News Source: 
The Whole U
May 22, 2014

Thoreau had it right. Strolling through your neighborhood under the cover of trees and sky is best. Your thoughts become clearer and your creativity bubbles up.

Everyone knows the Burke-Gilman rings our campus and is a great multi-use trail, but have you ever visited the nature reserve known as the Union Bay Natural Area?

Covering 74 acres along Lake Washington’s shore, it’s literally in our back yard. A loop trail winds through woods and wetlands. There’s much to discover. Locals call it the Montlake Fill because it’s a former garbage dump – completely reclaimed and renewed.

One of those locals is Constance Sidles, a master birder and a true champion of the site. In her book, “In My Nature: A Birder’s Year at the Montlake Fill,” she describes it as a refuge within the city and a critical habitat for more than 200 species of birds. Sandpipers, herons, song sparrows, marsh wrens, red-tailed hawks, and even turtles lined up on a log are just a few of the sights you’ll find. She makes a great case for why this area must remain wild for the migratory birds that rest and feed here and for the many birds that breed here.

“Because the birds get used to people passing by all the time, they soon learn we won’t harm them, and they let us get closer to them than anywhere else I know,” says Sidles. “In a way, they let us into their lives, a wild world of nature right here on our doorstep. It’s magical.”

Take the loop trail and you may see ecology students doing grassland restoration.You may find an artist sketching a scene, or hear a jogger’s steps crunching up the gravel. You’ll likely see a pair of birders with their scopes and sensible hats. You may even spy them crouched amid cattails on one of the ponds that dot the landscape.