Many of the locations below can be worked into one-day driving loops, though dependability of bird sightings will depend on the season, day, and time of your visit.
1. Mud Lake
A small pothole lake surrounded by marsh and wetland, and then bordered by open pasture land. During the spring and fall, Mud Lake is an excellent location to spot Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wren, and waterfowl. No on-site camping facilities are available, but the area is very near the town of Republic, Washington.
2. Golden Tiger Trail Wetlands
With a freshwater wetland and cattail marsh, the area attracts geese, yellow-headed blackbird, and waterfowl. The Golden Tiger Trail head is located on Hwy 20, across from Republic, Washington’s high school. The trail parallels Hwy 20 across from the Ferry County Fair Grounds (which has full camping and facilities and toilets).
3. Roberta Lake (At the south end of Curlew Lake)
A shallow lake at the south end of Curlew Lake, it provides a habitat of freshwater wetlands, lakeside riparian areas, and semi arid uplands. During spring and fall migrations, tundra swan make the occasional appearance. From spring through fall bald eagles, Western bluebird, bobolinks, and waterfowl visit the lake regularly. The site has no camping or facilities, but is located near Republic, Curlew Lake State Park and a number of lake resorts.
4. Ferry County Airport (R49)
The semi arid uplands that surround the small airfield are home to American Kestrel and Prairie Falcons, which can be seen resting on the power lines that flank both Hwy 21 and the airfield. On summer evenings, great-horned owls have been spotted perched on the power lines.
Surrounded by freshwater wetlands, lakeside riparian areas, and semi arid uplands, Curlew lake provides a rich environment for numbers of migrating birds, including swans, golden eagles, night hawks, great horned owls, geese, waterfowl, oriole, and the rare pelican. From spring through fall, bald eagles, osprey, and colonies of great blue heron nest on the lake’s tree-lined islands. In the park you’ll hear Clark’s nutcrackers calling to each other. Curlew Lake State Park has full camping facilities (except in winter, when the park closes). Camping, RV spaces, and cabins rentals are also available at lakeside resorts (Tiffany’s Resort, Black Beach Resort, and Fisherman’s Cove Resort). Day pass may be required.
6. Hwy 21, South of Danville, Washington
The backwater slough of the Kettle River, located just south of Danville, Washington is home to wood ducks and hooded mergansers. Watch for a wide range of forest birds, as well as basking turtles on the shores of the pond. There is swallow colony just across the road from the slough.
7. Parking Area at the Crest of Boulder Pass
Spring through fall, these higher elevation fir and pine forests attract Clark’s nutcracker, spruce grouse, blue grouse, golden eagle, boreal owl, great gray owl, three-toed woodpecker, and a wide-variety of high-altitude birds. Kettle Crest Trail day pass required. There are no camping or restroom facilities available.
8. Parking Area at the Crest of Sherman Pass
At an elevation of 5675 feet, this alpine forest area attracts Clark’s nutcracker, spruce grouse, blue grouse, golden eagle, boreal owl, great gray owl, hawk owl, black-backed woodpecker, northern three-toed woodpecker, and a wide variety of high elevation forest birds. Year-round access. Toilets available.
9. Upper San Poil Valley
The upper San Poil river runs along side Hwy 21, north from the Colville Indian Reservation to Republic, Washington, and contains several turnouts and small campgrounds (e.g., Ten-mile Campground) where you can see redstart, red-eyed vireo, bobolink, MacGillivray’s warbler, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, western bluebird, mountain bluebird, black-chinned hummingbird, calliope hummingbird, rufous hummingbird, golden eagle, bald eagle, and merlin (fall migration). There are no facilities available, but Ten-mile Campground has camp sites and picnic tables.
