Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Juanita Bay Bird Watching

Gabriel got to go spend the day with Daddy at work today, learning about what Daddy does and seeing his new office.  Annika and I were on our own, which rarely happens.  What to do?  With some sunbreaks in the forecast, we decided it would be fun to go for a short birding expedition.

I picked Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland.  The access is easy, it’s not too far from us, it’s low-key and we could see various kinds of birds.  Annika was excited and brought her tiny little kite, too, so she could run down the paths and fly it.

juanita bay park
Annika flying her tiny kite

The first bird we saw in the park was a red-tailed hawk in one of the leafless poplar trees.  Then we walked down to one of the boardwalks and out to the water’s edge.

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Burst of pink
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Winter wetland colors

The wetland plants are in their winter dormancy, showing muted browns and tawny golden colors. Here and there were brilliant bursts of lush green moss, and the more greyish greens of lichens on the trees.

juanita bay park
Mossy trunk
juanita bay park
Lichen

Juanita Bay is part of Lake Washington, a large freshwater lake surrounded by city.  Many birds use the park for wintering and others live there year-round. On the water we saw ornate wood ducks and green-winged teals.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen teals before.  Buffleheads and gadwalls also swam in the water.

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Swimming mallards

Of course there were many mallards, and we also observed comical double-crested cormorants sunning their wings and diving in the water for food.  A great blue heron landed nearby, and we got to see it stalk some prey, stab for it, and gulp it down.

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Annika watching a heron

 A belted kingfisher swept the air above the lake, chattering as it went.  We checked off the birds we were seeing on the list we downloaded from the parks website (good reading practice for Annika.)

After spending several minutes on the first boardwalk, I gave Annika the bag of trail mix to munch on while we walked over to the second.  Red-winged blackbird calls echoed from various corners of the wetland.  Chickadees flitted through the brush, occasionally giving a cheery dee-dee-dee.  A song sparrow serenaded us from a branch right next to the trail.  Annika said she wished she’d brought her little stuffed Audubon song sparrow instead of her crow so it could sing back to the real bird.  Suddenly we heard a knock-knocking sound that was the unmistakable noise of a woodpecker.  I peered into the tangle of branches, using both my ears and my eyes to try to pinpoint where the knocking was coming from.  It was a little downy woodpecker, hunting for food in the larger shrubs right next to us.  We go to watch it for a couple of minutes before it flitted to another area.

birding with children, children in nature, juanita bay park
Second boardwalk

The second boardwalk was much like the first, with more of a westward water view and closer up to the ducks.  Annika was getting hungry and tired, so we didn’t spend too much time there.  We saw a coot, but no turtles this time. I’m guessing they hide away for the winter.  We walked back to the car, passing the volunteers who are putting in lots of new native vegetation in the park.  This was a fun outing, and it was great to get some fresh air without the amount of work of some of our other recent trips.

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Happy to be birding

If You Go:  Click over to the Kirkland Parks website for the address and more information.  The parking lot is small, and can get full on sunny weekends.  Dogs are allowed on leash.  You can download and print a habitat guide and bird checklist for reference during your visit.  You can find information about tours with a ranger or bird guide here.  The park bathrooms are closed for the winter, but there is a porta potty in the parking lot for use.

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