Audubon Washington offers tips on birding at Cape Disappointment State Park, near Ilwaco, Pacific County.
Cape Disappointment State Park, Site 21 from “Southwest Loop” of Audubon Washington’s Great Washington State Birding Trail
Location: Near Ilwaco, on Pacific coast at mouth of Columbia River.
Habitat: 1,964-acre park with Pacific Ocean beach, Columbia River estuary, fresh- and saltwater wetlands, and forest.
Best seasons for birding: Year-round.
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Birds commonly seen: Peregrine falcons hunt dunlin in winter. Watch beaches for migrating black-bellied and semipalmated plovers, and western and least sandpipers, and edges of freshwater lakes for killdeer, lesser and greater yellowlegs, and spotted sandpipers. In Beard’s Hollow spring-to-early summer, watch and listen for marsh wrens, black-headed grosbeaks, Swainson’s thrushes, warbling vireos, black-throated gray and orange-crowned warblers, chestnut-backed and black-capped chickadees, and Wilson’s snipe. On the coast summer-to-early fall, enjoy a visual feast of brown pelicans; Brandt’s, pelagic, and double-crested cormorants, and nesting colonies of Caspian terns. Year-round park residents include bald eagles, and western and glaucous-winged gulls. Some Heermann’s gulls are possible August to October. Turkey vultures soar April to September.
Viewing tips: Seven trails in the park offer variety: Beard’s Hollow — Take 0.1-mile trail to beach. North Head Lighthouse — Take the short trail past lighthouse and scope black oystercatchers on cliff below; and sooty shearwaters, parasitic jaegers, and common murres skimming over ocean. First North Jetty — Scope cormorant rookery on cliffs to east. Second North Jetty — Amble north along Benson Beach. Look for osprey nest in tree by Lake O’Neil.
More birding: Highway 100 loop dead-ends at 3.8 miles at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. From center parking area, hike ¾-mile trail to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
Source: Audubon Washington, Great Washington State Birding Trail maps. See maps online (or order hard copies, $4.95 apiece), at wa.audubon.org.