Sandhill Cranes by Douglas Chewning, Audubon Photography Awards
Recommendations from our members
Just like birds this spring, our Seattle Audubon members enjoy being on the move. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of great destinations around the globe to experience unique bird species and spectacles. Here are just five in North America you might take a look at before scheduling your next adventure.
Stop by the Nature Shop to peruse our extensive selection of new and used field guides to inspire your next bird-oriented vacation. Or, take a peek at the geography section of the lending library if you want to start your travel plans and be inspired.
Marbled Godwit and Sanderling in Grays Harbor, WA, photo by Janine Schutt, Audubon Photography Awards
Grays Harbor, Washington
Grays Harbor County coastline, along the central Washington coast, brings a spring migration spectacle of shorebirds. With more than 1,500 acres of salt marsh and mudflats, this area is one of four main stop-overs for shorebirds to feed and rest. Dunlin, Sanderlings, plovers, and sandpipers are just some of the tens of thousands of shorebirds that stop here in the spring during their journey between South America and the Arctic. A few specific locations to consider during your visit include the Bowerman Basin, Bottle Beach State Park, and Hoquiam, for the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird And Nature Festival in May.
A member, and Nature Shop volunteer, describes her visit there as awe-inspiring: “Thousands of very hungry shorebirds were feeding ravenously. Occasionally, a Peregrine Falcon or other raptor would swoop through and send large flocks of shorebirds into the sky. They moved as a group in these beautiful patterns across the sky.”
Travel Tip: Check the tide table and plan your visit to the beach about 2 hours before high tide. Find a good spot and stay there. As the tide comes, the birds will slowly move to higher ground, bringing them right to you without startling them.
Other sites of interest in the area might include a stop at the Quinault Tribal Museum, or a glimpse of the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree.
Flammulated Owl chicks, photo by Jill Ericsson
Southwest Desert, Arizona and New Mexico
The high deserts of Arizona and Mexico are a delight to visit for birders, particularly in the cooler months of spring and fall that coincide with migration. Some of the destinations to consider folding in to your trip might include:
Bosque de Apache Wildlife Refuge in southern New Mexico.
The nearly 60,000-acre refuge (more than half a designated as wilderness) is nestled between two mountain ranges and offers a stop-over for migrating waterfowl in the human-made marsh and flood plain. More than 374 different bird species have been reported here, but it is best known for large migrations of 10,000 Sandhill Cranes, and 20,000 Ross and Snow Geese in the fall.
Chiricahua National Monument, east of Tucson, AZ
The unique and varied habitat of these mountains bring a wide variety of species, many of which are not found elsewhere in the U.S. Some of those include the Acorn Woodpecker, thirteen species of hummingbirds, and Gould’s Turkey, which was successfully reintroduced to the area in the 1990’s. And there are occasional sightings of species whose range barely extends into the United States, like the Elegant Trogan.
Seattle Audubon member, Jill Ericsson has traveled here several springs to volunteer with a nonprofit group studying the impacts of climate change on trees, and subsequently cavity-nesting birds in the region, including the Flammulated Owl, Elf Owl, Whiskered Screech-Owl, and Mexican Spotted Owl.
The Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia, Arizona
Tucson Audubon Society’s hummingbird center is dedicated to the celebration and conservation of hummingbirds and other specialty birds of Southeast Arizona. The shaded pavilion offers visitors a chance to see Violet-crowned Hummingbirds and other local favorites stop by the feeders, meadow or pond.
Great Kiskadee and Green Jay in south Texas, photos by Tom Rohrer
Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas hosts unique birds and subtropical habitats that are more akin to northeastern Mexico than to anywhere else in the United States. Birders will be greeted with wonderful thorn scrub forests, riparian woodlands, and palm-lined oxbow lakes that host the likes of Plain Chachalaca, Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Great Kiskadee, and Ringed Kingfisher.
Member Tom Rohrer provides us with a list of his favorite birding spots in the area:
- Must sees for any South Texas itinerary: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley and Estero Llano Grande
- Additional fantastic locals: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Sabal Palms Sanctuary, and other sites of the World Birding Center are fantastic.
