Qualityof Life for Mature Adults

Published on Thu, Feb 8, 2007
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Quality of Life for Mature Adults

Winter is birding season in Blaine

By Jack Kintner

Paul Woodcock leads a monthly birding walk at Semiahmoo County Park, and it’s proving to be quite a popular way to spend a Saturday morning for area seniors.

“It’s nice to get this response,” Woodcock said, “but I do worry about being able to help everyone out when we have so many.”

About 35 people attended last Saturday’s February walk at Semiahmoo, twice as big a group as he’s ever had, summer or winter, and all but one or two were AARP-eligible.

The popularity of the walk, aside from being a great way to get outside and meet other environmentally aware and concerned adults, is due in part to Woodcock himself having found a King Eider duck swimming in Drayton Harbor near the Semiahmoo marina last December 8.

The Eider is a sea duck and stays out in the open water much like the more common scoters commonly seen from Blaine’s Marine Drive and Semiahmoo Spit.

It lives on the shores of the Arctic Ocean and winters in Southeast Alaska, rarely going south of the Queen Charlotte Islands.

This is perhaps the tenth recorded sighting of this species ever in the state of Washington and the first in Whatcom County. For a birder, the chance to see a new species is always worth the trip, and going out with a group greatly increases the chances that someone will spot something interesting.

On Saturday’s walk, perhaps a mile or two over a couple of hours, Woodcock pointed out lesser & greater scaups, three kinds of scoters, two kinds of loons, three kinds of grebes, five kinds of ducks, brant geese, mergansers, two kinds of gulls, double-crested cormorants, bald eagles, a song sparrow in some driftwood, a dark-eyed junco and a rufous-sided towhee.

There are perhaps a little under 150 species of birds in the state, most of which are found in Blaine at some point during the year.

Woodcock, who is president of North Cascades chapter of the National Audubon Society, said that he leads these walks because he enjoys getting people interested in the subject.

“Blaine has a real treasure in its environmental habitat, especially its fantastic and unique marine habitat,” he said. “It needs to remember that tourists will not come here to see more condos or concrete.”

Birding is enjoyable from the standpoint that although there are expert and experienced birders around, there’s so much to know that a rank amateur can see something or learn something the experts haven’t yet discovered.

“There’s a lot to know,” Woodcock said, “and people push me with their questions.”

Woodcock said that a good pair of binoculars is all that’s needed, and that one does not have to mortgage your house for the latest optics.
“It’s an ideal outdoor activity for seniors,” he said, “because you can really set your own pace, going out for miles and miles of walking or finding something to watch in your own back yard.”

For more information on the Bellingham-based North Cascades chapter of the Audubon Society call Woodcock at 380-3356 or visit www.northcascadesaudubon.org.