Written by Rob Thorn and Art Campbell
The Stillaguamish Delta around Stanwood (Snohomish County) and the shorelines of Camano Island (Island County) offer a diversity of winter bird habitats in close proximity. The starting point is the town of Stanwood, abou t 50 minutes north of Seattle or 20 minutes south of Mount Vernon via 1-5and SR532. Alternative more scenic routes include driving south from Conway on SR-530 or northwest from Silvana (Island Crossing) on SR-530. Many of these areas should be avoided in hunting season, because much of the open land is leased to shooters.
The Stanwood sewage ponds are visible on entering the town just south of SR-532. Turn south on Leque Road and park either at the gate or along the road-don’t block the gate. Diving and dabbling ducks are common and shorebirds frequent the lagoons at high tide. American Tree and Clay-colored sparrows have been recorded in the surrounding thickets.
Black-crowned Night-Herons roost during winter days primarily in fir trees in downtown Stanwood around the intersection of 102nd Av. and 272nd St. NW. Check the trees in the yard on the southwest comer of the intersection.
Thomle Road and Boe Road south of Stanwood offer access to the open fields and dikes of the Stilly delta. Take Marine View Drive south (it goes under SR-532) to Thomle Road, which parallels the main river channel and ends among fields offering pipits, meadowlarks, and even Savannah Sparrows in some winters. The trees along the channel are good for raptors. Boe Road exits Marine View north just before the Hat Slough bridge. A state fishing access offers a restroom of sorts.
Boe Road dead ends at the Port Susan Bay dike, where views of the bay offer vistas of Snow Geese and sometimes swans after hunting season. If people are visible at the house at the dike, ask permission before going out on it. Check all the fields for raptors, shorebirds, and gulls. South Pass and Davis Slough are accessible between Stanwood and Camano Island on SR-532.
Just after crossing the bridge, make a sharp left turn to get on Eide Road, which dead ends at a Department of Wildlife management area. Walk along the dike or trails for views of the bay. Davis Slough access is 1/4 mile west of Eide Road on SR-532. Park on left and check brambles for sparrows. Tree Sparrows have been found regularly on the north side of SR532 along a track in the brambles bordering a small slough.
English Boom, an old mill site, is located on the north side of Camano Island. Turn north off SR-532 on Good Road, which twists west again and passes a small airport, and turn right on Moore Road. Park at the shore and scope Skagit Bay for sea ducks, grebes, loons, etc. A small salt marsh to the east attracts ducks and shorebirds.
Livingston Bay and Triangle Cove make up the south shoreline on the Camano neck. Turn left (south) on Livingston Bay Shore Drive and scope out the bay from the dead end. The bay offers enormous mud flats at low tide, with appropriate birds. Triangle Cove is reached by driving farther west on SR532 and turning left on East Camano Drive at the “Information Center.” Turn left on Lehman Road about 2.5 miles down East Camano. Immediately turn left onto a gravel road that cuts across the marsh to the head of the cove. Scrutinize the bay for water birds.
Utsalady Bay is on the north side, reached either by heading north on North Camano Drive or west on Good Road. A sheltered bay, it offers a good variety of seabirds. West of Utsalady, turn right onto Beach Drive (past Utsalady Point Road) and park at the boat launch. Search Saratoga Passage for alcids and sea ducks. Beach Drive rejoins West Camano Drive. At the south end of the island, stop at the state park and look for Harlequins from the bluff.