The 10th Annual Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival

Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival >
………………………Birding Around the Port Susan Area

Stanwood and Camano Island’s mild weather and central location within Washington’s beautiful Puget Sound makes it an attractive year-round destination for people and wildlife. Permanent residents include the Great Blue Heron, Eagles, Hawks, and shorebirds. The area is home for several species of duck which often all can be seen from a single vantage point.

In the early winter months, Snow Geese stop over as they migrate south for the winter. Bald Eagles have a strong presence on Camano Island as well. Open fields, wetlands and miles of scenic coastline encourage a diverse bird and wildlife population, no matter what time of year you visit! The many parks on Camano Island offer many locations from which to watch a very wide variety of birds, both local and migrating.

Birding On Camano Island

+ Eide Road

Turn south on Eide Rd, just west of the Mark Clark Bridge. Eide Rd follows the levee along the east side of Leque Island. Excellent for wintering sparrows, raptors, short-eared owls, and snow geese.

+ Livingston Bay

Turn south on Fox Trot Way (off SR532) to end (0.2 mi). Best at high tide in early morning or late afternoon. Good area for ducks.

Livingston Bay and Triangle Cove make up the south shoreline on the Camano neck. Turn left (south) on Livingston Bay Shore Drive and scope out the bay from the dead end. The bay offers enormous mud flats at low tide, with appropriate birds. Triangle Cove is reached by driving farther west on SR532 and turning left on East Camano Drive at the "Information Center." Turn left on Lehman Road about 2.5 miles down East Camano. Immediately turn left onto a gravel road that cuts across the marsh to the head of the cove.

+ English Boom Historical Preserve

Follow Moore Rd to end. Excellent year round. Look for raptors, loons, scoters, ducks, great blue herons, shorebirds in migration, passerines and nesting purple martins (in summer). Bald eagle and osprey nest here. At low tide, seals haul out on exposed sand banks.

+ Utsaldy Boat Ramp

Follow Utsaldy Point Rd to end. Good for deep water birds, such as loons, scoters and goldeneyes. A sheltered bay, it offers a good variety of seabirds. Search Saratoga Passage for alcids and sea ducks. Beach Drive rejoins West Camano Drive. At the south end of the island, stop at the state park and look for Harlequins from the bluff.

+ Maple Grove Boat Launch

Follow Maple Grove Rd to the boat launch. Saratoga Passage is at its narrowest here and the deep channel is close to shore. Loons, Harelquin ducks, cormorants & alcids are possible here.

+ Kristoferson Beaver Marsh

On Can Ku Rd across from the animal shelter. Take a short trail to a platform to look out over the beaver marsh. Good for passerines and hooded merganser.

+ Iverson Spit Preservere

Follow Iverson Rd to the parking area. Iverson Spit Preserve’s diverse habitat consists of extensive salt water, mudflats, marsh and beach, with shrub and cropland nestled against a forested hillside. Over 130 species of birds have been seen here. Iverson Spit Preserve is on the Great WA State Trail Birding Map, Cascade Loop. River otters and coyotes are seen regularly.

+ Four Springs Lake Preserve

Follow Lewis Lane to the end. This new 50-acre preserve consists of a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest with a lake and extensive wetlands. A 1-mile perimeter trail is available for public use. Bald eagle, pileated woodpecker and wood ducks are common sightings.

+ Cama Beach State Park

Cama Beach is located on the southwest shore of Camano Island, facing Saratoga Passage. Cama Beach offers visitors a chance to step back in time to a 1930s-era Puget Sound fishing resort complete with waterfront cedar cabins and bungalows. These have been refurbished, with modern conveniences added, and are available for rent year round to individuals and groups. A 90-minute drive from Seattle, Cama Beach offers day and overnight visitors alike a time capsule experience.

+ Camano Island State Park

This park has several hiking trails that take in the diversity of the park habitats, including mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, wetland and extensive salt water (Saratoga Passage). Bald eagles, Harlequin ducks, loons, pileated woodpeckers and mixed flocks of chickadees, kinglets and creepers are common.

Birding Around Stanwood

+ Nature Conservancy - Port Susan Bay Preserve

(No map is available as this is private property)

The Nature Conservancy manages the property in a way that benefits the estuary and wetlands, the birds, salmon and other wildlife. While they work on a management plan for the preserve, visitation is by permission or by way of organized field trips.

