Swans and snow geese return to the Skagit
Swans and snow geese migrate from Alaska and Siberia to spend the winter in northwest Washington. In the Skagit Valley, you can see them by the hundreds and thousands.
Seattle Times travel staff
Itching to get out of the city? Here's a heartwarming sign of the season that doesn't involve high-wattage strings of lights or mall parking lots: The birds are back in the Skagit.
Why leave town: Because few things say "peace on earth" like a soaring V of trumpeter swans stretching long necks toward Mount Baker.
What's going on: Arrivals of swans by the hundreds and snow geese by the tens of thousands from their mating grounds in Alaska and Siberia, to spend the winter in wetlands and farm fields of the Skagit Valley and other areas of northwest Washington.
When and where: The birds generally stay from late November until early spring. Skagit County's Fir Island, reached by driving west on Fir Island Road out of Conway (Exit 221 from Interstate 5), is a good place to look. Stopping on the shoulder is prohibited here; a good viewpoint is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's 225-acre Fir Island Farms/Hayton Snow Goose Reserve, 3.2 miles west of Conway. Watch for the sign on the south side of Fir Island Road(Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Pass required).
What's special: To lure visitors to the quaint tourist town of La Conner, local promoters offer free maps showing where to look for winter birds across the valley. Visit a gallery, tour the quilt museum, have lunch and pick up a bird map (La Conner Chamber of Commerce, 606 Morris St., La Conner; 888-642-9284).
What to expect: Snow geese flying together like a blizzard on the north wind. But don't purposely venture into fields to make resting birds fly; they need to fatten up for their spring migration, and such action could earn you a citation from a wildlife officer.
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