Early spring is a great time to visit the Upper Skagit Valley, with plants coming to life and many bird species, including the Harlequin Duck, arriving to breed.
This area offers novice and expert birders a beautiful mountain setting and a classic “U-shaped” glaciated valley bottom that is traversed by the widely-meandering Skagit River. Healthy waterfowl populations are found here — including Harlequin Ducks — and lush riparian forests are alive with song birds. There are also dry forests of Ponderosa Pine and open meadows where hawks, eagles and other raptors have a chance to scan the landscape for their prey. Because the Skagit Valley runs north-south (spanning the Canada-U.S. border), it forms a natural corridor for spring bird migrants — an important area to study in the years ahead, as climate change continues to impact the timing of migration and breeding.
Human migrants come here too! Both Americans and Canadians (and others of course) can enjoy birding in this trans-boundary wilderness. The Skagit Valley Bird Blitz seeks to replicate the success of the Manning Park Bird Blitz, which attracts large numbers of birders each year and builds on a growing database that now spans over 30 years of sightings. It is hoped that in “The Skagit” we can establish another successful birding tradition that reveals the park’s changing species diversity over time. With 199 recorded bird species and a road and trail network that gives good access to the beautiful Cascade Mountains, Skagit Valley is becoming a hot spot for birding in its own right.
BIRD BLITZ DATA AVAILABLE FROM PREVIOUS YEARS. SEE “ADDITIONAL INFO.”
Comments from previous Skagit Valley Bird Blitz programs:
“Friendly and welcoming staff and participants!”
“Great weekend. I was attending by myself, and with a small group like this it was easy to meet new folks and get out birding. Never been to Skagit Provincial Park before; the Blitz was a wonderful way to get introduced to the park!!”
“Very well organized and welcoming.”
“As usual everything was very well organized. Birding materials, trail maps etc all there. Excellent evening programme on Saturday.”
“Very, very wonderful group of people, thoroughly enjoyed.”
“Great coffee! Fine food. 1st class leadership. Encyclopedic naturalists participating. Fantastic evening speakers both nights. And all those species of birds including a Screech owl… What more can I ask for?”
Full Weekend Birder – $60: Fee covers Friday & Saturday camping, barbecue (bring your own protein), guest speaker, learning and field data materials and company of friendly, like-minded birders!
Day Birder + Saturday BBQ & Guest Speaker – $50: Fee covers Saturday camping, barbecue (bring own protein), guest speaker, learning and field data materials and company of friendly, like-minded birders!
Day Birder – $30: Fee covers Saturday OR Sunday birding with field data materials and company of friendly, like-minded birders!
Young Birder – $0: FREE for youth aged 18 and under, accompanied by an adult.
We ask that all participants register and pay online HERE. If online payment is not possible for you, please arrange payment by cheque with us well before the event. This will help us plan for the weekend, purchase food and arrange supplies for support/educational materials! Please contact Hope Mountain Centre at 604-869-1274 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need help registering.
Participants should be in reasonably good physical condition, but there will be plenty of opportunities to rest and enjoy the birds and surroundings–you’ll be on your own schedule! It’s also your choice of birding trails, from flat and easy to steep and strenuous. Please be prepared for all weather conditions. Snow may be encountered at higher elevations. Temperatures at camp can range from 0 degrees celsius at night to 20 degrees celsius during the day.
FRIDAY, MAY 10
2:00 PM to 6:00 PM – Birders arrive and set up camp at Ross Lake Group Camp in Skagit Valley Provincial Park.
6:00 PM – Check-in and paperwork at camp shelter.
7:00 PM – Birding group registration begins at Ross Lake Group Camp. Introduction, form birding groups, choose birding trail(s), and receive your birding kits. Late arrivals can register at the Ross Lake Camp until 10:00 PM Friday, or Saturday morning before 9:00 AM.
8:00 PM – Evening Presentation with photographer, John Gordon.
SATURDAY, MAY 11
Morning – Starting at various times through the early morning, birding groups will begin hiking different trails in the Skagit Valley to record species and quantities of birds (by sight or call). 16 birding areas have been identified in the park, and birders are welcome to visit as many of these areas as they wish. For day-birders, please note that if you want to join one of the birding groups you should arrive as early as possible–birding groups will be heading out from camp anytime between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM.
9:00 AM – “Introduction to Birding” for beginner birders–we will explore the shores of Ross Lake and a delightful forest trail along the international boundary. For those arriving Saturday for the “Introduction to Birding” outing, please check-in at the group camp well before 9:00 AM.
5:00 PM – Birders gather at Ross Lake Group Camp for an evening barbecue around a camp fire (weather permitting). We provide the buns/rolls, salads, condiments, soft drinks and dessert. You provide your own choice of protein.
