Camp Cascades Jul 29—Aug 09, 2017

Posted by Michael O'Brien


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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The summer of 2017 saw record-breaking hot, dry weather in Washington, with wildfires raging in many parts of the West. Needless to say, concerns about weather conditions had our attention as we began this year’s Camp Cascades. Luckily, the weather couldn’t have been more pleasant in the Puget Sound Region, where cold water moderates the climate. And in the Cascades, though we did experience a few warm days and unusually hazy skies, we were spared the worst of the heat. So with good fortune on our side, our intrepid group of inquisitive young naturalists enjoyed the full bounty of this rich region—birds, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, trees, wildflowers, and more—and had a lot of fun along the way!

Pigeon Guillemots

Pigeon Guillemots— Photo: Michael O’Brien


We began our adventure in the Puget Sound Region, based at Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island. Situated on the edge of Crockett Lake and adjacent to Fort Casey State Park, the birding right out our doorstep was more than enough to keep us busy for a few days. Crocket Lake was excellent for shorebirds, with large flocks of “peeps” including a few Baird’s Sandpipers, along with numerous dowitchers, yellowlegs, and others to hold our attention. Nearby bluffs overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca were excellent for sifting through large flocks of alcids, gulls, cormorants, and even a few Harlequin Ducks. Wooded trails around Fort Casey provided an excellent introduction to Pacific Coast land birds such as Olive-sided and Pacific-slope flycatchers, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Pacific and Bewick’s wrens, Red Crossbill, and many more. For those of us from the East or Interior West, it was striking how many of our “familiar” birds such as Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, and Song Sparrow looked darker than those at home, adaptations for living in a dark Pacific Northwest climate. Along with such great birding at our home base came the traditional “yard list.” During down time, many campers chose to work on the yard list, and they racked up an amazing eighty-seven species!

Read Michael’s full report in his Field List.