A Good Day for Birds

A flock of snow geese with Mt. Baker as backdrop

A large proportion of this flock are gray-feathered young birds. Note one wears a collar.

    January and February are soggy months in northwest Washington. The ground gets so saturated the bluffs and hillsides slide under their own weight. Rainwater can’t soak into the flat fields of the Skagit and Stillaguamish Deltas, and it can’t run away, so it lies in a silver sheen beneath the sprouting grass or between furrows.

    The birds love it. Fields become shallow lakes where flocks of ducks preen and dabble. Harriers swoop in search of field mice forced from their burrows. Blue herons hold solitary vigil along the drainage ditches while hundreds of swans muddy their plumage foraging in plowed fields.

    We aren’t expert birders, but we’ve noticed some birds are doing things differently this year. Only a few snow geese spent the winter around Stanwood, compared to the usual thousands. There are far more trumpeter and tundra swans than usual. But we’re told that there are plenty of snow geese in fields farther north. Maybe they just don’t like to share their territory.

    Be that as it may, when the first day of February dawns sunny and bright, we join dozens of other motorists and cyclists on the narrow back roads of the Skagit Delta. Spring is in the air although a chill wind blows streamers of fog inland. New growth is sprouting, pussy willows blooming, alder catkins heavy tasseled with about-to-be-released pollen. Birds and birders are out in force.

    Nearing the village of Edison, we see cars stopped along both sides of the road. Spotting scopes and telephoto lenses aim toward the leafless alders. Eagles, so many I lose count, perch in the trees and pose for the cameras. Why so many? Next weekend Edison holds a birding festival. Maybe the eagles got word and are awaiting the festivities. (For more about the festival, go to http://edisonbirdfestival.com/2013-calendar.)

Of the 5 eagles in this shot, 4 are young ones.

One thought on “A Good Day for Birds”

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