Every winter, Snohomish County has two annual events that draw birding enthusiasts — and one very quirky GroundFrog Day. Since groundhogs aren’t native to Washington State — but we have lots of frogs thanks to all our rain — why not a groundfrog adaption?
So the City of Snohomish Chamber of Commerce ingeniously invented GroundFrog Day, to be celebrated on Sat., Jan. 28, for the 12th time. This take-off on Groundhog Day features a frog named “Snohomish Slew” (recalling the famous race horse, Seattle Slew). Snohomish Slew makes “frognostications” in an effort to get the jump on traditional groundhog Punxsutawney Phil on the Saturday before Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. (Edmonds’ resident frog expert, Thayer “The Frog Lady” Cueter, is the keeper of “Slew.” You can see a related story on that here.)
Will the Pacific Northwest endure six more weeks of soggy, foggy weather — or will Snohomish Slew’s frognostication be for an early spring? Come to the GroundFrog Day event from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at downtown Snohomish’s gazebo (First Street and Avenue A) on Jan. 28 to find out.
Then have a ribbiting good time enjoying other activities including kids’ games, crafts, music and entertainment by youth groups. Have your picture taken with Snohomish Slew. Meet the Royal Junior Princess who joins Princess Frogalina this year. The event is free.
Then at 2 p.m., Snohomish Slew is again partnering with Snohomish Aquatic Center for a “Swim with Slew” Pond Party and “Lazy River Frog Race.” This fundraising event benefits the Snohomish Aquatic Center’s Swim for Life Program; a $5 donation purchases a “Racing Frog” ticket.” Watch ticket-matching, numbered frogs race to the finish line — and if your frog comes in first, second or third place, win a prize!
The following Friday-Saturday — Feb. 3-4 — brings the City of Arlington’s 10th annual Stillaguamish Eagle Festival. This environmental event celebrates the winter return of magnificent bald eagles to the Stillaguamish River. You can enjoy guided tours, paddle rafting on the river, art shows, speakers, demonstrations, live music, wagon rides and other fun activities. Activities and events are held at various Arlington locations; check the website to see what’s happening where and when.
On both Friday and Saturday, the festival includes an Ice Carving demonstration and Chainsaw Carving Show, where carvers vie to create eagles. A live auction of carvings follows. Go paddle rafting on the Stillaguamish River with North Cascades River Expeditions to view American Bald Eagles, other wildlife and spectacular scenery. Reservations are necessary for this $60 day-trip; call 1-800-634-8433 or visit www.riverexpeditions.com/still.htm.
On Saturday, a wide variety of tours and activities take place. Take the Nature Conservancy’s Port Susan Preserve Guided Tour led by wildlife biologists and volunteers through one of the finest estuarine habitats in the Puget Sound to see many species of birds, fish and other wildlife. Dress warmly and bring binoculars.
Or opt for the Bird Identification Walk at Arlington’s Stormwater Wetland Park to spot song birds and raptors. View the Nature Exhibits and Educational Outreach displays at the Arlington City Council Chambers. Also see the Stillaguamish Salmon Stop, depicting the salmon life cycle, plus fun craft activities for kids.
Parked outside city hall is the Petting Farm Barn on wheels. Little kids love to pet the calf, miniature donkey, miniature pony, goats, sheep, chicken, ducks and bunnies. Also there is Western Wildlife’s Large Carnivore Education Trailer with full-body taxidermy mounts of a grizzly bear, black bear and cougar. Kids can also experience how salmon navigate the wild via an outdoor Salmon Obstacle Course.
Other afternoon events include the Predators of the Heart Wild Animal Show and Sarvey Wildlife Care Center Open House. At Sarvey, you can see birds of prey (including eagles) that have been rescued by Sarvey, but cannot be released back to the wild. View them at close range and learn about their unique characters and behaviors.
If you’re intrigued with birds beyond raptors, mark your calendar for the 12th annual Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival on Feb. 25-26. This event celebrates the annual migration of snow geese near Stanwood. You can experience the sights and sounds of large flocks of geese, trumpeter swans and a variety of ducks and shorebirds.
The event includes bus tours to view the snow geese and trumpeter swans feeding in nearby fields, special seminars and presentations by birding experts, hands-on activities and close-up viewing of many bird species at the Sarvey Wildlife Center. There are also maps and information for those who wish to do self-guided tours of birding areas such as The Big Ditch and English Boom on Camano Island.
The Snow Goose and Birding Festival website will provide full details on this year’s event in latter January.
GroundFrog Day — Snohomish
Sat. Jan. 28
Stillaguamish Eagle Festival — Arlington
Fri. & Sat., Feb. 3-4
Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival — Stanwood and Camano Island
Sat. & Sun., Feb. 25-26
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.