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Best Places to go Birding on San Juan Island

San Juan Island is considered one of the best places to watch birds in the state. The isle has such variety in habitat, ranging from rocky shores and saltwater lagoons to farmland and prairies, that over 200 bird species call it their home. In addition, San Juan sits in the Pacific Flyway migration route ranging all the way from Alaska to South America, making Winter birding a special treat.

Birding man at English Camp
Watch the Huge Osprey Nest at English Camp each Summer

English Camp National Historical Park

English Camp, on serene Garrison Bay, is an incredible place to go birding any time of the year. There is an annual Osprey nest overlooking the parade grounds at English camp. Since it was first constructed in 1996, park rangers and visitors alike, have been enjoying watching Osprey through a park-provided telescope.

The Western Bluebird disappeared in the 1960’s due to habitat loss and competition with the European Starling. Tireless relocation efforts by the San Juan Islands Audubon Society, San Juan Preservation Trust and the American Bird Conservancy since has re-established 24 nesting pairs of these gorgeous cuties. Some of the nesting boxes can be found on lower Young Hill in English Camp. Please don’t approach the boxes.

Garrison Bay is also a popular spot for patient Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers, one of the few species in the bird world, where the female is the colorful one.

Puffin in the Salish Sea – Photo courtesy of Ivan Reiff
Puffin in the Salish Sea – Photo courtesy of Ivan Reiff

American Camp National Historical Park

On the north side of American Camp National Historical Park lay a chain of lagoons, which are important wintering spots for a vast variety of seabirds, like Buffleheads and Harlequin ducks as well as common loons and puffins.

On the prairie, look for American goldfinches, great horned owls, Redwinged Blackbirds, Bald Eagles as well as 18 varieties of raptors, from Merlins to Peregrine falcons to northern harriers.

Tiny, lovely Hummingbirds also live here year-round.

Trumpeter Swans winter on San Juan Island
Trumpeter Swans winter on San Juan Island

Egg Lake

Trumpeter Swans, who mate for life and are the heaviest flying birds in North America, winter on freshwater lakes all throughout San Juan Island. A great place to observe them is on Egg Lake in the middle of the isle, which has a public dock, complete with a bench—perfect for enjoying the serene environment.

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