With its wealth of shoreline, fresh and saltwater marshes, mudflats, and of course the bountiful forest, the fjord is a birders’ paradise.
And whereas winter and spring aren’t the most popular seasons for human tourists (meaning less competition for lodging and dining), they happen to be the best for catching the avian crowds. From soaring birds of prey to elusive divers, birdwatching is one more reason to head to the Canal.
The Audubon Society’s Great Washington State Birding Trail is a great resource.
Below we've included three birding areas to get you started!
Located at the head of Hood Canal the Theler Wetlands offers several accessible walking trails within a protected salt marsh and estuary wetlands. The Theler Wetlands of Belfair include a gorgeous salt water estuary. The wetlands are accessible through many miles of level trails and boardwalks, surrounded by roses, shrubs, and blackberries in bloom in the summer months. The trails amount to 3.5 miles round-trip, with the option of three different routes.
The Union River Estuary Trail is the longest trail offered. To the left of the trail is an old dike that travels through some of the tidal wetlands, and to the right is fresh water marshes filled with cattails and tall grasses.
The viewing point from this perspective is spectacular! There are 360-degree views of the Union River, Hood Canal, and the Olympic Mountains.
Sam Theler, a real estate developer, deeded the wetlands to the North Mason School district in 1968 in honor of his wife.
Families can give these trails a visit, and if they are open, displays and hands-on exhibits are available to examine. They help to teach more about the wetlands ecosystem. There are mounted animals with plaques of information on each, along with a gray whale skeleton for display. There is a picnic area and a restroom as well. Keep an eye out for the many birdhouses along each trail—they are hard to miss! Often spotted are red-winged blackbirds, kingfishers, herons, eagles, otters, and geese. These trails are perfect for people of all ages.
Twanoh State Park
Twanoh State Park is a favorite in the summer for swimming and watersports, but the quieter winter and spring months make it a great place for viewing wildlife and birds. Bring your binoculars to the shoreline for an eyeful of diving birds such as loons, mergansers, murrelets, and ruddy ducks with their distinctive upright tails. In the towering cedars and maples inland, listen for brown creepers and red crossbills.
Potlatch State Park
Like Twanoh, Potlatch bustles with humans in the summer and birds in the winter and spring. With 5,700 feet of saltwater shoreline, it’s a great place for viewing waterfowl, particularly during high tide. In the water, look for heron, scoters and scaups, and check the trees for fox sparrows and Steller’s jays.
For a complete list of bird sites check out this great PDF Audubon Guide.