The birds

A flock of snow geese take flight Nov. 4 from a field north of Conway.

Though it has been clear and cold, there are still excellent recreational opportunities for those willing to layer up.

That's especially true for those looking for bird-watching opportunities.

Snow geese and swans have made their way to the Skagit Valley. Found in the fields stretching from Bayview to Birdsview, they are hard to miss.

“Because of the recent cold temperatures to the north, we are seeing swans throughout western Washington a little early this year,” state Department of Fish & Wildlife Waterfowl Section Manager Kyle Spragens said in a news release. “It all depends on temperatures hundreds to thousands of miles away, as these birds spend their summers in Alaska, western Yukon, and northern British Columbia.”

About 80,000 snow geese winter in Western Washington each year. Most congregate in the Skagit Valley from mid-October through early May.

A great place to view the birds is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of Fish & Wildlife's Skagit Wildlife Area. 

The Audubon Society's 121st Christmas Bird Count will be conducted Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. Sign up to receive information and results about all of Audubon's community science programs.

There's still time to put crustaceans on the menu for the holidays.

Local waters open to sport crabbing include marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).

Crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

Fish & Wildlife continues to stock lakes throughout the state with catchable-size trout.

Locally, Cranberry Lake within Deception Pass State Park was recently stocked with 500, one-pound rainbow trout. Brown trout, largemouth bass and yellow perch can also be landed by anglers willing to brave the conditions.

There is a fishing pier on the east shore of Cranberry Lake, and a small, undeveloped gravel boat launch on the northwest corner of the lake. Internal combustion motors are prohibited on the lake.

December is also a great time to hunt waterfowl, as wet and windy weather pushes birds inland and improves the chances of a successful hunt.

Hunters can find sites to hunt ducks and geese through Fish & Wildlife's Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program, including in Whatcom, Skagit and north Snohomish counties.

Other waterfowl hunting opportunities (including reservation-only hunts) are available by going to wdfw.wa.gov and clicking "places to go hunting."

General hunting seasons for ducks, geese, coots and snipe run through Jan. 31 with some short breaks in select Goose Management Areas.

— Reporter Vince Richardson: 360-416-2181, vrichardson@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter:@goskagit, Facebook.com/VinceReports/

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