Events & Classes
|Ellisport & Tramp Harbor
From the parking area along Chautauqua Beach Road SW, one can often see hundreds of wigeon feeding on eel grass just a few feet away in the fall and winter. At least one Eurasian Wigeon may usually be found with the flock by December. Brant join them in February or March for several weeks. A few goldeneye, scoters and Bufflehead usually come close-in, and many other loons, grebes and ducks swim and dive further out.
The beach and rip rap where the old pilings come to shore hosted a flock of Black Turnstones in December 2002. Purple Martin boxes placed by Rich Siegrist adorn the old pilings and many Purple Martin adults and young use them during the summer. Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons and Glaucous-winged Gulls rest on the pilings in winter. For some reason, the boats anchored here provide a favorite resting place for Common Terns in the fall. In August, one can compare California, Mew, Bonaparte's and Glaucous-winged Gulls all washing together in one of the creeks that drain into Tramp Harbor.
To find the Ellisport pull-off, head east from the four-way stop at the intersection of Vashon Highway and 204th. Pass the high school and continue down hill to the bottom where the road reaches Vashon's eastern shore. Take a left turn, or north onto Chautauqua Beach Road SW, and look immediately to the right to find a dirt parking strip.
Two pull-offs on the southwestern edge of Tramp Harbor present the best viewing opportunities: the fishing pier and the exercise bikes by the old Portage store. The exercise bikes are a bit of Vashon color, someone started a collection of exercise bikes looking out onto the harbor at the pull-off by the store.
One may take a scope out onto the pier to reach farther out into the water or look from the two pullouts at the many species that come close in to the shore. A mixed flock of Horned and Red-throated Grebes, Greater Scaup, Barrow's and Common Goldeneye, Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser and Bufflehead may usually be seen here from November through March. White-winged and Surf Scoters spread throughout the harbor in small groups. A large raft of 50 to 100 usually forages farther out from the Portage Store.
The area near the exercise bikes makes the most dependable spot for Harlequin Ducks on the island. Further out, Common, Pacific and Red-throated Loons and Western Grebes dive for fish. Common Mergansers show up here during the fall migration and Long-tailed Duck put in rare appearances.
From Ellisport, head south along the water and watch for the parking area for the fishing pier, about a quarter mile from the Ellisport pull-off. The pull-off for the Tramp Harbor side of Portage exists a further quarter-mile and currently displays a very visible collection of abandoned exercise bikes across the street from the old Portage store. The store closed in 2004 but hopefully will undergo a reincarnation of some sort some day.
From Birds of Vashon Island by Ed Swan, Vashon birding guide 206-463-7976
Photo by Richard Rogers