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Birdwatching Photography in the Pacific Northwest

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Birdwatching Photography in the Pacific Northwest started at brisk 23 degrees and the sun wasn't set to rise for another 4 hours when I met up with fellow photographer Ty Kent ( to photograph birds in the Pacific Northwest. The early morning adventure started with a ferry ride to the mainland just north of Seattle, then a long drive towards Mount Baker.

Our first destination for the day was the Nooksack River, which is known for viewing Bald Eagles. Between December and January each year, the Chum salmon spawn in great numbers then die after they have completed spawning and the Eagles hang out in the trees waiting for an easy meal. We arrived just as the sun was coming up and were surprised to see we were the first to arrive. The area tends to get busy with photographers this time of year. The second surprise came just after we parked and started to explore the area, NO Eagles. Even though we came across many dead salmon along the shore there were NO Eagles feeding. We decided to walk back to the Nooksack River Bridge to hang out and wait to see if the Eagles were just waiting for the sun to come up. We could see a few adult Eagles hanging out in the tree tops as well as a few more photographers parking. We decided to head upriver to take a chance and hopefully find some Eagles gorging themselves on salmon. We could see Eagles in the distance feeding but the deep fast moving and ice-cold river kept us out of reach of getting a good shot.

Birds we came across in the Nooksack River Area; Adult Bald Eagles, Junveinal Bald Eagles, Great Blue Heron, Herring Gull, American Dipper, and a Northern Flicker.

Our second destination was the Fir Island Farm Reserve on Skagit Bay for some waterfowl. This reserve was small, so it was a quick visit. The first thing you see to the north of the parking lot is a large Eagle nest with two Bald Eagles watching over their feeding grounds. Bald Eagles diet consists of mainly fish, but they will go after waterfowl if the opportunity arises and have even been known to take down geese. To the south of the parking lot is the walking path which is only a couple hundred yards long and takes you along a flooded plain that ends at a tidal marsh where it can be difficult to see many of the birds that are in the distance. Most of the bird activity was in the flooded plain on the left of the walking path.

Birds we came across in the Fir Island Farm Reserve; Bald Eagles, Snow Geese, Male Hooded Merganser, Female Hooded Merganser, Female Green-winged Teal, Glaucous-winged Gull, and American Coots.

Our third and final stop and the highlight of the long day was at a few farm fields in Edison near Samish Bay. Our goal was to hang out in the field til just before dusk for the show of predator versus prey. The fields were home to Owls, Harriers, and Kestrels. About an hour before dusk, the Short-eared Owls would float like butterflies over their prey and then pounce. If they are rewarded with a successful catch they would then have to watch out for the Harrier or Kestral who would swoop in and try to take its meal.

Birds we came across in the Edison Fields; Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, and Tundra Swan

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