by Bob Norton

revised by Bob Boekelheide

The northeastern Olympic Peninsula, lying in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains, provides spectacular birding throughout the year. The wandering shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with numerous bays, spits, and estuaries, has an abundance of rich coastal habitats for a wide variety of birds. Despite having the driest climate in Western Washington, this region’s focus for much of the year is waterbirds, particularly waterfowl, loons, grebes, shorebirds, alcids, and gulls. Terrestrial habitats on the coastal plain feature forests interspersed with agricultural areas, providing some of the greatest bird diversity in Western Washington and an abundance of unusual records in all seasons.

Prior to the arrival of Euro-American settlers, the Sequim prairie had many open, grassy places due to low rainfall and frequent fires, likely set by Native Americans. (Sequim is pronounced Skwim, without the ‘e.’) Following settlement, fertile soils and available water from the Dungeness River led to extensive farming, changing much of the prairie into grazed pastures and hayfields. Birds typical of drier, sunny areas are attracted to this landscape, although some local nesting populations, such as Western Meadowlarks and Streaked Horned Larks, have been extirpated. The good weather is also a magnet for retirees. Over the last half-century the farmland has been rapidly replaced with suburban houses and the birds typically associated with and tolerant of humans. 


From the junction with SR-20 at the foot of Discovery Bay, take US-101 toward Sequim. At 6.5 miles turn right onto Gardiner Beach Road and continue downhill, with a slight left jog, to Gardiner Beach on the shore of Discovery Bay (0.5 mile). Park here, where the road bends sharply to the left. An excellent tidal lagoon is on the right. Out on the bay scan for loons, grebes, alcids, and other waterbirds. Flocks of Pacific Loons work the bay during winter, as well as an occasional Yellow-billed Loon. Unusual species recently seen in this area include Emperor Goose. Gardiner Beach Road parallels the bay to a boat ramp, then heads west inland to a T-intersection with Diamond Point Road in 1.7 miles.

Turn right (north) on Diamond Point Road. It is 3.4 miles from here to the freshwater pond at Diamond Point. At the fork above the pond, stay right on Diamond Shore Lane South and drive counterclockwise around the pond. Search the pond for waterfowl such as Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks. As you swing left onto Beach Drive (0.2 mile), look for some old pilings in Discovery Bay. This is the site of the quarantine station where sailing-ship passengers were made to wait before proceeding to Seattle. Cormorants and gulls use the pilings most of the year, as do Pigeon Guillemots during the nesting season. Continue along Beach Drive to a public viewpoint at Access Road (0.5 mile), looking north to Protection Island, two miles out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Back at the stop sign, turn right onto Diamond Shore Lane North and go to a small beach-club parking lot at the end (0.3 mile). Scope the waters offshore. In season, Rhinoceros Auklets and occasional puffins may be seen from these vantage points, along with many other coastal birds. On still, overcast days, you can make out marine mammals and larger birds such as eagles on Protection Island.

Protection Island, a 364-acre National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of Discovery Bay, is one of the largest seabird nesting colonies in the state. Entry to this island refuge is strictly controlled to minimize disturbance, and boats circling the island must follow regulations that require vessels to stay at least 200 yards offshore. Primary nesting species include Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros Auklets, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, along with fewer pairs of Pelagic Cormorants, Bald Eagles, Black Oystercatchers, and Tufted Puffins. Double-crested Cormorants formerly nested on the island, but eagle harassment likely caused them to desert their colony. The high, sandy bluffs at both ends of the island are pockmarked with Rhinoceros Auklet burrows, estimated in 2013 at about 36,000 breeding pairs. Large numbers of Rhinos can be seen feeding in Admiralty Inlet and other areas throughout the Salish Sea during spring and summer. Boat trips by Puget Sound Express ( to view Protection Island birds, particularly to see puffins in summer, leave from Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend and occasionally from John Wayne Marina in Sequim Bay. The trips may also explore other shorelines around Port Townsend Bay, including the area off Rat Island at the mouth of Kilisut Harbor.



Take Diamond Point Road back to US-101 (4.0 miles). Turn right toward Sequim and drive 5.5 miles to the entrance to Sequim Bay State Park. Drive through the campground and down to a boat ramp and parking, offering good scope views of the bay, particularly for diving ducks. Songbirds may be found in trees and scrubby growth in the campground and along park trails, including the Olympic Discovery Trail that bisects the state park. Hutton’s Vireo and Townsend’s Warbler can be found year round in adjacent forests.

