I heart birdwatchers

Birdwatchers are just the nicest people in the world, I reckon. Of course, the biggest requirement in a birdwatcher is that you know how to keep still and keep your big mouth shut, which makes them some of the calmest, quietest people I know.

At Hoquiam (my very first birdwatching trip, out to see the migrating shorebirds), even though it wasn’t quite Shorebird Festival weekend, there were still a healthy number of people out. I’ve never seen a group of people bristling with tripods — there was almost a 1:1 ratio until the group of schoolkids showed up, whereupon the ratio abruptly shifted to 1:2.

A wandering minstrel, or possibly she was a WDFW biologist, walked up and down the boardwalk, gathering us around in little groups as she told stirring tales of the brave shorebirds migrating up from Mexico to Alaska, and stopping on our beaches along the way in order to rest and recuperate (and gobble tasty marsh treats) so that they would survive to reach the frozen north. She offered use of her/their spotting scope (everyone else waved their own scope or binoculars) and pointed out all the hot “trendy” birds of the year. An osprey wheeled and dived, causing clouds made of thousands of dunlin (see above photo) to scramble to the other end of the shore like a swarm of bees.

Seriously. We’re talking thousands of any one kind of bird out there. City gal that I am, that’s all it takes to impress me.

As we strolled back to the car, we passed another birder who offered us his scope so we could get a glimpse of a marsh wren doing the splits, perched on two reed stalks at once, and singing his little heart out. The scope was so clear, and the wren so fervent, I could see his throat vibrating, even though he looked to be the size of a large mouse.

If you go: Gray’s Harbor NWR is right next door to Hoquiam Airport (a.k.a. Bowerman), a scant 115 miles away from Seattle. It’s an easy walk on a man-made trail, but there’s little parking so pay attention to the shorebirdfestival.com website, which will direct you to a different place with shuttles. Or rent a Cessna, and park at the airport.

Highlights: Did I mention, thousands of birds?

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