© Scott Horton

The Site

The town of Forks is the largest community on the western Olympic Peninsula and hosts a variety of outdoor enthusiasts year round. It is a good starting point for birding several habitats that are unique in Washington State. Pristine, old-growth temperate rainforests are accessible at several points in Olympic National Park, as are rugged, rocky beaches and views of nearshore islands. The mixture of forest stages and riparian areas on public and private timberlands also provides excellent birding.

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The Birds

The resident birds are those typical of moist coniferous forests, including two species of grouse, three accipiters, eight owls, five woodpeckers, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, Hutton's Vireo, Varied Thrush, and Red Crossbill. Breeding season brings neotropical migrants including Vaux's Swift, Olive-sided, Pacific-slope, Hammond's and Willow Flycatchers, and eight species of warblers. Spring and fall migrations are highlighted by abundant waterfowl, Sandhill Cranes, and shorebirds overhead in flight between their breeding and wintering grounds. Hikers or floaters along one of the rivers will encounter Bald Eagle, Spotted Sandpiper, and American Dipper as well as many upland birds. Coastal birding is best from late spring through early fall. Breeding birds on the coastal islands include Common Murre and Tufted Puffin, while Black Oystercatchers and Peregrine Falcons are seen easily as well.

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Directions and Suggestions

Forks is located on US 101 on the western Olympic Peninsula, approximately 60 miles west of Port Angeles and 100 miles north of Hoquiam. The Hoh Rain Forest visitor center and several trailheads are to the southeast, while coastal access is to the west. A Birder's Guide to Coastal Washington, by Bob Morse (2001), provides excellent maps and directions to birding hotspots as well as species to be expected.

Forks receives ten feet of rain annually, with most falling between October and June, although nice days occur year round. The visiting birder should be prepared for all kinds of weather.

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