A pair of migrating trumpeter swans fly gracefully through the amber skies of a winter sunset in the Skagit Valley. Photo ©Nancy Crowell

Schedule a float trip down the Skagit River to photograph eagles and other wildlife. Photo ©Skagit River Eagle Tours.

Find the best viewing sites at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport. Photo ©Skagit Guided Adventures

This year’s exciting keynote speaker is Sue Cottrell who will share photos and her insights into watching and monitoring hawks. Photo ©Sue Cottrell

Birds of Winter: A Skagit Valley Experience

by Audrey Fraggalosch

Grab your camera and binoculars and head to the Skagit Valley and La Conner for an authentic and spectacular winter birding experience. This is the best time of year to see the largest winter gathering of Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans in North America.

These magnificent birds annually migrate southward by the tens of thousands from nesting grounds in Siberia and Alaska. The Skagit Valley is one of their major wintering grounds & the numbers are jaw-dropping…+50,000 migrating snow geese, 7,000 trumpeter swans and 3,000 tundra swans. Imagine watching an aerial ballet with hundreds of swans dipping and soaring together like a shimmering wave of white light…this is winter birding at its best.

You can explore, experience, and observe on your own or with the help of local guides. They can also help you find the best spots to view or photograph your favorite birds or take you on a guided tour. Imagine a float trip down the Skagit River past bald eagles feasting on salmon. Discover more about the large winter migration of bald eagles and the best viewing sites and times (December-January) at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport.

Explore on your own or with local guides who can help you find the best spots to view and photograph your favorite birds."

Avid bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike won’t want to miss the 3rd annual, La Conner Birding Showcase on Saturday January 25, 2020 at the Maple Hall in La Conner. This year’s exciting keynote speaker is Sue Cottrell. She will share photos and  insights into watching and monitoring hawks for over 30 years. Sue has been a long-time volunteer in studying birds of prey and will discuss the 16 types of raptors that can be spotted in northwest Washington, including gyrfalcons, prairie falcons and northern goshawks. Don’t miss her keynote presentation “Introduction to Raptors of Northwest Washington” at 4pm.

Artists, Exibits & Vendors to Enjoy

Check out the educational and artistic vendors on display at Maple Hall between 10:00-3pm.

Airstrike (Brad Felger) | Artist: Danny Reese | Artist: Ed Flitcroft | Birdland Art | Fine Feathered Friends | La Conner Tea Co | Lauren Mundy Illustrations | NW Swan Conservation Association | Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum | Seaport Books | Skagit Audubon | Washington Native Plant Society | Wild Birds Unlimited | Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation

Admission is $5 for adults and children 16 and under are free.For more information go to LoveLaConner.com, 360-466-4778

Explore Downtown La Conner

A colorful bridge spans the Swinomish Channel connecting downtown La Conner to the Swinomish Tribal headquarters. Photo ©Nancy K. Crowell.

Stroll the boardwalk along the Swinomish Channel. Photo ©La Conner Chamber of Commerce

Shops and eateries line the colorful streets of downtown La Conner. Photo ©La Conner Chamber of Commerce

La Conner is not only a favorite birding stop but a relaxing and romantic getaway. Enjoy exploring the quaint, walkable town, covering an area of about one square mile. Folks are friendly. There are dozens of locally owned restaurants, cafes and charming shops. “Being on the waterfront, we have a gorgeous view of the boardwalk so you can walk the entire length of town along the Swinomish Channel,” said Heather Carter, Executive Director of La Conner Chamber of Commerce. 

If you can’t make it to the La Conner Birding Showcase event, don’t miss being part of the larger Birds of Winter Festival (December-February). In the Skagit Valley’s rich landscape of open fields and wetlands, hundreds of migratory bird species find vital feeding grounds and winter habitat. From the Upper Skagit River to the Skagit Flats to Fidalgo Bay, you can explore 20 different birding sites and see a wide diversity of species, including birds of prey, waterfowl and shorebirds. BirdsofWinter.org has detailed information on what birds you will see where and directions on how to get to the different birding sites.

Tulip & Daffodil time is just around the corner!

Spring color is never more vivid and exciting than it is when the tulips and daffodils bloom in the Skagit Valley. Photo ©Laura Totten.

Enjoy the Birds of Winter Festival and see you in the spring for the Skagit Tulip and Daffodil Festivals. For the past 34 years, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival has been one of the primary destination events in the Pacific Northwest. Held from April 1-30, it celebrates the millions of tulips bursting into bloom. As with all things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their own schedule sometime during the festival. The festival is designed as a driving tour as there is no one "site" to enter. The fields of tulips are scattered throughout the Skagit Valley as are the many events and activities that comprise the festival. Go to tulipfestival.org for updated information.