Hotspots Near You

149. Drayton Harbor, Blaine, Washington

An Important Bird Area where thousands of Brant, Northern Pintail, and other waterfowl gather to feed, shelter, and socialize each winter.
By Anne Murray | Published: 10/26/2012

Drayton Harbor and adjacent Semiahmoo Bay make up an Important Bird Area tucked away on the U.S.-Canada border. Their quiet, shallow waters come alive in winter, when thousands of waterfowl, including Brant, Northern Pintail, and American Wigeon, gather to feed, shelter, and socialize. What makes the hotspot so special, however, is its proximity to deep water outside the harbor breakwaters. I willingly brave the cold for up-close views of Common, Pacific, and Red-throated Loons, Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks, and four species of grebe, with the knowledge that I can soon warm up at a nearby coffee shop.

I have seen flocks of hundreds of loons flying into Drayton Harbor when the tide changes. A succession of shorebirds, including Western and Least Sandpipers and Dunlin, pass through on migration, and unusual species can turn up anytime. I once was surprised to see a Horned Lark crouching on a breakwater road. Scores of Great Blue Herons, part of the coastal fannini subspecies that is of conservation concern, gather on the bay in breeding season, and Double-crested Cormorants nest near the fishing pier. — Anne Murray

Anne Murray is the author of A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay and Tracing Our Past: A Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay (Nature Guides B.C.). She wrote about geolocators in the article The golden age of tracking and also about Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta, British Columbia, Hotspot Near You No. 132, and the Boundary Bay Dykes, Delta and Surrey, British Columbia, No. 173.

149. Drayton Harbor, Blaine, Washington

Directions

Drayton Harbor is a sheltered bay next to the larger Semiahmoo Bay. From northbound I-5, take exit 274 and turn right on Peace Portal Dr. Take the next left onto Bell Rd., which soon becomes Blaine Rd. Go 0.9 miles, turn right onto Drayton Harbor Rd., and drive 3.3 miles to Semiahmoo Pkwy. Turn right and continue 0.4 miles onto Semiahmoo Spit.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
48°58’59.36″N 122°47’3.07″W

Habitat

Shallow marine bay and intertidal, sandy spit abutting deep-water bay.

Terrain

Flat. Easy walking and wheelchair-accessible. Birds can be observed from a car.

Birds

Year-round: Bald Eagle, Pigeon Guillemot, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Hooded Merganser, Black Oystercatcher, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Glaucous-winged Gull, Northwestern Crow. Fall and winter: Common, Pacific, and Red-throated Loons, Horned, Eared, Western, and Red-necked Grebes, White-winged, Surf, and Black Scoters, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Brant, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Turnstone, Greater Yellowlegs, Peregrine Falcon. Spring: Western Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Brant (March-April), Pacific Loon (April), Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Tern. Summer: Caspian Tern, Savannah Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat. Migrant shorebirds return in mid- to late July.

When to go

Best in winter for loons, grebes, and diving ducks.

Amenities

Viewing platforms in Marine Park. On the spit, Semiahmoo Park has restrooms and viewing platforms, and the Semiahmoo Resort has a publicly accessible boardwalk. Marina coffee shop is open year-round. Wings over Water Northwest Birding Festival held every March.

Access

Public waterways and city parks. All key viewing sites are readily accessible on public roads. No entrance fees.

Tips

For shorebirds in spring and summer, check Cain Creek, the mouth of California Creek, or the beaches of Semiahmoo Spit two to three hours before the incoming tide.

For more info

North Cascades Audubon Society

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