See spring birds along easy nature trail at Scudder's Pond

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 25, 2013 

Enjoy a relaxing spring stroll serenaded by birdsong at an urban mash near Scudder's Pond, along one of the many trails around Whatcom Falls Park.

Scudder's Pond is a 2.8-acre site owned by the North Cascades Audubon Society, located near the southwest corner of Alabama and Electric avenues. It was donated to the group in 1987 for protection as a wildlife preserve. It's tucked behind Whatcom Lagoon, the large body of water west of Bloedel Donovan Park.

It's a nice little walk, especially for young families who want to introduce small children to nature, and its main trails are hard packed and well-maintained, providing access to people of all abilities.

"What a wonderful slice of wilderness we have here, virtually downtown," said Joe Meche, who is the official pond steward. "It's just a wonderful place. You hear the traffic and you can't believe what you're seeing."

Meche, who said he walks the trails of Whatcom Falls Park daily, said casual visitors can spot a range of resident and migratory birds on the short section of the Railroad Trail that skirts Scudder's Pond.

He's particularly fond of the red-wing blackbird, a jet-black bird about the size of robin, sporting distinctive red and yellow wing markings, like epaulettes. Its trilling call is a delight to hear, and Meche said it's a "good bird to start on" for those who are new to birding.

"They're so easy to see, especially the males, with their red shoulders," Meche said. Visitors will find them perched on the abundant cattails. Also look for the females, which are a drab brown with sparrow-like markings and a rosy batch under their chin.

On a recent drizzly Sunday, my wife Rebecca and I heard the call of the elusive Virginia rail from its hidden nest, then we were buzzed by a rufous humming bird, and marveled at the machine-gun drumming of a woodpecker we couldn't seem to locate. All in about 10 minutes.

Along the trail, we chatted with a Canadian couple toting a high-power scope and tripod, who sought a glimpse of a nesting Cooper's hawk that's been reported in the area. We also quizzed a pair of women who were participating in a "citizen science" project to examine frog's egg masses in the shallow waters.

Also in the area are barred owls and beavers, said Clayton Snider, a natural resources specialist with the city's Department of Natural Resources.

"Those beavers, from what I understand, are dammed up in the southwest corner," Snider said. Beavers are rarely seen, since they are nocturnal creatures, most active at dusk and dawn - on the margins of the day.

Barred owls in the area exhibit unusual feeding behavior, Snider said. "You can actually see owls feasting on crawdads - it's an unheard of thing."

Reach Scudder's Pond via a short walk south from the free Greenways parking lot at Alabama and Electric avenues. From there, the possibilities are endless as the trails connect through Whatcom Falls Park. Download a PDF map at Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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