Life from the Ferry Lane Winter Birds at the San Juan Islands

Anacortes, Washington

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During the stormy days of winter, enjoy a cozy ferryboat ride and driving tour to view wildlife of the San Juan Islands. All along the ferry route you will see birds feeding in the quiet bays and in the swirling waters where currents converge. You have a good chance of seeing loons (Pacific, common); grebes (horned, western); cormorants (Brandt’s, double-crested); sea ducks (harlequin ducks, oldsquaw or “long-tailed duck,” white-winged scoter, common and Barrow’s goldeneye, bufflehead); mergansers (hooded, common, red-breasted); alcids (common murre, pigeon guillemot, marbled murrelet); and gulls (mew, Thayer’s, Bonaparte’s). Common bay ducks include ring-necked ducks and scaups. The waters of the San Juan Islands, relatively empty of seabirds during the summer, teem with birds in late fall and early winter. Pick up a copy of Birding in the San Juan Islands by Mark Lewis and Fred Sharpe before you go.The good news is that it describes all the best locations in the islands to see birds and marine mammals; the sad news is that the huge numbers of migrating and wintering birds present when the book was written in 1987 just aren’t there anymore. So don’t expect large numbers, do enjoy what you see, and, if you feel bad enough, volunteer to work on a habitat-protection campaign.

Life from the Ferry Lane: Winter Birds at the San Juan Islands Professional Review and Guide

"During the stormy days of winter, enjoy a cozy ferryboat ride and driving tour to view wildlife of the San Juan Islands. All along the ferry route you will see birds feeding in the quiet bays and in the swirling waters where currents converge. You have a good chance of seeing loons (Pacific, common); grebes (horned, western); cormorants (Brandt’s, double-crested); sea ducks (harlequin ducks, oldsquaw or “long-tailed duck,” white-winged scoter, common and Barrow’s goldeneye, bufflehead); mergansers (hooded, common, red-breasted); alcids (common murre, pigeon guillemot, marbled murrelet); and gulls (mew, Thayer’s, Bonaparte’s). Common bay ducks include ring-necked ducks and scaups.

The waters of the San Juan Islands, relatively empty of seabirds during the summer, teem with birds in late fall and early winter. Pick up a copy of Birding in the San Juan Islands by Mark Lewis and Fred Sharpe before you go.The good news is that it describes all the best locations in the islands to see birds and marine mammals; the sad news is that the huge numbers of migrating and wintering birds present when the book was written in 1987 just aren’t there anymore. So don’t expect large numbers, do enjoy what you see, and, if you feel bad enough, volunteer to work on a habitat-protection campaign."

Activity Type: Birding
Nearby City: Anacortes
Duration: A day to ride the ferry; a weekend to ride the ferry
Best Times: Best January; all winter is good
Local Contacts: San Juan Islands Tourism
Driving Directions: Directions to Life from the Ferry Lane: Winter Birds at the San Juan Islands

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May 2018