Montlake Fill (Union Bay Natural Area, Seattle)
The Montlake Fill is like an island of nature in a sea of development. Birds that are off course often light for a time here on the northeast shore of Lake Washington, where they can get respite from stress and fuel up on the abundant food: seeds from the wild prairie and riparian habitats, insects, rodents, fish, and other birds. Neighbors in the community put out numerous feeders that augment the natural food supply. Everything is near at hand, too, as the site encompasses only 75 acres.
Contributed by Connie Sidles
When to go: Come after a heavy windstorm. Do not delay.
Good for: Winter is waterfowl season at the Fill. We routinely get Mallard, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, the occasional Eurasian Teal (same guy who's been coming for the past two years), American and Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, overwintering Cinnamon Teal, Canvasback, occasional Redhead, Ring-necked, Greater and Lesser Scaup (good opportunities to compare), Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and Ruddy. Three Trumpeter Swans who grew up here a few winters ago now return each year with their mates.
We usually host overwintering Virginia Rails, Marsh Wrens, Green Herons, and Savannah Sparrows. Winter is the time when Western Scrub-Jays appear, along with other winter rarities such as Red-breasted Sapsucker (a male who makes the Fill part of his circuit), Varied Thrush, Western Meadowlark, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Pacific Wren.
In late 2011 we had our first Barred Owl. Also, back from who knows where, Short-eared Owl.
If you're lucky: Distinct possibilities in 2011-2012 are Tufted Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, Western Screech-Owl, Cattle Egret, Rough-legged Hawk, any longspur, Snow Bunting, Tropical Kingbird, both redpolls, Snowy Owl, Northern Wheatear, Lewis's Woodpecker, a wagtail, Bohemian Waxwing, and Palm Warbler.
Practicalities: Parking in the small lots around the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) buildings is free unless posted for private events. If you plan to come often, buy a parking permit from the CUH office staff.
Photo: Cinnamon Teal by Sunny Walter
Connie Sidles is a master birder. She has written two books about the Fill, In My Nature and Second Nature: Tales from the Montlake Fill. Both are available at her website, Constancy Press, and at University Bookstore and the Seattle Audubon Nature Shop.