Within moments of arriving at Crockett Lake, the two birding enthusiasts spot several interesting winged Whidbey residents.
Nearby, an eagle has perched at the top of a tree. Even closer, a kingfisher sits on a telephone wire, then makes its distinctive call as it swoops away.
Steve Ellis and Bill Bradkin, both members of the Whidbey Audubon Society, will be on hand Saturday, Oct. 13 during a special Audubon event at which both experienced and aspiring birders can explore this birding hot spot plus three additional Whidbey sites listed on the recently published Puget Loop issue of the Washington Birding Trail Map.
Ellis refers to Crockett Lake as a “super site” because of its diverse range of habitats, including the lake, forest and open water, which attracts a wide variety of winged visitors.
“October is a great time for this event,” said Ellis, a past president of the Whidbey Audubon Society. “Some of the best birding takes place in the shoulder seasons – fall and spring.”
As the days grow shorter and colder, migratory shorebirds such as dunlins and greater yellowlegs are heading south. Following behind them are birds of prey such as falcons and merlins, looking for a meal on the wing.
The new map – the seventh in a series of Washington birding maps – is a great tool to boost local tourism during the colder months when fewer visitors flock to Whidbey.
Birders are an attractive demographic for the local tourism economy, Ellis said. Research shows they are most likely professionals with plenty of disposable income, including people who work in the fields of medicine, engineering and education.
Saturday’s event is an opportunity for local residents to learn wildlife viewing on Whidbey, Bradkin said.
Of the seven Whidbey locations highlighted on the map, Audubon members will host four of them starting at 8:30 a.m. and continuing into the afternoon. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn which bird species to watch for at each site. Site hosts also can help visitors find a place to eat or stay overnight.
The volunteer-staffed locations will be the West Beach parking lot at Deception Pass State Park; the Keystone Harbor lot at the boat launch opposite Keystone Cafe; the main lot at South Whidbey State Park; and the parking area at the hillside entrance to Joseph Whidbey State Park.
A Washington State Parks Discover Pass, $10 per day or $30 per year, ensures access to all sites.
Passes can be purchased online at discoverpass.wa.gov, at local state park offices and a number of private vendors, including Prairie Center Red Apple at 408 S. Main St. in Coupeville.
Birding provides an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and learn about Whidbey’s natural environment, Ellis said.
“Birding is a great activity,” he said. “The cast of characters changes throughout the year.”