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Originally published Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Get island time and early spring birds at Fort Ward

Fort Ward Park on Bainbridge Island is on the Puget Loop of Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail.

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Fort Ward Park, Site 31 from "Puget Loop" of Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail

Location: South end of Bainbridge Island, with beachfront on Rich Passage.

Habitat: 137 acres of mixed-forest city park with 0.8 mile of saltwater shore.

Best seasons for birding: Year round.

Birds commonly seen: Fall through spring, look for American wigeons; surf, white-winged and black scoters; buffleheads; common and Barrow's goldeneyes; horned, red-necked, and western grebes. Summer: ospreys, rufous hummingbirds. Year-round: bald eagles, great blue herons; sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks; downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers; Hutton's vireos, Pacific wrens. Winter hillside comes alive at sunrise with chestnut-backed, black-capped chickadees; bushtits, golden-crowned kinglets; white- and golden-crowned sparrows; yellow-rumped warblers.

Viewing tips: Scan saltwater. Walk or bike east on old 0.7-mile flat road. Take trail to right at 0.1 mile to bird blind. At 0.2 mile: wide water views with Brandt's, pelagic and double-crested cormorants on pilings. 1.8-mile forest trail loops from boat ramp to upper parking, trail to Blakely Harbor. Bonus: sea lions on buoys.

Getting there: From Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island at Milepost 1, turn west onto High School Road. Turn left onto Fletcher Bay Road. Drive 1.3 miles. Turn right onto Lynwood Center Road/Pleasant Beach Drive Northeast. Drive 1.7 miles, veering right at Y.

More birding nearby: Schel-Chelb Estuary for summer's Caspian terns; spring, fall shorebirds; winter's green-winged teal. From park gate, return 1.2 miles on Pleasant Beach Drive (veering left at Y). Turn left onto Point White Drive Northeast. Drive 0.1 mile. Park in pullout on right. Walk 0.1 mile further to estuary on right, sand shoreline on left.

Source: Audubon Washington, Great Washington State Birding Trail maps. See maps online (or order hard copies, $4.95 apiece), at

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