The Nature Conservancy (website) - Washington, The Eagles Have Landed
Is this a slow time of year for bird-watching in western Washington? Nope! Many birds spend their winters here. One year-round hot spot for watching birds is the Skagit River. And each winter bird-watching takes on an exciting new dimension along the Skagit.
In December and January hundreds of bald eagles return to the Skagit to feast on chum salmon that swim up the Skagit and its tributaries. They come in numbers so great it’s hard to count. You’ll see them perched on trees and feeding on the river’s edge. And they draw a crowd.
The Skagit River is one of the best areas in the nation for viewing bald eagles. Tourists and locals come to the Skagit with hopes of getting a glimpse and taking photographs. Folks at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport are there to help. They outfit eagle-watchers with directions, tours and tips.
How the Conservancy Helps
Along with tourists who come to get a glimpse of these majestic creatures, you’ll find Conservancy scientists hard at work. Since 1975 we’ve helped monitor the returning eagles. Our surveys supply information on the health of the Skagit ecosystem and provide an in-depth look at long-term trends in eagle populations.
Our involvement in this region goes even deeper. We’ve been working to protect the Skagit River for more than 30 years, with conservation plans grounded in science and respectful of the people who work and play here. We have permanently protected habitat eagles need near the river, and helped partners do the same. In the Skagit’s lowlands, we’re partnering with the agricultural community in both our Farming for Wildlife program, and a restoration project at Fisher Slough.
Where to View the Eagles
Drive Highway 20 east from I-5 to the tiny town of Rockport, where the Sauk River meets the Skagit. Walk out on the bridge that crosses the Skagit and look for eagles perched in the alders and maples that line the banks.
Drive farther east on Highway 20 – the next 10 miles of river includes much of the Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area. Pullouts along the highway offer safe spots to search for eagles studding the trees or walking on the river’s gravel bars eating away.
Click here for more eagle-watching tips.
Nature picture credits (top to bottom, left to right): Photo © Art Wolfe (four wintering bald eagles); Photo © Phil Green/ The Nature Conservancy (bald eagle in flight).