By Gene Bullock
We dream of roaming the globe in search of Nature at its most exotic extremes, but the sad fact is there is no carbon-free lunch. Globe-trotting nature lovers may be harming the very places and creatures they love.
But bird-watchers are waking up to the guilt-free pleasures of birding close to home. There are wonderful places to visit and wildlife to enjoy right here in Kitsap County. The Puget Loop of the Great Washington Birding Trail describes seven of the best bird-watching locations in Kitsap County. (Available for $6 from Kitsap Audubon Society, PO Box 961, Poulsbo, WA 98370.)
Local birders all have their favorites, but Point-No-Point County Park in Hansville (No. 32 on the Puget Loop Map) tops most lists of Kitsap’s best bird-watching locations. Its 60.8 acres of wetlands and shoreline are vital stopovers for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Tidal eddies create an upwelling of nutrients that attract schools of bait fish, which attract salmon, and birds by the thousands.
Point-No-Point County Park is also recognized by National Audubon as an IBA, or Important Bird Area. IBAs are recognized internationally as key areas for nesting or migrating birds that warrant special protection. These sites along the Pacific Flyway provide important stopovers as birds travel between the summer nesting sites in the Arctic, to wintering sites from the southern U.S. as far south as Terra del Fuego. Habitat loss in these areas can have a huge impact on the survival of key species.
During migration, Point-No-Point serves as a rest stop and jumping off point for birds crossing the Admiralty Straits, as well as foraging flocks of Common Terns, Heerman’s Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Red-necked Phalaropes and a host of others. Parasitic Jaegers often tag along and put on spectacular aerial displays as they bully smaller birds into giving up their food.
The Point is also a popular winter hangout for Ancient Murrelets, Marbled Murrelets, Rhinocerus Auklets, and a variety of wintering loons, grebes, scoters and other marine birds. There is often a surprise or two, bringing flocks of birders from every corner of the state.
A trail that skirts the shoreline features a viewing platform funded by the Kitsap Audubon Society. It looks east across Puget Sound and west toward an extensive wetlands. The wild rose and blackberry thickets that border the trail are often alive with smaller birds. The trail leads from the lighthouse to a hilltop park with prime wooded habitat.
Lighthouse tours: Docents will be on hand at the lighthouse to share information and history with visitors as well. Lighthouse hours are noon to 4 p.m. on weekends, April through September.
A short distance away, next to the Hansville general store, Norwegian County Park offers similar views. Like Point No Point, it looks across Admiralty Inlet toward Whidbey Island and gets much the same marine activity. Rafts of birds wander back and forth, so it’s worth checking both view locations.The Hansville Greenway links this area with trails through Buck Lake County Park, where Ospreys nest in the summer and Eagles reign in winter. A few miles past the general store is a Nature Conservancy site known as Foulweather Bluff. It is poorly marked, hard to find and offers limited parking, but ambitious birders are rewarded with great birds and views.