On the northwest corner of the island, Fern Cove provides one of the best birding locations in spring and summer. Fern Cove is largely undeveloped and possesses a salt marsh of mostly saltgrass and a scattering of pickleweed and sedges and beachgrass in the upper part of the marsh. A large mudflat has been created by the delta of Shinglemill Creek. Mussels and oysters may be seen lying strewn across the mudflat. The trail from the parking area heads through mature wet coniferous forest.
Unlike most shorebird hotspots, Fern Cove is actually best at mid to low tide. At low tide, shorebirds are spread all along the stream course, the waterline and throughout the mudflat. The mudflats of Fern Cove regularly produce rarities, especially among the shorebird species. In 2002, it showcased the first Long-billed Dowitcher for the island list. This is the most reliable location for Spotted Sandpiper year-round and small numbers of peeps and yellowlegs are regular during spring and fall migration. Yellowlegs and peeps feed at the waters edge but dowitchers and Spotted Sandpipers are often found probing the mud along the stream course across the delta.
The delta here is also a favorite resting place for a wide variety of gull and tern species during low tide. Wigeon, Mallard and Green-winged Teal forage in the marsh along the streamside. The walk through the woods often brings the sight and sounds of Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red Crossbill and Pileated Woodpecker. Band-tailed Pigeon may be seen cruising the timber along the shoreline. A wide range of passerines such as Orange-crowned Warblers, chickadees, kinglets, and sparrows may be found in the brush along the shoreline as well.
Further up Shinglemill Creek, dipper appear in winter and kingfishers breed in the banks of the "Grand Canyon" in summer. A short walk is possible along a former road following the creek where Wilson's Warblers, Winter Wren, Western Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak may be seen or heard.
From Birds of Vashon Island by Ed Swan, Vashon birding guide 206-463-7976