Lazy Birding in Seattle

 

double-crested cormorants at matthews beach in seattle

Double-crested cormorants at Matthews Beach in March.

 

At the bottom of this page is a list of the best lazy birding parks I’ve been to and their best bird seasons. (Go to the individual previews for lists of birds I’ve personally seen at each park.) Though in most cases all seasons have at least a few interesting birds. For a list of all previewed parks where you can see a variety of birds click on the blog’s Birds category.

 

What in heck is a lazy birder?

I made an amazing discovery with the longer zoom lens on the new camera I got at the beginning of 2015. We are surrounded by all kinds of interesting birds here in Seattle. Who knew?

As far as I was aware, all those distant blobs floating on the water were mallards, sea gulls, and Canada geese. But it turns out they are also coots, wood ducks, gadwalls, wigeons, goldeneyes, mergansers, buffleheads, scaups, brants, grebes, and murrelets.

And those little birds that flit around in bushes are so fast and small that for all I knew they were all sparrows, juncos, and chickadees. But capturing some with my camera I also found thrushes, nuthatches, kinglets, finches, towhees, and bushtits.

As I started telling my best friend about all the birds we have in Seattle and my attempts to photograph them, she asked, “Are you going to start wearing funny hats and going on bus tours with old people?”

I told her no, even though the hats are appealing. Because I’ve also discovered you can be a lazy birder, and lazy is my speed. Unless you become obsessed with life lists and hunting down elusive species, you can be a novice birder from the comfort of a park bench.

A long lens or inexpensive pair of binoculars, and a bird app or book, is all you need. I recommend The Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. It’s a quality guide in both app and book form, and I think it’s the easiest guide for beginners to use.

Keep in mind that whether or not you’re likely to see a specific species in Seattle depends on the bird and the season. Also keep in mind that some birds are shyer than others. If you’re going to a swimming park like Matthews Beach you’ll do a lot better in March than you will when the weather gets warmer and kids start playing in the shallows.

Water birds are the easiest for lazy birders, since they’re right out there in the open. Tree and bush dwellers tend to take a lot more patience, willingness to wander wooded trails, and a good eye. But you will still often find a nice surprise in Seattle city parks if you keep alert.

 

Commodore Park – spring and summer.

Echo Lake Park – any season.

Golden Gardens – fall through spring.

Log Boom Park – any season, though fall through spring has the most variety.

Magnuson Park Gardens – spring through fall.

Magnuson Park Wetlands – any season. Summer for swallows and the rest of the year is best for water birds.

Matthews Beach – fall through spring.

Paramount Open Space Park – spring and early summer.

Twin Ponds Park – any season.

 

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