrows.
From Bellingham, follow Lakeway Drive east to the park. Watch for american dippers below the falls. steller’s jays, chestnut-backed chickadees, barred and great horned owls, hairy, downy and piliated woodpeckers inhabit the coniferous forest, as well as yellow-rumped warblers during spring and summer. By Scudder Pond, look for wood ducks, hooded mergansers, green and great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, virginia rails and soras.
Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo are officially recognized as an “Important Bird Area of Washington.” The pristine, shallow marine habitat with extensive intertidal mudflats is adjacent to the U.S.-Canadian border in Blaine, WA.
loons, brant, dunlin, great blue herons, red-breasted mergansers, bufflehead, mallards, ducks, grebes and many others. Migrating aquatic birds are common here, watch as they carefully elude bald eagles and peregrine falcons who nest high in the surrounding evergreens.
Take I-5 Exit 276 for Marine Park and Exit 274 for Semiahmoo. Excellent site for tideland birds, especially in winter. Some of the species that nest in the area include cormorants, canada geese, gulls, blue herons, hooded mergansers, bald eagles, mallards and peregrine falcons. Migrating or resting varieties include loons, grebes, brants, scoters, ducks, gulls, terns, sandpipers, goldeneyes and many more. Best birding is two to three hours before incoming tides.
Winter waterfowl viewing is excellent in Whatcom County. Head to Bellingham and take I-5 Exit 266, Grandview Road. Drive west eight miles and follow signs to the park.
Likely saltwater species include common loon, western grebe, surf, white-winged, and black scoters, harlequin duck, northern pintail, american wigeon, and brants. Ring-billed, bonaparte’s and glaucous-winged gulls are also possible, as are wood ducks and bald eagles. Spring and fall shorebirds include greater and lesser yellowlegs, black turnstones and marbled godwits.
Features 54 acres of forest, bluff and beach with a 3/4 mile trail to spectacular viewpoints of the Strait of Georgia. A switchback path descends from the bluff to access a windswept cobbled beach.
Find upland wooded habits and shorebirds. The bird list is same as Birch Bay State Park. No dogs allowed. Take I-5 Exit 266 Grandview Road and drive west 8.5 miles then curve left on Koehn Rd.
Head west from I-5 on Slater Road and turn north on Lake Terrell Road. Good for ducks, blackbirds, swallows and several marsh birds. The area is closed during hunting season mid-fall to mid-winter.
Take I-5 Exit 262 for Hovander Park in Ferndale. Here you will find year-round pied-billed grebe, hooded merganser, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, marsh wren, and american bittern. Tall-grass meadows support breeding savannah sparrows; spring brings green herons, wood ducks, common yellowthroats and tree swallows. Virginis rails and soras stay through summer.
A wood boardwalk meanders through the lily pads and marsh grass for great viewing. Several tree swallow boxes are along the path. A viewing tower offers great panoramic views and features a remote TV for handicap access.
The area is closed during hunting season mid-fall to mid-winter.
Red River Road, Lummi Reservation
Take I-5, Exit 260 (Slater Road) and drive west. Turn left on Haxton Way and right on to Red River Road.
Drive slowly and look for hawks, harriers, eagles, kestrels and falcons scanning the fields for prey. The creek along the road usually has a heron or two, perhaps a river otter, and other shorebirds. Cross the creek and turn on the gravel road that heads south. Be patient, you just may spot a northern shrike.