7:00 PM – After dinner, birders will meet around the campfire for a fun run-through of the day’s bird and wildlife sightings, sharing thrilling moments and exciting debacles!
8:00 PM – Evening presentation with owl expert, Sofi Hindmarch.
SUNDAY, MAY 12
More birding will take place in those areas not covered on Saturday.
For day-birders, please note that if you want to join one of the birding groups you should arrive as early as possible–birding groups will be heading out from camp anytime between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM.
Birders will leave Sunday afternoon on their own schedules.
Participants must arrange their own transportation. Directions from Hwy 1 as follows:
From the WEST on Hwy 1
- Take exit 168 just before reaching Hope
- Turn RIGHT onto Flood Hope Rd.
- After 300 metres, turn RIGHT onto Silver Skagit Rd.
- Follow Silver Skagit Rd. approximately 60 km. to Ross Lake Group Campground.
From the EAST or NORTH on Hwy 1/3/5
- At Hope, continue onto Hwy 1 going west
- Take exit 168 – Turn LEFT onto Flood Hope Rd.
- After 800 m., turn RIGHT onto Silver Skagit Rd.
- Follow Silver Skagit Rd. approximately 60 km. to Ross Lake Group Campground on left.
NOTE: The Skagit Road will be open and two-wheel drive vehicles can travel the road. There may be active logging in the area, so if encountered, give logging trucks a wide berth and be cautious going around curves in the road–do not cut corners. Stay alert and leave maximum space for the oncoming lane.
Ross Lake Group Campsite has camping areas for tents and RV’s. No electrical or sewage hookups. Facilities include pit toilets, well water, a covered cook shelter with wood stove and a group campfire ring. Bring your own table and chairs if possible, as picnic tables and seating are limited. There are no fixed-roof accommodations for visitors in the area, so birders must come prepared for tenting or vehicle camping. The nearest visitor fixed-roof accommodation is in Hope, which is a 60+ minute drive from Ross Lake.
Be prepared to camp and provide your own food and cooking stove. The Saturday night barbecue is the exception, when you can just arrive with your choice of protein for the grill.
Come prepared to hike in a variety of weather conditions, with temperatures at camp ranging between +20 C during the day and 0 C at night. Recommended items to bring hiking:
- Water container (at least 1 litre)
- Drinking water (pumped well water is available for dish and hand washing)
- High-energy lunches and snack food
- Hiking boots or sturdy runners
- Warm clothes and rain gear
- Sunglasses, hat, camera, binoculars, guide books
Want to try birding by bike? There are excellent opportunities in many of the bird blitz areas for this mode of transportation.
Everyone age 19 & over must sign a liability waiver form in order to participate in this program. Please take the time to read this form because you must understand and agree to it when you sign it. By signing it you are waiving certain rights, including the right to sue. These forms will be available to sign when you check in. Please seek legal counsel if you have any questions.
Everyone age 18 & under must have an informed consent form signed by their parent or legal guardian in order to participate. Please contact us if you need this form prior to arrival at this program.
If a registration is cancelled 7 days or more before a program starts, HMCOL will refund the program fee and equipment rental fees (as applicable) minus an administrative cost of $20 per person. Program and equipment rental fees will not be refunded if a cancellation is received less than 7 days before the start of a program. A program may be cancelled at the discretion of HMCOL. If a program is cancelled, participants will receive a full refund of program and equipment fees.
Please be aware that our programs run regardless of weather conditions, unless we determine that it will affect the safety of participants and/or equipment.
Our outdoor programs
Hope Mountain Centre maintains an excellent safety record. Due to the nature of outdoor programs, these events do involve some personal risk. Hope Mountain Centre assumes no responsibility for personal injury or damage to personal property. We will require each participant to sign a liability release and assumption of risk form before participating in this program. Please be aware that activities typical of this program involve many risks, dangers and hazards including, but not limited to: accidents which occur during transportation or travel to and from events; slips and falls; loss of balance; impact, cold water immersion; repetitive strain injuries; dislocated shoulders; hypothermia, frostbite, sunburn; changing and inclement weather conditions including storms, blizzards, whiteouts and high wind; steepness of terrain, tree wells, crevasses; avalanches, cornices, landslides and falling ice, snow and objects; encounters with domestic or wild animals; negligence on the part of releasees and other participants.
While we love animals of all kinds, we ask that you please leave your pet at home.
Sponsorship of the Bird Blitz
The Skagit Valley Bird Blitz is supported by two non-profit organizations – Hope Mountain Centre and BC Nature. Both organizations share a commitment to nature appreciation and stewardship and recognize the importance of these citizen science programs.
We acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia.