By GENE BULLOCK
The Clear Creek Trail is an urban treasure that winds through riparian forests and wetlands from Dyes Inlet to the head waters some six miles north. Although it’s barely a stone’s throw away from the noise and traffic of Kitsap Mall, the trail is a surprisingly quiet refuge of lush greenery and relative seclusion.
Old Mill Park and the Clear Creek Trail are Stop No. 29 on the Puget Loop of the Great Washington Birding Trail.*
The 6.5 miles of Clear Creek trails have been lovingly built, restored and preserved by the Clear Creek Task Force, with the help of countless volunteers from local schools, community service organizations, businesses and trail lovers.
The Clear Creek Task Force was formed in 1993, and operates under the aegis of the Great Peninsula Conservancy. You can find out more about task force programs and events, read the newsletter or make donations on their website at www.clearcreektrail.org.
Most visits begin at the Sa’qad Interpretive Center (Red Barn) off Bucklin Hill Road. Or, you can start with the six-acre Old Mill Park, which offers outstanding views of marine and shorebird activity in the Clear Creek estuary and Dyes Inlet. You’ll need to pay attention to the tides, however. Shorebirds follow the moving tides as they expose and cover the mud flats, stimulating the smorgasbord of marine organisms that live just beneath the surface.
Slack high tide and dead low tide are siesta breaks for the shorebirds. During low tide, marine birds and waterfowl move farther out, making them harder to view.
During spring and fall migrations, a variety of woodland birds can be found almost anywhere along the trail system. During the winter months, however, the best viewing is along shorelines, where you’ll find concentrations of wintering waterfowl.
From the Skate Park on Silverdale Way, the Clear Creek meadows offer a 2.5 mile loop through open fields. Pedestrian crossings connect it with the main network, including a loop behind Harrison Medical Center and a greenway that extends back to the Interpretive Center and a link to Old Mill Park. Open ponds and a viewing platform offer good views of dabbling ducks and marshland birds.
Trail maps and an illustrated list of the birds that can be seen are available at trail kiosks.
The task force will host its annual Celebrate Urban Birds event on May 5, from 1-4 p.m., at the Sa’qad Interpretive Center. The event will feature activity and bird walks.
*The Puget Loop Bird Trail map is available for $6 from the Kitsap Audubon Society, P.O. Box 961, Poulsbo WA 98370. Visit KAS website at www.kitsapaudubon.org.
— Clear Creek trail maps and bird lists are available at trail kiosks. The Interpretive Center is open during scheduled events and by appointment.
— Clear Creek events are listed at www.clearcreektrail.org/Interpretive%20Center.htm.
— A more complete list is available on Great Peninsula Conservancy’s website: www.greatpeninsula.org/events/events.html.
— Clear Creek Task Force’s monthly calendar of events is available at www.clearcreektrail.org/events.htm.
— To become a Clear Creek Trail volunteer, contact Mary Earl at (360) 613-5500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.