Sunny Walter's
Washington Nature Weekends

Bird Viewing Locations

(All photos on this site are © Sunny Walter unless otherwise noted)

 
Where to View Bald Eagles in Washington
and Southwest British Columbia
Northwest Washington and San Juan Islands
Upper Skagit River

See chapter 4 in
Washington Nature Weekends for where to view bald eagles on the Upper Skagit River.




San Juan Islands

You can see bald eagles from February through the summer as you travel by Washington State ferry throughout the San Juan Islands  (highest density of bald eagle nests in the state) or by car and foot on San Juan Island.
  • Cattle Point, American Camp - the churning waters of Cattle Pass teem with feeding birds; seals haul out on Goose Island at low tide; deer and rabbits are seen in the fields in early morning; and bald eagles soar overhead.
  • Pear Point - north of American Camp and south of Friday Harbor.  Here, you can get close to a bald eagle that roosts in a tree east of the gravel pit.

Birder's Top Spots tidbits
12/31/09
  • Washington Park, Anacortes
    Black oystercatchers and bald eagles frequent the shoreline.
  • Larrabee State Park
    Bald eagles in snags and great blue herons along the shoreline
  • Lowell Riverfront Trail, Everett
    Raptors here are bald eagles; red-tailed, sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks.
  • Camano Island Preserve
    Year-round residents: pileated woodpeckers, northern flickers, bald eagles.
  • Everett Waterfront
    Bald eagles and merlins stay year-round..

Nooksack River

The Nooksack River east of Bellingham is an excellent place to see wintering bald eagles. Numbers usually peak in early January. 

Best viewing places  (during an Olympic Mountain School of Photography workshop with Scott Bourne and Rod Barbee)  include:

  • SR 542 - eagle viewing pullout just east of MP 20
  • Mosquito Lake Rd - turn right and park  near the bridge  (The Welcome Store on at the intersection of SR 542 and Mosquito Lake Rd has outside restrooms) 
Whatcom County Parks constructed salmon habitat structures to create a protective environment for salmon. there are eagle viewing sites, interpretive signs, a walkway, and picnic tables.
    • Directions: drive east on SR 542 just past SR 9 (south) and turn right on Truck Rd.  Parking lot is on the right.
    • In 2002, the Nooksack's main braid swung south away from the park, but should swing north with more rain. 
    • If  it doesn't swing back you can turn right on the next road south of the park and then walk in ~1/4 mile to the main branch of the Nooksack.
Olympic Peninsula, Lower Columbia River, and Southwest Washington
Olympic Peninsula
  • On the Olympic Peninsula, bald eagles winter at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge near Sequim and along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Clallam Bay to Neah Bay.  
  • Eagles may also be seen along the Pacific Ocean, especially at beaches #2 and #3 near La Push.

Columbia River

The annual smelt run on the lower Columbia River and its tributaries attracts many birds, including bald eagles. 
  • Best bet is the Grays River from mid-January thru February (go in early Feb to be sure).  At the peak of the run, over 100 bald eagles may be seen perched in the trees along the river and feeding on the smelt south of Rosburg.
  • Huge swarms of gulls and terns feed on the smelt as they move up the Columbia River.  The southeast side of Puget Island (near Cathlamet) has some good viewing places to watch the birds swarming above the smelt.
The best eagle viewing site on the Columbia Gorge is the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery east of Carson in Skamania County.



Portland, Oregon

  • Sauvie Island, west of Portland,  is home to wintering  bald eagles and other raptors.  Eagles may be the most popular wintering raptor (20 or more may be present), but look also for Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Red-tailed, and Rough-legged Hawks; and an occasional Peregrine Falcon.
Directions: To reach the refuge, take US 30 northwest from Portland 10 miles (16 kilometers) and turn east to cross the Sauvie Island Bridge.
  • Other viewing opportunities: Tens of thousands of waterfowl congregate here in fall and winter, including Greater White-fronted, Snow, and Canada (abundant) Geese; Tundra Swan; and 15 or more species of ducks. Sandhill cranes are common in spring and fall migration and have been increasing as a wintering bird.

Birder's Top Spots tidbits
12/31/09
  • Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
    Resident bald eagles prepare nests in January.
  • Cowlitz Wildlife Area, Lewis County
    Ospreys, bald eagles, belted kingfishers fly through riparian corridor.
  • Damon Point, Ocean Shores
    Year-round find bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, Northern harriers and Peregrine falcons 
  • Quillayute River Estuary, La Push
    Find bald eagles in cottonwoods.


 
Cascades East Slope
Naches River
  • WDFW and U.S. Forest Service fish biologists place tons of fall chinook salmon carcasses in the American, Bumping and Little Naches rivers. The carcasses provide marine-derived nutrients, which in turn will produce insects for fish feed. Scavenging bald eagles fly in to eat the carcasses and provide excellent viewing opportunities in January.  Call the WDFW for salmon dumping dates and locations along highways 12 and 410.



