Bird Watching on San Juan Island

By | February 18, 2015
Tufted Puffin Image Courtesy of

Tufted Puffin
Image Courtesy of

Did you know that San Juan Island is one of the best bird watching areas in all of Washington State? Due to the large volume of water flushing through the Strait of Georgia and Haro Strait with each tidal change, the Salish Sea is an incredibly rich environment and is home to over 200 species of both resident and migrating birds. During the summer, rhinoceros auklets, tufted puffins, and pigeon guillemots come down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed. Near the end of the charter season, guests may be able to spot common murres, Cassin’s auklets, and forktailed storm petrels. San Juan Island is also located along the Pacific Flyway migration route, so throughout the year various visiting bird species can be seen as they pass through on their way to their various breeding and feeding grounds.



Photo Courtesy of

Forktailed Storm Petrel Image Courtesy of

San Juan Island’s National Historic Parks are a wonderful place to stop for the day and do some bird watching during your charter. The park is divided into the English Camps, located on the Northwestern side of San Juan Island, and the American Camps, located on the Southern end of the island. A wide range of habitats are represented between these two parks. The English Camp is next to a large, protected bay and encompasses habitats such as mudlfats, grassy bald and rocky slopes, open woodland, oak savanna, and wet coniferous forest. American Camp includes prairie, shrubby thickets, mixed coniferous and hardwood forests, sandy and rocky shorelines, and brackish lagoons. Both parks are teeming with chestnut-backed chickadees, rufous hummingbirds, and American goldfinches. Lucky charter guests may even spot one of the 18 varieties of raptors found in the parks, such as great horned owls or peregrine falcons. Guests wishing to visit English Camp can anchor in Garrison Bay, which is a mud and sand bottom. Access to the bay is through Mosquito Pass, which can make for a challenging passage, but is not difficult as long as navigational aids are abided by. Visitors can anchor in Griffin Bay in order to visit American Camp, but the site is wind-exposed.

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