Nature Delivers During Congressman Visit

Author: Jessica | 03/08/21

Rick Larsen visit

Congressman Rick Larsen uses a spotting scope to look for birds at Crockett Lake Preserve on January 29, 2021. He came to visit with the Land Trust, Whidbey Audubon Society, and Washington State Parks to learn more about the habitat significance of the preserve and surrounding area. Photo by Brittany Jarnot.

While quarantining in his Everett home after testing positive for coronavirus last December, Congressman Rick Larsen started to take more notice of the birds outside his window.

The more he observed the birds, the more his fondness and appreciation for them grew.

Larsen shared this story during a visit to the Land Trust’s Crockett Lake Preserve earlier this year. With the protection of birds on his mind, he met with the Land Trust, Washington State Parks, and Whidbey Audubon Society to learn more about the habitat significance of the preserve and surrounding central Whidbey area.

“He told us that he became a ‘pandemic birder’ when he was quarantined in his home,” said Ann Casey, Land Trust board member and avid birder. “He would sit at his desk, looking out the window and see a lot of bird action. This apparently has sparked his recent enthusiasm for birding.”

The Whidbey Island stop was one of several visits Larsen made to popular Northwest Washington birding sites this winter to meet with Audubon chapters and other groups. He wanted to learn more about some of the more than 350 migratory bird species that rely on the Pacific Northwest as their flyway. He wants to strengthen the protection of migratory birds after a Trump administration rule change weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act during his final weeks in office.

Rick Larsen visit

Pat Powell, executive director of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, chats with Congressman Rick Larsen during his visit to Central Whidbey to learn more about the habitat significance of Crockett Lake Preserve on January 29, 2021. Photo by Brittany Jarnot.

“Larsen was very interested in learning about each entities’ concerns for the preserve and the surrounding area, whether it be concerns about habitat, public users, birds, birders, invasive plant species and other wildlife,” Casey said. “It appeared to me that he was genuinely concerned about this unique habitat and the plans for protection, preservation, and restoration of this area.”

After about 45 minutes of discussion, three scopes were brought out and the birdwatching began from the Fort Casey State Park birding platform. All scopes were pointed at Crockett Lake, where more than 230 bird species have been recorded.

Larsen didn’t go away disappointed.

“We sighted some of the expected winter migrants, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Gadwalls, Mallards, Red-breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads, Northern Harriers, Great Blue Heron,” Casey said. “And we talked about the possibility of seeing a Short-eared Owl, although it was midday and often the owls aren’t seen until dusk or at dawn.”

Then one swooped into view.

“Just as he was about to leave, and almost on cue, Larsen spotted a Short-eared Owl flying just over the grasslands in front of us and then came to rest on the ground in very clear sight,” Casey said. “It was really an amazing sight as the bird was hunting right in front of us.”

Larsen was beaming.

“It was a darn near perfect birding day,” Casey said. “I love it when nature comes through in these unexpected ways.”



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