July 30, 2017

Top Three Birding Locations in the San Juan Islands

Rhinoceros auklet

Birding has quickly become one of my favorite year-round hobbies here in the San Juan Islands. We have an incredible diversity of birds, both in the marine environment as well as terrestrially. In these modern days of smart phones and other screens, it can be so fun to go on an adventure just requiring a pair of binoculars and a camera if you feel like it! Here are three of my favorite spots to go birding!

Cattle Point Lighthouse with Bald Eagles
Cattle Point Lighthouse with Bald Eagles Sarah McCullagh

1) Cattle Point – San Juan Island

Drive south out of Friday Harbor on Mullis Street, which quickly becomes Cattle Point Road. Follow this scenic route for just under nine miles until you come to a gravel pull-off on the right side of the road. Park your car, gather your binoculars, and walk towards the lighthouse on the point! From this south end of the island you will be looking across Salmon Bank and into Cattle Pass. I love this spot not only for the pair of bald eagles that often hang out on the lighthouse, but also for the incredible perspective of diving seabirds that you can find by looking down off of the cliffs into the beautiful water.

Gull at Iceberg Point
Gull at Iceberg Point Sarah McCullagh

2) Iceberg Point – Lopez Island

From the Lopez Island Ferry Landing head south, making a left on to Center Road and following it for about five and a half miles. Make a left on Mud Bay Road and follow the winding road for another three miles before turning right onto Mackaye Harbor Road. You will see a small parking lot on your left marked for Agate Beach and Iceberg Point. Leave your car there, and make a stop at the pit toilet before walking down the road further as it turns into Flint Road. The path is well marked, and it’s a beautiful stroll. Once you reach the water keep your eyes out for black oystercatchers, gulls, and, of course, tufted puffins! 

Song sparrow
Song sparrow Sarah McCullagh

3) English Camp – San Juan Island

From Friday Harbor drive north on Second Street, which turns into Guard Street, which turns into Beaverton Valley Road, which turns into West Valley Road! Phew! In about eight and a half miles make a left into the National Historic Park. Park your car in the parking lot and walk down the hill into the meadow. Look for the nesting pair of osprey in the tall surrounding trees and ducks and waders down on the mudflats. Take a wander through the surrounding forests and you will find songbirds galore!

Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.


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