By Joe Meche
Experienced and novice birdwatchers alike dream of living in a place where large numbers of interesting birds can be easily spotted throughout the year.
Most birders are forced to take a long drive to find birds that make a trip worthwhile. In the northwest corner of Washington state, however, that dream is a reality. We are blessed to have a moderate maritime climate with protected estuaries and bays where birds can find shelter from the elements. An ample food supply to help them through the winter months is a major attraction as well.
Along with our resident birds, numerous migratory species find all the essentials they need right here, in our own backyard. This area is an important way station in the Pacific Flyway.
Most notable among the migratory birds that winter on local waters are a wide variety of waterfowl, including both dabbling and diving ducks. Arctic visitors like long-tailed ducks and Pacific black brant attract birdwatchers from places that are either snowed in or far away from the salt-water habitats that these special birds prefer. As many as three species of loons and five species of grebes can be found in the waters of Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay throughout the winter and into early spring.
The sheer number of birds that winter here is one of the key elements that led to this area being designated as one of the premier sites on the Washington state Important Bird Areas program. This is an international effort to recognize and protect areas that are vital to life cycles of migratory birds.
Blaine, Birch Bay and Semiahmoo are also integral parts of the Great Washington State Birding Trail’s Cascade Loop. This was a program initiated by Audubon Washington that eventually covered seven different parts of the state. The concept was to provide a map that showed interested parties where to go to see birds. The Cascade Loop was the first of the statewide loops and our own northwest corner quickly became the anchor for the initial loop. Feedback was very encouraging and gave the program a boost to continue the effort statewide.
So, grab your scopes and binoculars and live the dream, right here in Whatcom County!