Continue west 0.5 mile on US-101 and turn right on West Sequim Bay Road to John Wayne Marina in 1.2 miles. On the way, Pitship Point pocket estuary on the left at 1.0 mile frequently has Hooded Mergansers and other ducks as well as Marsh Wrens and wetland passerines. John Wayne Marina, built on property originally owned by the actor’s family, has a north and a south parking lot. Both offer good scope-views of the bay and shoreline. Scan the south end where Johnson Creek empties into the bay for goldeneyes (both species), Hooded Mergansers, Horned Grebes, Black Oystercatchers, and guillemots. This is a favorite gull roost, with a mix of species during summer and fall. Drive past the main marina building to the north parking lot and walk to the farthest point overlooking the bay. This is the best vantage on Sequim Bay to see a variety of sea ducks and alcids. Pigeon Guillemots can be viewed year round, as well as Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklets (less common in winter), and small numbers of Common Murres. Sequim Bay and nearby offshore waters between Dungeness Spit and Protection Island are some of the best locations for wintering Yellow-billed Loons in the state. In the fall and winter there is a good chance of close looks at Long-tailed Ducks, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and Hooded Mergansers, along with the more common bay ducks.

Go back to the stop sign at the marina entrance and turn right on West Sequim Bay Road. Continue north and west for 2.0 miles, then right onto Washington Harbor Road. Continue straight at the bottom of the hill 1.2 miles to the back gate of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (no visitors) at Washington Harbor. Park outside the gate in the small parking lot and scan the mudflats and adjacent habitat, which can be excellent for ducks, raptors, shorebirds, and gulls. Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls have nested in the woods behind the parking area. Go back 0.4 mile to the stop sign and turn right onto Schmuck Road. Before climbing the bluff, turn left along the entrance road to the Sequim sewage treatment plant, park, and scan blackbird flocks at the dairy and adjacent fields for Yellow-headed and Rusty Blackbirds in season. After climbing the bluff, you will be in an agricultural area that may hold flocks of waterfowl and gulls; look, too, for Northern Shrike and Western Meadowlark in winter. Trumpeter Swan is regular; less predictable are Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, and Sandhill Crane. In 1.2 miles Schmuck Road ends at a T-intersection with Port Williams Road. Turn right and go 0.5 mile to the end of the road at Marlyn Nelson County Park. Scan offshore for Brants, ducks (particularly Harlequin), loons, grebes, and alcids. This is a fairly dependable spot to find Eared Grebe, uncommon in Western Washington, and a great place to watch the social antics of Pigeon Guillemots that nest on adjacent cliffs.

One can walk along the beach either north or south, but be mindful that property owners restrict access to only the outer beach. Obey signs indicating restricted areas. Gibson Spit, to the south, produces more than its share of unusual sightings, and the 2.5-mile round-trip can be very rewarding. The tip of the spit provides a fine view of Travis Spit and the entrance of Sequim Bay. The bay’s narrow outlet makes for strong tidal flows and is a favorite feeding spot for grebes, Pigeon Guillemots, and Rhinoceros Auklets. The tidal lagoon to the west, on private land, is attractive to ducks and shorebirds. During migration, shrubby habitats around the edges attract migrant passerines such as flycatchers and warblers.


The prairies, wetlands, coastline, and offshore waters between Sequim Bay and Dungeness Spit, on both sides of the Dungeness River, provide some of the best birding in Western Washington. Among areas of comparable size in the state, few can rival Dungeness in the number and variety of regularly occurring species and for its growing list of rarities. The Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count regularly tallies the greatest number of species for Washington (record 151 in 2011). Leaving Marlyn Nelson Park, go west on Port Williams Road 0.8 mile and turn right onto Holland Road. This road winds north and west, and in 1.6 miles bears left to become Woodcock Road. The next road to the right (a further 0.2 mile) is Wilcox Lane. Turn right and follow Wilcox to its end at the Strait of Juan de Fuca (0.6 mile). There is parking for only two vehicles at the end of Wilcox, so it is available for few birders at a time. Walk to the water’s edge and turn right to access Graysmarsh Beach. Graysmarsh is a large estate owned by the Simpson timber family, who allow public access to the first half-mile of beach but may close access at any time during hunting season. Read the signboard as you enter the beach, which gives current status and a map. This can be a very rewarding walk; be sure to check onshore and offshore for waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls, and search the inland row of trees for migrant and nesting songbirds. Scan the marshes and adjacent ponds for raptors, shorebirds, shrikes, and sparrows.

Leaving Graysmarsh Beach, go northwest along the beachfront on Jamestown Road, which in a half-mile turns west away from the beach past some large dead cedars on the right (0.3 mile). These are the Jamestown Snags—a favorite roost for Bald Eagles and other raptors. At an intersection in 0.6 mile, turn right onto Sequim-Dungeness Way, which turns right in 1.2 miles to the small town of Dungeness. Continue north through town to the WDFW Three Crabs parking area near the water’s edge (0.6 mile) and walk to the shoreline viewing area.