10. Scatter Creek Area Lakes: Swan Lake, Ferry Lake, Long Lake, & Fish Lake
Open spring through fall (check ahead for site closures), this area includes three U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, numerous hiking trails, and toilet facilities. This habitat of coniferous forest, timbered mountain ridges, lakeside riparian thickets, wetlands, and marshes attracts a rich variety of birds, including the common loon (nesting loons are at Ferry Lake), osprey, ring-neck duck, and nesting Barrow’s golden eye.
11. South End of Aeneas Valley, West Fork of the San Poil River
This habitat, with its river shore, marshes in meadows, and coniferous forest further south attracts raptors (fall and winter), a wide variety of song birds, as well as a large variety of marsh birds. Year round seasonal access. No facilities.
12. Round, Long, and Ell Lakes in Aeneas Valley
Spring through fall, this habitat, of freshwater wetlands surrounded by open grasslands, attracts a wide variety of grassland birds and waterfowl. No facilities available.
13. Junction of Hwy 20 (west from Republic) & Aeneas Valley Road
From the road, you’ll have year-round viewing of bobolink, long-billed curlew, Lewis woodpecker, Say’s phoebe (breeding), and a bluebird box “trail” up Aeneas Valley. The habitat consists of hay-meadow grasslands, ponderosa pine, large brushy wetland surrounded by meadow. No facilities, and please note that all the surrounding land is private.
14. Bonaparte Road to Bonaparte and Lost Lakes
Spring through fall, nesting common loons can be observed at Lost Lake, and a colony of black terns seen at the south end of Bonaparte Lake. Facilities include cabins, food, and lodging. A U.S. Forest Service campground is located at Bonaparte Lake, and forest camping and toilets are available at Lost Lake. Seasonal access only.
15. Beaver & Beth Lakes Area and Associated Ponds
This area’s extensive system of freshwater habitats, deep and shallow lakes and ponds, marshes, potholes, stream-side thickets, and coniferous forests provide a rich environment that hosts black tern, red-necked grebe, vesper sparrow western bluebird, mountain bluebird, and forest birds. Campground and toilets at Beth Lake. Seasonal access: spring through fall.
16. Molson and Sidley Lakes (just north of Molson)
This area’s habitat of freshwater wetlands and riparian areas, marshes and open water, and grasslands nesting areas attracts bald eagles, least flycatcher, nesting canvasbacks, and a wide variety of waterfowl. Accommodations are available in Molson. Year-round seasonal access.
17. Toroda Creek and Kettle River Road
The riparian wetlands along Kettle and Toroda Creek, along with cottonwoods, grasslands, and marshes attract bald eagles (along the Kettle River) and a wide variety of forest and grassland birds. You’ll find public access to the Kettle River at Beal Park (Kettle River road west of Curlew), and at the southwest corner of the bridge to Midway border station. Year-round access. Chemical toilet facilities are located, spring through fall at Beal Park.
18. Trout Creek, Ward Lake, Empire Lakes
This area’s habitat of mixed coniferous and hardwood forest, and wetland lakes attracts flammulated owl, black-backed woodpecker, northern three-toed woodpecker, interior forest songbirds, and waterfowl.
19. Klondike Road, Republic, WA
During the fall and winter, small flocks of wild turkey are often spotted along the house-flanked roadside. Turkey’s are year-round residents of the Republic area. Tom turkey searches for food in snow.
Share Your Sightings & Photos
Have you spotted a bird in the area that we’ve missed? Leave us a comment or send us an image.
Note: We’re delighted to receive your comments, photos (see our terms & conditions regarding submissions), and additional bird sighting information. The birds listed have all been sighted in Ferry County by amateur and professional ornithologists who can be depended upon to provide reliable information. Remember, Ferry County provides a truly unique birding environment that attracts birds not typically seen in other (seemingly) similar environs. We hope you’ll come visit us and see the birds for yourself.
Much of the information included in this article was originally published in 2003 in a brochure published by the Highlands Bird Group. The birding introduction and location information has been reprinted with permission. Photos by D.C. McSweeney (a pseudonym).