The Washington Outdoor Report - week of Feb. 8

February is for the birds

Courtesy John Kruse Sparrows at the backyard bird feeder.

Courtesy John Kruse A killdeer at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.
Bird hunting season is over for the most part but bird watching season is in full swing with several opportunities and events taking place this month around Washington State.


No matter where you live you can participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Taking place between February 12 and February 15, it’s easy to be part of this citizen science project. Simply spend 15 minutes or more on any one of these four days watching birds and report what you see at As the name of the event implies, many of these observations take place in the backyard, watching birds come and go from bird feeders. However, you are not limited to your yard. You can participate in any place you choose to go to.


If you are looking for some ideas about where to go consider some of the National Wildlife Refuges located in Eastern Washington. The Little Pend Oreille (near Colville), Turnbull (near Cheney), Columbia (near Othello) and Toppenish National Wildlife Refuges all offer outstanding bird habitat allowing you to see everything from waterfowl to shorebirds to song birds, upland birds and raptors.


With hunting season over, our state wildlife areas also afford excellent bird (and wildlife) watching opportunities this week. One of the best to visit is the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. At 160,000 plus acres this state land covers a good portion of rural Grant and Adams Counties and offers everything from desert habitat to wetlands to creeks, rivers and lakes offering a wide variety of habitat for birds throughout the year. Numerous other state wildlife areas also offer uncrowded access to wildlife watchers this month. You can find where they are by going to Do keep in mind a Discovery Pass or Fish and Wildlife Access Pass is required to park in any of these areas or access sites.


Finally, if you enjoy seeing bald eagles head towards the Columbia River Gorge. The Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, a non-profit organization, and several partners are doing their 11th annual Eagle Watch a little different this year. Normally, there would be guided hikes and viewing opportunities to see the numerous bald eagles that spend the winter along the Columbia River but thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s event will be virtual.


The highlight will be a live webinar on Tuesday, February 16 at 6 p.m. If you want to learn about eagle behavior, migration patterns, biology and why so many bald eagles come to the Columbia River Gorge every winter, this promises to be an educational experience. Speakers include Morgan Olson, the Raptor Educator at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. Matthew Stuber, a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service will also be speaking as well Amber Tilton, a park ranger for the US Army Corps of Engineers, working at The Dalles Lock and Dam. There is not cost to attend this online webinar but you are asked to register in advance. You can do so through the events page at After you take in the webinar, consider heading to the Columbia River Gorge with a camera and a pair of binoculars and check out our national bird in person!


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