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.
The Skagit Valley Bird Blitz has replicated 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. Birding in “The Skagit” has become another successful birding tradition revealing the park’s unique species diversity. With 199 recorded bird species and a road and trail network that gives good access to the beautiful Cascade Mountains, the Skagit Valley has become 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?”
This is a “do it yourself” effort this year. There is no fee.
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.
Please also be aware that many of the trails in early May have windfall on them, as the Ranger staff have often not had the chance to cut out the fallen trees. You should also stay alert for bears as they walk the trails, and consider carrying bear spray as a precaution. First-aid and the 10 essentials are also recommended.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this event is officially cancelled, but we are hoping keen birders will help us maintain bird data continuity for the park by birding on their own if travel restrictions allow.
For data collection, we have extended the birding window from FRIDAY, MAY 7th to SUNDAY, MAY 16th. Camping at the park doesn’t open until May 14th and the gate at Chittenden Bridge will likely be closed until May 14th. However, for birders who don’t plan on camping, most birding areas are located from Silver Skagit Road before the gate at Chittenden Bridge. Also, access to Ross Lake by foot (approx 1.5 km) is permitted if the gate is closed.
For birders wanting to camp starting on May 14th, please check online if you want to make reservations.
Please note that the Obelisk and Hozomeen Lake Trails are currently closed due to border closure.
Thank you for helping us maintain bird data continuity this year!
Participants must arrange their own transportation. Directions from Hwy 1:
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.
On your own.
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:
- Drinking water
- High-energy lunch and snack food
- Hiking boots or sturdy runners
- Warm clothes and rain gear
- Sunglasses, suncreen, hat
- Binoculars, camera, birding field guide
- Stay alert for bears as they walk the trails and consider carrying bear spray as a precaution. First-aid and the 10 essentials are also recommended.
Also, check the ADDITIONAL INFO section on this page for downloading and printing documents for Skagit Bird Blitz Designated Birding Areas, Field Tally Sheets, and Birds to Watch For by Birding Area.
Skagit Bird Blitz Designated Birding Areas (PDF, 2.5 MB)
Skagit Bird Blitz Field Tally Sheet (PDF, 74 KB)
Bird blitz results 2011-2019 (MS Excel spreadsheet) (there were no data collected in 2020 due to park closure).
There is no registration this year, but we’d love to hear of your plans if you decide to go birding on your own.
Our Outdoor Programs
Some personal risk is involved due to the nature of outdoor activities. Hope Mountain Centre assumes no responsibility for personal injury or damage to personal property.
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.