The time is right to go to the birds

7:19 am November 21st, 2013


November is a prime month for fall-winter birdwatchers to see swans and other waterfowl. (Courtesy photo)

November is a prime month for fall-winter birdwatchers to see swans and other waterfowl. (Courtesy photo)

By Bob Brown
If hunting and fishing is not your forte, and you enjoy the outdoors, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) suggests you gather up the family and try fall and winter waterfowl watching.
There are numerous locations in our area that have long been magnet destinations for migrating waterfowl, with most close enough to home to make excursions exciting and entertaining.
There is a need to encourage more young people to get outdoors, and what better way to connect with nature than by watching ducks, geese, swans and other water birds flock to locations where large, open water provides security and adjacent wetlands and fields provide food for resident birds and those making a migration stop over.
The sheer numbers of these bigger, colorful birds makes viewing relatively easy and are a great species group to learn identification skills. Whether on water or foraging in fields, waterfowl are relatively stationary, so you will have longer viewing time. Many species of ducks have exceptional markings making identification easier compared to song birds.
While WDFW underscores the pleasure of waterfowl watching, it also underscores the need for refuge visitors to be respectful of all the wildlife. Whether on viewing platforms or boardwalks at parks and refuges, remember you are in their home. If you get too close or make too much noise, you might alarm the birds and they could flush. When viewing winter waterfowl, the department suggests the following:
• Use binoculars or scopes to keep your distance, but still watch closely.
• Use telephoto lenses on cameras to get that great picture without getting too close.
•  Move quietly, slowly, and in plain view.
• Use a viewing blind if one is provided.
• Avoid use of calls or tape recordings of calls.
•  Divide large groups of people into small groups to be less disturbing.
•  Don’t feed ducks or geese, and don’t leave litter they might mistake for food.
WDFW is also stressing the need to respect property of others by viewing waterfowl on public land whenever possible. In Washington, it is your responsibility to know if you are on private property. It doesn’t need to be posted or fenced. If it is necessary to cross private property, always ask permission of the landowner before doing so.
Washington has a wealth of spots where fall and winter waterfowl viewing is exceptional. All seven of the Washington State Birding Trail maps, sponsored by the Audubon Washington, WDFW and others, include fall-winter locations.
Some of the best fall-winter viewing spots in our area, based in part on accessibility and proximity to population centers, are the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, located northeast of Olympia; Capital Lake, located in Olympia; and the WDFW water access site at American Lake in Lakewood.

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