Blaine/Semiahmoo/Drayton Harbor

© Brenda Senturia

The Site

This sheltered bay and narrow land spit are located just south of the Canadian border. Drayton Harbor is almost entirely enclosed by Semiahmoo Spit on the northwest and the Blaine waterfront structures on the northeast. The narrow passageway between these two offers the birder two excellent vantage points-one on each side of the channel-for viewing the often spectacular movement of birds up and down this passage. In addition, the outer edge of Semiahmoo Spit faces Semiahmoo Bay and the Strait of Georgia where many seabirds can be seen. Tidal changes expose extensive mudflats along the Drayton Harbor shoreline and the north shoreline at Marine Park in Blaine.

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The Birds

This site is one of the premier coastal birding sites in Washington. One can reliably count on seeing three loon species and four or five grebe species here. If you watch from the Blaine pier, the number of birds flying or swimming up and down the channel can be staggering. Often hundreds of Red-throated Loons can be seen moving between Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay. And the variety of waterbirds in this birding area is equally impressive. In a day of birding, one can see Double-crested Cormorant, Brant, all three scoter species, Common and Barrow's Goldeneyes, Harlequin, Long-tailed, and Ruddy Ducks, mergansers, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, American Wigeon, and Mallard. Alcids are sometimes spotted from the outer edge of Semiahmoo Spit. Large numbers of Great Blue Herons often gather on the mudflats. Gull flocks roost on the mudflats or on man-made structures. Bald Eagles nest at the base of Semiahmoo Spit. Peregrine Falcons and Merlins harass the shorebird flocks. Equally impressive is the number of shorebirds. Large flocks of Dunlin winter in the area. Smaller numbers of Western Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plovers, and Greater Yellowlegs can be seen. Black Turnstones are frequently found along the eastern edge of Semiahmoo Spit. Rarities have been reported from this site, including Hudsonian Godwit, Great Egret, Snow Bunting, and Yellow-billed Loon.

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Directions and Suggestions

Best times to visit are winter and spring for shorebird migration and winter for large numbers of waterbirds.

From I-5, exit at #276 just before the Canadian border. Go under the freeway and bear right on Marine Drive. Visit the boat ramp on the left and the picnic areas at the park on the right. Go all the way out to the end of the pier to scan the channel. Retracing this route and going south through Blaine, follow the shoreline around the south end of Drayton Harbor and out onto Semiahmoo Spit. Most of the land along the neck is public and there are access areas at Semiahmoo Resort on the point.

Tides are important: at high tide there will be no mudflats for shorebirds, and at low tide the birds will be too distant for good viewing. Check the tide tables before you go.

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