This urban wilderness is a great spot to see Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Peregrine Falcon, scoters, grebes, Pigeon Guillemot, ducks, and Hooded Merganser.
By Diann MacRae | Published: 12/26/2008
As I reach the top of the trail, spread out before me are Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island. The lovely Olympic Mountains rise in the distance. In front of me, a Bald Eagle takes off from the top of a Douglas-fir, soon after followed by a harrying Cooper’s Hawk. The seven and a half miles of trails through the park’s forests allow me to see Western Tanagers, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, and many warblers during migration.
Down, down from the upper reaches of the park, I arrive at West Point Light Station, a lighthouse built in 1881. Here I scan for murrelets, other alcids, and gulls, and in winter, I seek out my favorite goose, the Brant. At times, huge rafts of Western Grebes assemble. Clark’s Grebe is a distant possibility. And scaup, mergansers, and scoters round out the assembly.
The South Meadow is a good spot for many of our resident birds. I’ve seen Spotted Towhee, a variety of sparrows, Barred Owl, Band-tailed Pigeon, wrens, and in winter, Varied Thrush. Seattle’s city bird, the Great Blue Heron, spends time in nearby ponds along with lots of ducks. — Diann MacRae
Diann MacRae is a writer, a biologist, the coordinator of the Olympic Vulture Study, and a member of Vaux’s Happening, a local Vaux’s Swift research group. She also wrote about Union Bay Natural Area in Seattle, Washington, Hotspot Near You No. 8.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Coniferous and deciduous forests, meadows, sand dunes, freshwater ponds, and saltwater beaches.
Flat to hilly, paved roads. Some trails wheelchair-accessible, others dirt; all are well-maintained.
Mixed coniferous-deciduous forest: Steller’s Jay, Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadees, Pileated and Downy Woodpeckers, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper, Bushtit, Bewick’s Wren, Barred, Saw-whet, Barn, and Great Horned Owls, Anna’s Hummingbird. Open salt water: all three scoters, Brant, Horned and Western Grebes, Bonaparte’s, Mew, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Parasitic Jaeger. Freshwater ponds: Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Hooded Merganser. South Meadow: migrant passerines in fall and spring; in winter, Golden-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Fox Sparrows. Rarities often found in the park and over the open water of Puget Sound.
When to go
Good all year. Mornings and evenings best.
Restrooms, picnic tables. Environmental Learning Center open 8:30-5, Tuesday to Sunday, except holidays. Checklists, maps, recent sightings list, and exhibits. No food in the park, but good restaurants aren’t far.
City park. Admission free. Park hours: 6-11. Ample free parking.
A scope is helpful for viewing water birds. Bicycles on paved surfaces only.
For more info
One block east of Discovery Park. Hosts Seattle’s largest colony of Great Blue Herons. Nesting is February through July or August. In 2007, more than 60 pairs nested.
Green Lake Park
Located in the middle of Seattle near NE Ravenna Blvd. Nesting Pied-billed Grebes in summer, plus Bald Eagles, waterfowl, and a variety of other birds all year.