Winter Birding on Maury Island

Maury Island provides some great birding at this time of year. The best accessible winter spots are probably Dockton Park, Raab's Lagoon and Pt. Robinson. Pt. Robinson is good for both land and water birds, Raab's Lagoon is great for sparrows and Dockton Park features many water birds.

Raab's Lagoon is reached by taking the first right after entering Maury Island, Kingsbury Road. The brambles on the left for the first couple of blocks produce a lot of sparrows and kinglets and once in spring, Lazuli Bunting. The fields with the radio towers are worth scanning for raptors, possibly even for a rare Northern Harrier. Then follow the road to the end where a cul-de-sac is surrounded by several empty lots. The lots are private property but there is no traffic so one can walk around the circle on the pavement and listen and watch for sparrows in the bordering brambles. This location is fairly reliable for Lincoln's Sparrow in fall and winter as well as Song, Fox, and Golden-crowned Sparrows. In fall and spring Savannah Sparrows join the others. White-crowned Sparrows likely breed here in summer and one or two of the fall migrants sometimes stay for the winter. Raptors such as Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and Cooper's Hawk regularly cruise overhead and once I found an American Kestrel here, which are now quite rare for Vashon-Maury. The usual other little brown birds flit around here as well plus an occasional wintering warbler might be found.

Returning to Dockton Road, you come quickly to an intersection where going straight takes one onto Pt. Robinson Road and out to the lighthouse and park. Or follow the curve to the right, which keeps you on Dockton Road, and go on to Dockton Park. If you take the right hand turn, Dockton Park is a couple of miles down the road along Quartermaster Harbor. You'll hit a 25 mph speed zone (which occasionally has a speed trap) and at the bottom of the hill the park is on the right. Mew and Glaucus-winged Gulls roost on the docks and pilings here. Mallards, American Wigeon, both goldeneye, Bufflehead, all three mergansers and many scoters dive and dabble in the shallow waters. The shore area to the left has had at least one Northern Pintail visit for a few days the last several winters. Bald Eagles and Belted Kingfishers often make their presence known, each diving for their particular prey. One can follow the Dockton Road on all the way to the end at Manzanita, which is the island's most reliable location for Pacific Loons in winter.

From Dockton, one can go all the way back to the Y and turn right on Pt. Robinson Road to reach the lighthouse there or on the way back from Dockton Park, take 260th or 248th which curve/morph into other roads that intersect Pt. Robinson Road. The latter routes are often a little more birdy and have less traffic. They pass through a mix of woods and farm fields that offer a greater variety of bird species and spots for short stops.

At Pt. Robinson, park first in the parking area at the top of the hill. The brambles, orchard and surrounding woods are very good for land birds. Then take the trail through the woods down to the beach or the road down to the lighthouse parking area. Just about the whole Vashon-Maury Island list and more might be expected to turn up at Pt. Robinson at some time or another. At any time of year, some vagrant wanderer might show up. Spring migration seems to be the best bet but unusual birds have shown up in all seasons. The reason for all the rarities is two-fold: First, Pt. Robinson sticks out from the island out into the sound and acts like a migrant trap like Discovery Park in Seattle, and second, there is a good mix of habitats attracting a wide variety of resident birds.

The park holds twelve acres with about a half-mile of gravel and sandy shoreline, clay bluffs, some grassy areas, two areas of thickets and Red Alder forest. From September through mid-May is the period of greatest species diversity, especially during spring and fall migrations. That period is also when many loon, grebe, waterfowl, shorebird, gull and tern species stop to forage or stream on by. Rarities along the shore and out into the water include Short-tailed Shearwaters seen during an invasion of the Puget Sound area in 1977, Heermann's Gulls after this fall's storms, Black Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Red Phalerope and Sabine's Gull. Joe Van Oss spotted a Brown Pelican flyby this last August. Common Loon, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, both goldeneye, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Bonaparte's Gulls, Mew Gulls, Common Murre and Rhinocerous Auklet are all to be expected in winter.