Thursday, March 07, 2013

Shorebirds at Port Susan

The Puget Sound area is a wonderland for shorebirds during winter and the spring and autumn migration. Tens of thousands spend the winter or stop by for days or weeks along their route. Dunlins, snow geese, brants, surf scoters, golden eyes… and more.

Lynda Mapes in Seattle Times features Port Susan, where the Stillaguamish River hits salt water.
So important is Port Susan Bay as habitat for these shorebirds, that the Greater Stillaguamish Delta, of which it is a part, and the Greater Skagit Delta next door to the north, have just been named a site of regional importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. 
The only one in Puget Sound, the designation recognizes that the Greater Stilly and Skagit Delta — which the birds use as one connected habitat — is an important stopover and wintering ground for more than 20,000 shorebirds a year. 
Any birder will tell you that’s a conservative estimate. The area routinely hosts tens of thousands of shorebirds here, arriving in living ribbons of flight.
On a recent morning the Dunlins’ flight, so beautiful to us, was all business for them. Eat or be eaten: That was the agenda. “That’s over-ocean flight; they will do that for hours,” Milner said, watching the Dunlins sweep back and forth over Port Susan Bay. 
“It’s cheaper for them to spend the calories flying,” Milner said, “than to be on the ground where they will get nailed.” 
The Nature Conservancy of Washington has just completed a restoration project to make its more than 4,000-acre Port Susan Bay Preserve even better. The $4 million project restored 150 acres of tidelands by taking out a 1.4-mile dike and replacing it with a smaller one, set farther back toward the land.
And the Skagit River
Today the Stilly and Skagit deltas together comprise more than 90,000 acres of tidally influenced marine and coastal wetlands that shorebirds depend on. 
North of Port Susan Bay, at Big Ditch, as the preserve owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife on the Skagit Delta is known, the importance of these lands for other wildlife, too, was soon obvious.
We have become fans of the Skagit River delta the past few years. Economic Freedom We see clouds of snow geese on every winter trip.

Also Seattle Times Field Notes Blog.

The photos: Seattle Times. Second one by Mike McQuade. Click to enlarge.

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