Bird watching and natural beauty in Sunnyside, Washington

A ferruginious hawk keeping an eyes on things

As one of the largest gathering places for migrating waterfowl in the Yakima River Valley, the 2,800-acre Sunnyside Wildlife Area earns the designation as one of the state’s Important Bird Areas from Audubon Washington. That designation alone isn’t enough to make the area a great birding stop. The key to great birding in Sunnyside is timing. Arrive in the summer and birds will be hard to find, but show up in the fall and the area will be hopping with waterfowl. Habitats: Lowland riparian, freshwater marsh, wetland. Specialty birds: Golden and Bald Eagles; Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks; Peregrine Falcon; Vaux’s Swift; Rufous Hummingbird. 

The Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area is managed in 18 units that cover more than 20,840 acres in Franklin, Benton, Yakima and Walla Walla counties. Acquisitions began in the late 1940s to protect and enhance habitat and provide public recreation. Some of the lands also help meet mitigation goals for Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) construction projects to address habitat losses for upland wildlife, waterfowl, big game and a variety of non-game species.

Near by, mountain and western Bluebirds flock to Bickleton because Jess and Elva Brinkerhoff who took a day trip to this tiny town in 1968.  They wanted to show their two young sons the spring profusion of wildflowers.  While enjoying the scenery, they spotted a bluebird.  Hoping to encourage it to stay, they retrieved a metal coffee can from the local dump, fashioned a rough birdhouse and nailed it to a tree. As they stood by and watched, two bluebirds moved in. Over the next four decades, they and others installed an estimated 2,000 wooden bluebird houses in and around the town.  Each year, a Bickleton “bluebird brigade” of residents, farmers, and school children volunteer to build, repair, paint and clean out the boxes.