Please do not trespass on this managed and delicate preserve!

Read more about the Port Susan Bay Preserve -
Fact Sheet

Visit The Nature Conservancy

+ The Big Ditch

At end of Big Ditch Access Rd off Old Pacific Highway. Excellent in winter for wintering raptors and snow geese. Snowy owls are often winter visitors.

+ Stanwood Mitigated Wetlands

Located west of Heritage Park. Good for ducks, great blue herons, raptors and eventually passerines (when the newly planted vegetation grows larger).

+ Thomle and Boe Road

Located off Marine Dr, south of Stanwood, on the Stillaguamish Delta. The main attractions in winter are snow geese, wintering raptors, and sparrows in the thickets along Thomle Rd.

Thomle Road and Boe Road south of Stanwood offer access to the open fields and dikes of the Stilly delta. Take Marine View Drive south (it goes under SR-532) to Thomle Road, which parallels the main river channel and ends among fields offering pipits, meadowlarks, and even Savannah Sparrows in some winters. The trees along the channel are good for raptors. Boe Road exits Marine View north just before the Hat Slough bridge. A state fishing access offers a restroom of sorts.

Boe Road dead ends at the Port Susan Bay dike, where views of the bay offer vistas of Snow Geese and sometimes swans. If people are visible at the house at the dike, ask permission before going out on it. Check all the fields for raptors, shorebirds, and gulls.

+ Legue Island

Leque Island, located west of Stanwood between Port Susan and Skagit bays, was once entirely salt marsh. Today it consists of wetlands and diked agricultural fields. Since 1974, WDFW has purchased a majority of the island (325 acres). Contract farmers annually plant cereal grain as food for wintering waterfowl (mainly ducks and snow geese). This site offers bird watching, bird dog training, and pheasant and waterfowl hunting. In 1982, a storm combined with a high tide breeched the lower southern dike in two places, flooding both state and private property on the island. Efforts to rebuild the dikes have been proposed since 1973, when the first parcel was acquired. Currently, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has funded a cooperative project between Ducks Unlimited and WDFW to restore about 100 acres of Leque Island to intertidal estuary. Setback levees will be built on the south and north ends of the island, and dikes removed to reconnect sloughs with the Stillaguamish River. This will restore tidal flooding, provide habitat where juvenile salmon can make the transition from a fresh to saltwater environment, and benefit other fish and wildlife species.

+ Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit

This managed agricultural land (225 acres on the south side of Fir Island Road) was purchased in 1995 to create a snow goose reserve. This non hunted reserve provides a winter-feeding and resting area for snow geese adjacent to the Skagit Bay estuary. A local farmer is contracted to plant a cover crop of winter wheat for snow geese after harvesting cash crops. This sharecropper also plants winter wheat on his adjoining property and places his farm in a formal game reserve, providing an additional 295 acres of winter food and resting area for the snow geese. Prior to dike development and conversion to agricultural uses after human settlement, this area was tidally influenced, and the North Fork of the Skagit River flowed through Dry Slough during high flows. This unit is a popular wildlife watching site, and has a gravel road and parking area with access for the disabled.

+ Skagit Bay Esturary Unit

Prior to the 1940s, the USFWS owned 7,425 acres of inter-tidal marsh and second-class tidelands on Skagit Bay. In 1959 land exchange agreement, the federal government conveyed all of its bay ownership to the Washington Department of Game for Columbia white-tailed deer habitat in southwest Washington. With additional acquisitions over the years, WDFW now owns about 13,000 acres of estuary in Skagit, Snohomish and Island counties. There are six access sites (Headquarters, Milltown, Big Ditch, Jensen, North Fork, and Davis Slough) and one boat ramp (Headquarters Unit) for waterfowl hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, hiking, boating and kayaking.

The Skagit estuary contains critical habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds, fish and other aquatic species. Prior to conversion, the Skagit estuary covered approximately 25,766 acres. It is estimated that 75 percent of the historic estuary habitat has been lost due to dike building, water diversion, and drainage before the turn of the century, and changes in the frequency and magnitude of flood events on the Skagit and Stillaguamish rivers. Upper Skagit River hydroelectric dams have also contributed to the loss of estuary habitat. WDFW is working with the Skagit River System Cooperative to restore natural hydrologic processes in the estuary to benefit salmon, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other aquatic species.

Festival Notes: