[Tweeters] A Insider's Guide to Discovery Park (and the Northern
cariddellwa at gmail.com
Thu Aug 25 15:34:04 PDT 2016
Many of us don’t bird Discovery Park regularly, at least not often enough to learn all of the inside names for where to go. I puzzled the other day over where to find the Utah wetlands. I carefully examined the park map at the Seattle Parks web site. I found Utah Street but could not remember any wetlands in that area. I tried another search attempt and up popped an exceedingly useful Tweeters post (which I missed or ignored) from Dave Hutchinson in April 2013. It was Dave’s effort to supplement the revised Birding in Seattle and King County site guide. It helped me figure out where to go. I learned that Discovery Park Boulevard had once been named Utah. I am taking the liberty of including Dave’s post here for those of you who want to print it out and tuck it into your copy of Birding in Seattle and King County. It will surely help with chasing the next great Discovery Park rarity. Thanks, Dave!
It is a shame, but for several practical reasons, it seems that the variety of habitats and magnificent scenery of Seattle's Discovery Park is rather under-birded. It is certainly a shame in that many of King County's early or only bird records have occurred here. Moreover, there have been quite a few changes in vernacular names in recent years, due to building removal, road vacation, habitat restoration or official requirement, which can lead to confusion.
If you all turn to page 34 of Gene Hunn's recently published: Birding in Seattle & King County, you will find an excellent aerial photo of the park. I hope that you will find the following annotations to this photo helpful.
1) In the very far NE corner of the photo, under the "e" of Shilshole, you will find an area that overlooks the bay. This spot is really good for spying alcids, grebes, ducks and loons, though it is not part of the park and you must enter through Bay Terrace. Be mindful of the public and nesting birds.
2) Due south is the famous Wolf Tree nature trail, where one can often hear Black-throated Gray Warbler.
3 ) Continue moving your eyes south and you will encounter the main east-west road in the park. This historically has been called Utah St/Ave. Confusingly it is now called Discovery Park Boulevard. Just about central to the park, off of Utah is a long, covered, historic bus stop. If you go west on the picture you will see the word "pond". In vernacular this is the Utah Wetlands, which are always worth a cautious visit to look for warblers, ducks and one day perhaps rails.
4) North-east of the big bus-stop is a sunny slope locally called the Hospital Site. A feature of this area as it runs along Utah is the many native wildflowers planted by a restoration volunteer.
5) Running due north from the bus-stop is a road sign-posted Idaho. This has been partially vacated and will be completely removed this Fall. On the right hand side, as you walk down Idaho is an area under habitat restoration. This is the Theater Site, where a large movie theater operated in WWII. It looks a bit plantation-like, but remember that it has entertained birds jointly called Grosbeak, i.e. Evening, Black-headed and Pine.
6) In the south-east section of Discovery one can see the title "500 Area", where over 20 Army Reserve bunk houses were taken down. This area is now in different forms of restoration and, in my opinion, is the most birdy part of the park, with an unusual mixture of native and exotic trees and shrubs, providing a considerable "edge" effect. The area and its surrounds is good for all kinds of woodpeckers. If, in winter, one wanted to have a chance at species like Redpoll, Red-crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Siskin et. al., this where I think I would start my search. It is helpful that it is adjacent to the South Parking Lot.
Under the capital A of Area, after 500, is the former Nike Site, where a huge concrete command post was razed, with much travail. It looks a bit sorry for itself at the moment, but it is under habitat restoration and does have Willow Flycatchers
7) Shifting to the mid-western part of Discovery is a large area of about 30 acres labelled "Military Housing to be Razed".
Locally this is known as the Capehart Site and is under active habitat restoration, though there are conflicting views of what this site may eventually become. Right now, the area looks like a newly-replanted clearcut, and is closed to the public for the next few years. However, the cyclone fence will one day come down and I believe the public will be pleasantly surprised. So far it has only been flown over by Lews's Woodpecker, Common Nighthawk and Raven, but it promises a great deal of habitat diversity.
8) Southwest of Capehart is a label pointing down to the south beach and saying "Loop Trail". This is incorrect as, while there is a trail here, the formal park loop trail runs north,directly along the western edge of Capehart. South-east of this label "Loop Trail", is a white dot denoting the Sand Dunes, which one May morning had a Hepburn's Rosy-Finch in perfect breeding plumage. And heading north-east from the sand dunes, is a trail over a little knoll connecting to a meadow. This is the other truly birdy area in Discovery, known as Bird Alley. The meadow itself, officially know as Bio-solids, is locally known as the Sludge Meadow and is problematic. But corners of it are under habitat restoration, so we shall keep our fingers crossed.
I think that is enough verbiage, but thanks to Penny Rose for crucial commentary. I hope you will all, at some juncture, share my enthusiasm for this extraordinary urban park, open space and beauty spot.
David Hutchinson, Owner
Flora & Fauna: Nature Books
Discovery Gardens: Native Plants
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