West Seattle 101: Birdwatching

bookcover4.jpgfrom “West Seattle 101” by Lori Hinton

Many birders travel far to see their feathered friends. In fact, it’s not uncommon for hardcore birdwatchers to venture to exotic locales just to find them. But local fans of the winged species will be happy to know that there’s some great birdwatching (and listening) close to home.

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West Seattle’s plethora of parks creates an ideal habitat for many species. From Fauntleroy Park on Barton to Schmitz and Lincoln, if you take the time to look and listen, you’re
sure to discover many a bird and a new song or two.

What are you are likely to see? The small, brown Bewick’s wren for one, as well as little green Anna’s hummingbirds and golden-crowned kinglets. “Small birds with a whitish chest, olive back, and gold markings on the head, golden-crowned kinglets look like they’re wearing little crowns,” says Linda Gresky, a volunteer for the Seattle Audubon Society and
Fauntleroy Watershed Council.

But there’s more than just these three. Head toward the water to witness ducks and an array of birds of prey. It’s not uncommon to see buffleheads (ducks with white markings resembling small, white hats), harlequin ducks (with spectacular markings and white slashes across the head and shoulders), and the infamous surf scoter with a bill so brilliant orange you’d think you were spotting him in the tropics. (Or cormorants, as seen in this WSB-published photo:)

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Bald eagles and osprey also fit the bill. “Because they are such great fishers, the osprey is also known as the sea hawk,” explains Gresky. “In fact, I once saw an eagle trying to pirate a fish from an osprey at Lincoln Park.”

Entertainment for all seasons, birding is enjoyable for people of every age. “Birdwatching is almost like a scavenger hunt to kids,” explains Gresky. “It’s a great way to let them explore, check their findings against the field guide, and feel like they’ve found something special.”

For beginning birders, Gresky has helpful advice. “The birds may be difficult to identify at first, but if you have patience and stick to it, you’ll get it,” she smiles. “And when you do, it’s exciting.”

Likening birdwatching to a release that brings one back to center, Gresky reflects, “It is one of most peaceful experiences there is. Nowhere else are you more in the moment than out there in nature birdwatching.”

One of the best ways to get into birding is with a field trip. Local group trips offer the expertise of master birders, a chance to meet others with similar interests in nature, and a fun yet educational excuse to get outside. Visit the Seattle Audubon Society website for more info at www.seattleaudubon.org.

You’ll want to bring field glasses or binoculars, a Northwest bird identification book (Birds of Seattle & Puget Sound recommended), and a notepad for sketching. Whether they are surfing the waves, perched in a tree, or soaring high above, birds from the common loon to a yellow-bellied sapsucker make their homes in West Seattle. Next time you’re out and about, look out and up for the feathered phenoms of the neighborhood.

IN SUMMARY:

What: Birdwatching

Where: West Seattle’s parks such as Fauntleroy, Lincoln, and Schmitz

Online: seattle.gov/parks

When: Year-round

Price: Free; BYOB (bring your own binocs)
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Find more “West Seattle 101” stories on WSB by going here.

Buy the book at any of these West Seattle stores:
Alki Bike & Board
Barnes & Noble
Capers
Coastal Boutique
Easy Street Records
Square 1 Books

Also, online:
Adventure Press
Amazon.com

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