Observing the Fall Bird Migration

West Coast
Canadian Geese
Browsing Canadian Geese. (Refuge Reporter)

Grays Harbor, WA

Grays Harbor is Washington’s second largest coastal estuary. It's a crucial stopover for migrating shorebirds—as many as 24 species. This estuary is critical to shorebirds because of the nearly 58,000 acres or largely mudflats and salt marshes that provide ideal feeding sites, the high concentration of invertebrates upon which shorebirds feed, and because it is one of the few such sites available in this part of the Pacific coasts. The birds make intermittent stops along the coast to rest for prolonged periods beginning in August and accelerating in September and October. The most abundant species are the western sandpiper and dunlin, the short-billed and long-billed dowitcher, and semi-palmated plover, which are common sightings during migration. Grays Harbor is also one of the few areas on the west coast where red knots can be observed in any number.

Point Reyes, CA

Home to the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (www.prbo.org), this is an important research center as well as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The many varied habitats of Point Reyes invites a wide variety of birds to harbor within a compact area. Point Reyes is especially well-known for its interesting strays. If you want to catch something unusual, go out on a day when there's high overcast and wind blowing from the south. Search around near the coast at groups of trees and creek mouths. Nearby Marin Headlands has excellent hawk-watching and the enormous wetlands of San Francisco Bay is known far and wide for its shorebirds.

Sacramento NWR

Over 40 percent of the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway comes to the Sacramento Valley to winter. That's a lot of birds. Although hard to imagine today, Sacramento River water historically flooded about 5-million acres in the northern end of California's 400-mile-long Central Valley. The enormous wetlands were a bird paradise. Pronghorn, elk, and grizzly bears were also common. Sounds like a different world. On average during the past three years, from late November through mid-January, geese peak at about 900,000, and some 2 million ducks are quacking about. Between August and October, shorebirds are at their peak. And look for white pelicans, which are present all year round.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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