Birds by the Billions: A Guide to Spring’s Avian Parade


At Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, for instance, which abuts Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and Willapa Bay, you might catch sight of a pelagic species like a sooty shearwater, while hundreds of thousands of shorebirds like black-bellied plovers work the wet sand. If you’re extremely lucky, you might see an enigmatic marbled murrelet in an ancient Western red cedar, a seabird that only nests in mossy old-growth trees.

Meanwhile, red-winged blackbirds and purple martins flock to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on the Columbia River. Greater sage-grouse gather near Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. Grebes, a red-eyed, black-and-white relative to the flamingo, come to the Klamath Basin near Klamath Falls, Ore., to perform mating spectacles that include a splashy, synchronous “rush” of flightless running across the water.

“Spring is always so fun because we get all the migrants back,” said Jackie Ferrier, a project leader in Washington’s Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “I mean swallows, ospreys, woodpeckers, warblers, turkey vultures. People think, ah, turkey vultures, but I get excited to see them every year.”


Dianne Fuller can relate. After a long career in nursing, Ms. Fuller retired on Loomis Lake on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. Now 73, she’s been birding since she was 20.

Come spring, there’s no place she’d rather be than walking the early morning dunes or paddling the flat water in a kayak and pointing out the kingfishers to her miniature Australian shepherd, Beau, who stows aboard.

“Medicine is like detective work and it’s the same thing with birds,” Ms. Fuller said. “If you really watch them, study the length of the bill, the size of the feet, the shape of the wing, suddenly you realize this bird is filling some niche in this part of the world, and it’s just amazing.” TIM NEVILLE

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