Yakima

  • Wintering bald eagles are visible right in Yakima from the Yakima Greenway Trail along the Yakima River. 
  • You can also see eagles along the Yakima River from Hwy. 823 in the Yakima Canyon between Yakima and Ellensburg.  Be sure to look for bighorn sheep and mule deer in the canyon; they are easier to spot in winter.
Methow Valley
  • In eastern Washington, you can see bald eagles on the Methow River from Twisp to Mazama, as well as along the east side of the Columbia River below Brewster and up on the Waterville Plateau (bounded by Highway 17 on the east and north, Highway 2 on the south and the Columbia River on the west).
  • The East Lake Washington Audubon Society spends a weekend in this area in mid-February each year to watch bald eagles, hawks, kestrels, falcons, waterfowl (including loons and grebes), snow buntings, rosy finches and gray partridges.






Eastern Washington
Northrup Canyon

The Audubon guide states that “over 200 wintering eagles gather behind Grand Coulee Dam and at nearby Banks Lake from November through March.” 
  • The annual mid-February
    Grand Coulee "Balde" Eagle Festival

    gives you an opportunity to view these wintering bald eagles.  Eagle-viewing shuttle bus tours depart regularly from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day during the festival from the Grand Gallery of Arts Theater, 204 Main St.
  • The best concentration of eagles occurs in a night roosting area in Northrup Canyon, part of Steamboat Rock State Park, seven miles south of Grand Coulee on State Route 155.  In the late afternoon, eagles fly into Northrup Canyon from their daytime feeding locations all along Banks Lake, with numbers peaking around 4 p.m. 
  • WDFW and state parks personnel are on hand at the eagle viewing site with spotting scopes from 2 p.m. until dusk during the festival to check out the eagles in the pine and fir trees along the south wall of the canyon. On other weekends, bring your own scopes or binoculars.  Dress for the cold.
  • Bald eagles are feeding on fish and waterfowl throughout the reservoir area and can also be seen more easily, although in fewer numbers, along Banks Lake from Coulee City to Soap Lake, below Grand Coulee Dam along the Columbia River, and on Lake Roosevelt from Grand Coulee to Kettle Falls. Look for them in the trees or even on the ice in the lakes.

Roosevelt Lake
  • To see wintering eagles along Roosevelt Lake, travel by car along Highway 25 on the east side of the lake from Kettle Falls to Hunters.  Stop periodically to look for eagles perched in waterfront trees where they're on the lookout for fish or deer carcasses.  For an even better look, bundle up warmly and tour the shoreline by boat.
  • Up to 200 bald eagles winter along Roosevelt Lake just in the section between Hunters and the Colville River alone, but they feed in small groups of 8 or 10.
  •  A growing population of resident eagles nests along Lake Roosevelt, Rufous Woods Lake, and Banks Lake; these can be seen year-around.
Kettle River
  • For a more remote eagle viewing drive, take the lightly traveled gravel county roads along the Kettle River in Ferry County. WDFW wildlife biololgist Steve Zender recommends the route from Curlew west and north toward the Curlew Conservation Corps center and on up Kroupa Road to the Canadian border. 
  • You're bound to spot a half dozen to a dozen bald eagles on that stretch, plus common and possibly Barrow's goldeneye, common mergansers and other waterfowl. 
  • Mule deer are also a viewing possibility, Zenders says, as are bighorn sheep in the area to the east of the river across the valley from the CCC.


Pend Oreille / Spokane

  • The Pend Oreille and Spokane Rivers are also excellent places to see bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and other raptors in eastern Washington.



Birder's Top Spots tidbits
12/31/09
  • Potholes State Park 
    In winter, tundra swans fly overhead, while plentiful prey draws bald eagles, northern harriers and red-tailed hawks.
  • Montlake Park, Moses Lake
    Bald eagles hunt ducks when lake is partially frozen.
  • Red Top Mountain, Hwy 97
    October is a good time to catch migration of hawks, kestrels, merlins,  falcons, bald and golden eagles

British Columbia
Fraser River Valley
  • Fraser Valley hosts 800-1200 bald eagles every year
  • Record 2580 bald eagle seen from Observatory Point in December 2008
  • 516 Trumpeter swans seen in 2008
  • Peak viewing is November-December
  • Festival is in late November
  • Lots of activites along Fraser River valley
  • Free camping at park on the river near Agassiz - don't remember name)
Bald Eagle

For more information, go to:
Brackendale

Over the last 10 years the number of eagles visiting the Squamish River Valley to feed on the spawned out salmon has varied from 1300 to 3670, with 1600-1800 more likely.

Strangely, the numbers dropped to less than 1000 in 2007 and 2008 (are they heading for the Fraser River Valley instead?)

We have visited Brackendale to photograph the wintering bald eagles 3 times;  peak numbers seem to occur in early January.

The main viewing area on the Squamish River is good in the morning.

For more information, go to:  


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URL: http://www.sunnywalter.com/WhereView-WNW-Birds-Sunny-Eagles.html
Links checked and updated on:  December 31, 2009
Text and photos are copyright © Sunny Walter  (unless otherwise noted)
For more information, contact sunny@sunnywalter.com