By Gene Bullock
For many, birdwatching means putting out a hanging feeder and watching the ever-changing scene through the window. It’s like looking out from the inside of a big aquarium.
For others, there’s nothing like the exhilaration of getting outdoors and watching wildlife up close in its natural habitat. For the adventurous, Kitsap offers a bounty of nearby birdwatching locations.
Outdoor buffs usually want to get as far away from the city as they can. But Bremerton’s waterfront parks along the Port Washington Narrows can provide some of the best winter birdwatching in Kitsap.
— Lions Park (Site No. 28 on the Puget Loop Map of the Great Washington Birding Trail) is a half mile north of the Warren Avenue Bridge on Lebo Boulevard.
The park’s 15 family-friendly acres and 1,953 feet of saltwater shoreline offer exceptional views of the Port Washington Narrows. With the morning sun at your back, the birds are well lighted and easy to see. The park is popular with photographers who prize its panoramic view of the snow-capped Olympics, with the Bremerton skyline skirting the foreground.
Along this stretch, the park looks out on a mile-wide waterway that’s sheltered from ocean winds and open seas. It attracts a surprising variety of wintering birds, including most of the species that frequent Kitsap’s coastlines. The park is one of the most productive and accessible winter birdwatching sites in Kitsap County in spite of its urban setting.
Abundant flocks of American Wigeons forage along its grassy areas. Their cream-colored caps prompted duck hunters to nickname them “bald pates.” Attentive birders can usually find one of more of their less common cousins, the Eurasian Wigeon. Eurasian Wigeons have a cinnamon-colored head that offers a striking contrast with the greens and grays of American Wigeons. The two sometimes interbreed, so hybrids can be harder to identify.
Don’t forget to check the shrubs and clusters of trees along the margins for resident Scrub Jays.
To round out your day, be sure to visit Bremerton’s other parks, including Evergreen Rotary Park and Lower Rota Vista Park.
— Evergreen Park is the crown jewel of Bremerton’s well-maintained and very popular battery of public parks. Underscoring its importance, the park is situated at the end of Park Avenue.
The park’s waterfront offers many of the same species as Lions Park, but often provides such bonus species as the resident pair of Hooded Mergansers.— Lower Rota Vista Park is a hidden gem known to serious birders for its view of the unique colony of Pelagic Cormorants that nests beneath the Warren Avenue Bridge. A pair of Peregrine Falcons also nests there.
This charming little park is down a steep incline accessed by a set of steps and handrail funded by the Kitsap Audubon Society. An interpretive sign placed there by Kitsap Audubon explains the special importance of this unique site and commemorates Ivan Summers, who championed this birdwatching treasure and was instrumental in getting funding to make it more accessible.
There is very limited on-street parking at the end of Elizabeth Street near the entrance to the park.
— Contact Kitsap Birdwatching columnist Gene Bullock at email@example.com.