Dungeness Bay, framed by Dungeness Spit to the west and north, is one of the most important habitats on the Olympic Peninsula for waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls. Eelgrass-associated waterfowl such as Brant and wigeons congregate by the thousands in season. Eurasian Wigeons can almost always be picked out of the American Wigeon flocks that gather near the beach. Depending on tides, shorebirds are often present on the beaches and using emergent shorelines along Meadowbrook Creek and adjacent ponds. This area has turned up many unusual shorebirds, such as Hudsonian Godwit, Ruff, and Red-necked Stint. Carefully scan nearby gull flocks, as they typically hold at least a half-dozen species and sometimes several more.

During the winter and migration, it is worth birding much of Three Crabs Road, which dead-ends at 1.3 miles. The land on the south side of the road is low-lying and marshy, providing excellent habitat for ducks, rails, shorebirds, and the raptors that eat them. Sharp-tailed and Stilt Sandpipers, along with Wilson’s Phalarope, have been recorded several times during migration, along with regular sightings of Tropical Kingbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

Return along Sequim-Dungeness Way through Dungeness and turn right onto East Anderson Road at the stop sign (0.6 mile). Just west of the Dungeness River (0.3 mile) is the WDFW Lower Dungeness Unit of the North Olympic Wildlife Area (Discover Pass required) that accesses a 0.75-mile trail through grasses and marshland to the mudflats of Dungeness Bay, allowing very close views of shorebirds if you’re careful not to disturb thebirds. Make sure you remain on WDFW property, which is surrounded on both sides by private land, and avoid the area during hunting season.

Return to the parking area and turn right immediately onto Twin View Drive. At the next stop sign (0.5 mile), turn sharp right down Oyster House Road to Dungeness Landing County Park on the waterfront. The view of Dungeness Bay is superb from here, and shorebirding is often excellent on either a rising or falling tide. Scan the entire bay, including tidal islands and the south shoreline of Dungeness Spit. The mouth of the river may have large concentrations of ducks, shorebirds, gulls, and other birds, visible from the parking lot with a scope. Look for raptors, including falcons working the shorebird flocks and Snowy Owls during irruption years. Bald Eagles are abundant year round, including several nearby nesting pairs.

Return up Oyster House Road to the stop sign and turn sharp right onto Marine Drive. In 1.2 miles the road turns left and becomes Cays Road, which intersects Lotzgesell Road in another mile. Go right (west) on Lotzgesell 1.4 miles and turn right on Voice of America Road into the Dungeness Recreation Area, site of a large broadcasting facility during the Cold War. The recreation area is worth exploring for its mix of grasslands, ponds, and shrubby woods, particularly for raptors and passerines. A trail from a parking area 0.2 mile inside the entrance gate leads eastward to a grassy wetland with nesting ducks, rails, Marsh Wren, and Common Yellowthroat. Lapland Longspur and Palm Warbler have been seen here in winter. Farther along the road, turnouts on the left offer distant views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the high bluff, an excellent site to scope offshore for Black Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, alcids, and Red-throated Loons in season. The waters between here and Port Angeles may hold hundreds of Red-necked Grebes from fall through spring.

Continue through the wooded campground to the parking lot of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, about a mile from the entrance gate. This beautiful 631-acre refuge includes Dungeness Spit, one of the longest natural sand spits in the world. Originally created to provide habitat for migrating Brant, which may number in the thousands, this refuge provides outstanding habitats for a wide variety of birds. The 10-mile round-trip out to the lighthouse is one of the best saltwater beach hikes in the state; however, human access is strictly limited to the outer (northside) beach to protect birds, marine mammals, and unique vegetation. The trail to the beach leaves from the parking lot (entrance fee or America the Beautiful Pass or equivalent required). The first half-mile is through coastal forest, then down a steep bluff trail to the beach. The 4.5-mile walk from here to the lighthouse on an exposed sand-and-pebble beach allows views of sea ducks, loons, grebes, alcids, and gulls. Some shorebirds use the outer beach, particularly Sanderlings, but all adjacent waters, beaches, and mudflats should be scanned for other species. This is one of the best places in the state to see Snowy Owls during irruption years. Be prepared for changing conditions during the walk; bring drinking water and protection against the elements, particularly wind. Return to the Dungeness Recreation Area entrance on Lotzgesell Road and turn right (west). In 0.1 mile the road turns left (south) and becomes Kitchen-Dick Road. US-101 is reached in 3.1 miles. Turn right (west) for Port Angeles; turn right also to make a U-turn in 0.7 mile and head east for Sequim and the Dungeness River Audubon Center.

The Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park, northwest of the Sequim business district, offers informative displays and classes about the birds and natural history of the north Olympic Peninsula, as well as excellent birding through Dungeness River riparian forests. From US-101 on the west side of Sequim, take the River Road exit and drive north 0.2 mile, then turn right (east) at the roundabout onto Washington Street (the main street through Sequim). At the next intersection (0.1 mile) turn left (north) onto Priest Road and continue for another 0.6 mile to Hendrickson Road. Turn left (west) onto Hendrickson, and at the end of the road in 0.7 mile are Railroad Bridge Park and the Audubon Center (2151 West Hendrickson Road). The historic railroad bridge over the Dungeness River is the heart of the Olympic Discovery Trail, a superb bicycle/pedestrian trail across the north Olympic Peninsula, eventually reaching from Port Townsend to La Push. From Railroad Bridge, look for American Dippers throughout the year, and search riparian woodlands for diverse species of songbirds and woodpeckers. At peak nesting periods in May and June, these woods vibrate with the songs of Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, Swainson’s Thrushes, Black-throated Gray and Wilson’s Warblers, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and, in some years, Red-eyed Vireos. The Audubon Center is renowned for its superb collection of mounted bird specimens, allowing close examination of many species found in Western Washington. A guided bird-walk occurs every Wednesday morning, leaving from the Audubon Center at 8:30AM.



From River Road and US-101 in Sequim, drive 15 miles west on US-101 to downtown Port Angeles (map on page 40). As you enter the downtown district on US-101 (aka Front Street), a moderate hill descends to an intersection where US-101 turns south (left) on Lincoln Street. Instead, turn right on Lincoln Street at this intersection, drive one block, and on the right enter the parking lot for the Port Angeles City Pier. This pier, right down the street from the Victoria ferry dock, provides an excellent viewing platform to scope Port Angeles harbor.

For even better looks, continue straight ahead on Front Street through the downtown district along the waterfront. Bear to the right on Front Street as it becomes Marine Drive and skirts the south side of the harbor. Worthwhile stops along Marine Drive include the Valley Creek Estuary Park (0.4 mile) and both the east and west ends of the Boat Haven (1.0 mile) to scan for waterbirds in the harbor. At 2.1 miles from downtown, Marine Drive maneuvers through a large paper mill at the base of the spit and emerges at the west end of Ediz Hook. Ediz Hook is a natural sand spit created by the erosion of cliffs between Port Angeles and the Elwha River, forming the northern margin of Port Angeles Harbor. It is now “protected” by huge piles of boulders and other rip-rap to slow its own erosion. The Hook is an excellent location for waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls most of the year, with many viewing pullouts. Harlequin Duck and Marbled Murrelet may be present at any time. Scan the north offshore side for sea ducks such as Black Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Scope the old log booms and other floating structures in the harbor for shorebirds, especially at high tide, and search the beaches at low tide. In winter, Black Turnstone and Dunlin are most numerous, but, especially in migration, other rocky shorebirds like Surfbirds may be found. Look for Snow Buntings in winter along the logs and grasses on the south shorelines, and for Snowy Owls during irruption years.

The public road ends in two miles at the gate for the Coast Guard Air Station, off-limits to the public. A break in the seawall rocks just east of the public restrooms, near the end of the road, allows scans of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and access to the outer beach during low tide. Different species may be found on the north side, such as Black Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Northern Fulmars, Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwaters, phalaropes, and Ancient Murrelets have been spotted here close to shore. The protective log boom under the Pilot House, on the harbor (south) side of the spit, is good for shorebirds, as is the adjacent cobble beach. In late fall and winter scan flocks within the harbor for loons, grebes, cormorants, and alcids, including wayward Thick-billed Murre and Ancient Murrelet. The harbor is an excellent place to see roosting Brandt’s Cormorants mixed in with the more common Pelagics and Double-cresteds.

The Coho Ferry is a popular way to get to Victoria, British Columbia. Service is frequent in summer, less so in winter. Be sure to check schedules in advance, on-line at or by phone at 360-457-4491. For additional cost, reservations during peak summer season may prevent long waits at the ferry line. The crossing takes about an hour and a half. The most windfree area—and also the best viewpoint for birds—is right at the bow. Of the many possible ferry trips in Washington, this one certainly has the greatest chance for pelagic species, but they are not assured. A trip during fall migration or following a storm out on the Pacific may feature ocean birds such as Northern Fulmar, Sooty or Short-tailed Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, phalaropes, Parasitic Jaeger, and Black-legged Kittiwake. The ferry terminal is located on Railroad Avenue, one block north and one block west of Front and Lincoln Streets in downtown Port Angeles.