Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

Shorebird Migration On The Washington Coast

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer

It’s late June so now is when things start to change again, shorebird migration on the Washington Coast is starting. First, the failed breeders will start showing up then the breeding adults will start to trickle southward. As we get into July more and more adult birds will start returning to the coast, and finally, in late August and into September we’ll have some rare birds show up along with this year's juveniles. Juvenile birds migrate with innate maps coded into their DNA; they’re migrating without their parents, so mistakes happen. If a juvenile bird in the high Arctic makes a small mistake, it could end up on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean. We got to see birds like the Ruff on August 21, 2014, or Lesser Sand Plover on August 16, 2015. While it’s super exciting to see those rare birds, we’ll still get to see birds a little more common, but equally as special like Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, or Long-billed Curlews and Whimbrel as they migrate down the coast. Late into October, we’ll see juvenile Rock Sandpipers on the rocky coast and jetties.  

Fall migration requires patience that the spring migration doesn’t. In the spring there’s a quick 6-week flurry of birds rushing in their migration northward to claim the choice breeding territories. But the fall migration of shorebirds is very long from the end of June through October. Four months where we need to pace ourselves if we’re to keep up with the latest arrivals. There are several places on the Washington Coast to check out for fall shorebirds. I like to go to the North Jetty at Ocean Shores for Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers and sometimes even Pigeon Guillemots show up. For Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, Western Sandpipers, the outer coastal, sandy beaches are great places. Later in the summer, the coastal freshwater ponds near Midway Beach or the Oyehut Wildlife Area in Ocean Shores are gathering places for migrating Red-necked Phalaropes, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Willets, and occasionally even Whimbrel show up. Where there are some grassy areas out on the Oyehut Wildlife Area, it’s possible to find Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, rare birds like Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Ruff.

If you’re interested in photographing shorebirds and learning more about them, come on my Fall Migration Shorebird Photography Workshop click here.

Enjoy  --    Thanks As Always  --  Tim