Saturday, March 29, 2014

Skagit Wildlife Area - Headquarters (Skagit) Unit - March 27, 2014

I was on the tail end of a nasty cold and cycling, skiing, or hiking didn't sound too good.  I opted for an easy drive up to the Skagit Valley for some easy walking and birding.  A stop at Pleasant Ridge Farm in Rexville and the Breadfarm in Edison would add a hunting and gathering element.  Plus the daffodils would be at peak but still too early for tulips.

The Skagit Wildlife Area - Headquarters (Skagit) Unit is one of 16 separate units in the Skagit region owned and managed for the benefit of wildlife by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW).  The Skagit Unit includes 190 acres of mostly estuary and tidal wetland.  This is also stop 64 on the Cascade Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail.

Great Washington State Birding Trail

I parked at the big parking lot at the eastern end.  I checked out the boat ramp where an old barge was tied.  I followed the only path here, which is the dike trail that is basically a gravel road on and next to a newly constructed dike.  The path forks at the tide gate on Wylie Slough so you have two options.  I took the left path, basically out and back, for a total of two miles for the day.  It was a beautiful day of clearing weather with big clouds and blue skies.  The trees had not yet leafed out but the salmonberry was in bloom as the harbinger of spring.  An eagle's nest was already active.

I ran into a gentleman on a bicycle along the way who explained some of the controversy surrounding a recent restoration project in this area.  He spoke with a Scottish brogue and had a beautiful and very friendly golden lab.  So bicycles and dogs are probably allowed here.

The recent controversy is the Wiley Slough Restoration Project implemented in 2009 to restore 157 acres back to tidal estuarine habitat primarily to help with Chinook salmon recovery.  The 157 acres had been formerly diked off from tidal and river influence and was readily accessible to walk-in hunters and wildlife watchers.  The recovery operation involved the removal of the old dikes and the moving of the Wylie Slough tide gate to open the area to tidal and riverine flooding.  New dikes were constructed further away from the river.  The restoration project reduced the area of access that hunters formerly had.  You can now see a lot of dead trees in the restoration area, trees that cannot tolerate wet feet or brackish water.

It was a great few hours here, added a new bird to my list (Greater yellowlegs), and I learned a little something.
Entrance to Skagit Wildlife Area
Old barge at the boat launch
Dike trail
Cattails fading
Eagle's nest
Looking out to Skagit Bay
Satellite view and the route (adapted from
Bird list for the day:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
hummingbird sp.
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

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