Washington birds in sight: Afternoon of flight

February marks the month when we appreciate wild birds that stay in the Pacific Northwest during the cold season, and help them by putting up bird feeders at home to supplement a meager winter diet.

However, as winter months finally give way to spring you may be itching to get over your cabin fever and that means an opportunity to get out into the wild and explore. After all, there are birds worth seeing all over Washington, not just in your backyard. DNR-managed state trust lands and natural areas offer near endless opportunities for bird-watching and other recreational activities.

An American dipper gets its feet wet. Photo: Wiki commons

Perhaps you are seeking a particular species, like creek dippers that are regulars at the Toats Coulee Campground near Loomis State Forest in Okanogan County. The only truly aquatic song birds in Washington can be found diving into pools to hunt for submerged food like mosquito larvae and fish eggs. When dippers resurface they will perch on surrounding rocks to prepare for their next dive.

Maybe you’re determined to track down every bird species native to Washington state, in which case you’d want to visit the Wenas Wildlife Area that straddles Yakima and Kittitas counties.

A pygmy-owl on the lookout. Photo: Wiki commons

A bevy of birds can be seen here including the western screech and the northern pygmy-owls. The white-headed woodpecker, red-naped sapsuckers, and many kinds of warblers and bluebirds are known to visit as well as the calliope hummingbird and the dusky flycatcher. This is not even close to half of the different species of birds that congregate at the Wenas, which makes it easy to understand how the area has developed a reputation for nesting birds and why a visit here can be so worthwhile. In fact, the site has become a traditional meeting ground for Washington Audubon members to convene, camp and watch every Memorial Day weekend.

Cypress Island
A view of Cypress Head Campground from the water. Photo: DNR

Similar in terms of diversity but with a more aquatic feel is the Cypress Island Natural Resources Conservation Area, which includes the popular Cypress Head Campground. Accessible by kayak or boat, this can serve as a staging area to begin searching for bald eagles, osprey, black oystercatchers, belted kingfishers or any of the other 142 species of bird known to frequent Cypress Island. Maybe you’ll discover an undocumented bird to add to the list.

In order to help you visit every corner of Washington state make sure to pick up a Discover Pass for your vehicle, which grants access to millions of acres of state land for camping, hiking, and of course bird-watching! Not only this, but the purchase of the Discover Pass helps to guarantee that Washington state’s wonderful recreation areas are maintained for people – and birds – for generations to come.