- Further west: Habitat and bird diversity can be added by venturing to the cactus and mesquite of Falcon State Park
- Further east: the coastal habitats of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and South Padre Island
With so many special resident species, any season is great to visit. Winter has mild weather, wintering waterfowl and song birds, and good chances for vagrant rarities from Mexico. Spring and Fall add the excitement migrant birds passing through.
Travel Tip: The stretch of Highway 2 that connects McAllen to Harlingen makes a good base from which to explore the The Valley. The Alamo Inn B&B is centrally located and caters to bird-seeking tourists.
Painted Bunting, photo by Jack Rodgers, Audubon Photography Awards
Point Pelee, Ontario
At the Southern-most point of mainland Canada, on the banks of Lake Erie is Point Pelee National Park. More than 390 species of birds have been recorded in this small natural area, and more than 100 species remain here during breeding season. Bird (and butterfly) diversity is at its peak during spring and fall migration, and especially during the May Festival of Birds. Visitors can roam along miles of trails which pass through marsh, grassy savannah, sandy shorelines, and swampy forest land.
Also known as the Warbler Capital of Canada, in addition to the nearly 40 warbler species found there, it is also a popular place to spot a Painted Bunting, or a Swallow-tailed Kite.
Those who aren’t up for a trip that requires a passport can enjoy a similar experience from the Ohio side of Lake Erie. Just outside of Toledo, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area serves as a stopover for the same birds before they continue on to Point Pelee. Magee Marsh boasts the Biggest Week in American Birding with a festival May 6-15.
Sketch of Malheur by Carleen Zimmerman during her visit to the Refuge
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Located in the southeastern Oregon’s high desert, Malheur is famous for large concentrations of wildlife and birds, especially colony nesters, which are attracted the Refuge’s diverse habitat. Because the surrounding landscape is predominately desert and mountains, the abundance of water sources in the Refuge play an important role to attract numerous species including phoebes, Burrowing Owls, Sandhill Cranes with colts, and Ferruginous Hawks. The Refuge borders a number of farms and ranches, whose owners choose to flood their fields in the winter months, attracting waterfowl and shorebirds, or leave hay fields to go to seed in the fall to feed songbirds.
At more than 187,000 acres, Malheur provides ample resting, breeding, and nesting area for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Conveniently, the Visitors Center is a hot spot for some less common species. Members Neil and Carleen Zimmerman were excited to report seeing a Lewis’ Woodpecker and a Black-and-white Warbler last May during their visit. And one year, they witnessed a coyote snatch-up a White-faced Ibis.
Malheur became the center of National media attention in 2016, when an armed group of extremists occupied the headquarters of Malheur for over a month, causing extensive damage to the buildings and property. Refuge staff and volunteers have worked hard to repair the ecological and infrastructure damage that occurred during this time, and are welcoming visitors after a brief repair closure.
Prepare for Your Next Birding Adventure
The Nature Shop sells field guides for local and international destinations to help you prepare for your next birding adventure.
Shop destination guides online, or stop by the Nature Shop to purchased new and used books, or borrow one from our Member Lending Library.
Member Lending Library: Birds, Travel, & Behavior
by Mike Seamans and Shirli Axelrod
If you’ve never set foot in the basement of the Nature Shop, you may not be aware of the treasure trove of bird books available for our members. Take a peek inside our Member Lending Library, and borrow a book during your next visit.
From Young Birder, to Collision Monitor, to Lifelong Advocate
Spotlight on teen member Yoon Lee
Yoon isn’t sure where to credit his fascination with birds – Wild Kratts television show, an Anna’s Hummingbird on his school campus, or a global pandemic. Whatever his inspiration, it is here to stay, and he is busy creating a better future for birds in our community through his activism.
Make the Most of Nesting Season
by Dan McDougall-Treacy
What a joy it can be to observe the nesting and fledging of birds from home. Depending on the species you might be trying to attract, providing nesting materials and nest boxes, and modifying your own garden practices, can set birds up for greater success.