Thousands of snow geese landing on a Skagit Valley field. Photo by Pam Headridge.
Birds of Winter: A Skagit Valley Experience
by Audrey Fraggalosch
Grab your camera and binoculars and head to the Skagit
Valley and La Conner for an authentic and spectacular winter birding experience.
This is the best time of year to see the largest
winter gathering of Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans in North America. The numbers
are jaw-dropping—an estimated 50,000 migrating snow geese, 7,000 trumpeter
swans and 3,000 tundra swans. Imagine watching an aerial ballet of hundreds of snow
geese soaring together in a shimmering wave of white wings—this is winter
birding at its best!
You can explore and find the birds on your own or
with local guides who can help you find the best spots to view and photograph
your favorite birds or take you on a guided tour. Imagine a float trip down the
Skagit River past bald eagles feasting on salmon. Discover more about the large
winter migration of bald eagles and the best viewing sites and times (December-January)
at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport.
Explore on your own or with local guides who can help you find the best spots to view and photograph your favorite birds."
Avid bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike won’t want to miss the 2nd annual, La Conner Birding Showcase on Saturday January 26, 2019 at the Maple Hall in La Conner. The exciting keynote speaker is Dr. Kaeli Swift one of the leading researchers on crows, ravens, jays and magpies. Artists and educational vendors (WSU Skagit County Extension Master Gardeners, Skagit Audubon Society and the Northwest Swan Conservation Association) will be on display. Go to lovelaconner.com for more information.
Explore Downtown La Conner
A colorful bridge spans the Swinomish Channel connecting downtown La Conner to the Swinomish Tribal headquarters. Photo ©Nancy K. Crowell.
La Conner is not only a favorite birding stop but a relaxing and romantic getaway. Enjoy exploring the quaint, walkable town, covering an area of about one square mile. Folks are friendly.There are dozens of locally-owned restaurants & cafes and charming, unique shops. “Being on the waterfront, we have a gorgeous view of the boardwalk so you can walk the entire length of town along the Swinomish Channel,” said Heather Carter, Executive Director of La Conner Chamber of Commerce.
If you can’t make it to the La Conner Birding Showcase event, don’t miss being part of the larger Birds of Winter Festival (December-March). In the Skagit Valley’s rich landscape of open fields and wetlands, hundreds of migratory bird species find vital feeding grounds and winter habitat. From the Upper Skagit River to the Skagit Flats to Fidalgo Bay, you can explore 20 different birding sites and see a wide diversity of species, including birds of prey, waterfowl and shorebirds. BirdsofWinter.org has detailed information on what birds you will see where and directions on how to get to the different birding sites.
Relax and enjoy your stay
When your birding day is done, you’ll want to relax,
reflect and get ready for whatever your next day brings. The Hampton Inn & Suites in Burlington is ideally located near the best birding areas of the
Skagit flats and eagle watching on the Skagit River. With the seasonal daffodil
and tulip fields close by, and direct access to the North Cascades scenic
byway, and Chuckanut Drive, this is a perfect home base for exploring northwest
You may also want to consider sipping your way along the Skagit Farm-to-Pint Ale Trail, hunting and gathering locally grown foods on the Bow-Edison Farm Trail and strolling the shopping areas in Burlington, downtown Mount Vernon and La Conner. There’s lot to savor and taste in this bountiful valley, so plan on
staying at least a day or more.
Tulip & Daffodil time is just around the corner!
Spring color is never more vivid and exciting than it is when the tulips and daffodils bloom in the Skagit Valley. Photo ©Laura Totten.
Enjoy the Birds of Winter Festival and see you in the
spring for the Skagit Tulip and Daffodil Festivals. For the past 34
years, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival has been one of the primary
destination events in the Pacific Northwest. Held from April 1-30, it
celebrates the millions of tulips bursting into bloom. As with all
things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their
own schedule sometime during the festival. The
festival is designed as a driving tour as there is no one "site" to
enter. The fields of tulips are scattered throughout the Skagit Valley
as are the many events and activities that comprise the festival. Go to tulipfestival.org for updated information.