The Bird Word: Stop for a Dilly Bar and a Bit O’Birding

A river otter pokes his head out of the water in Hayes Lake in Centralia. The diverse wildlife found in and around the waters is “a sign of a healthy ecosystem,” according to WDFW wildlife biologist Pat Miller. Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

I stopped in for a Dilly Bar at the Dairy Queen off Harrison the other day and parked my car in the back of the lot to lake gaze while I enjoyed my treat. It’s a contemplative activity, good for the soul — although it’s a bit damaging to the waistline, the good outweighs the bad, in my opinion.
I have been dropping by the lake every time I’m in town. Each time I see something new and interesting. It’s all part of the research I’m doing for an upcoming story on the double-crested cormorant — the lake gazing, that is, not the Dilly Bars.
As I pondered the pond I saw what looked like a head of a seal pop up out of the water. I immediately dropped my Dilly Bar and dove for my camera. I aimed and shot, I had less than 30 seconds before the head went under water again.
I stayed and watched the lake for another half hour, but the animal never reappeared.
I took my camera to the newsroom so we could get a closer look at the photographs I had taken of the mysterious water beast. We identified the river otter easily.
In only three 30-minute visits to Hayes Lake I have also seen:
• Lesser Scaup
• Pacific Loon
• Gadwall
• American Wigeon
• Mallard
• Bufflehead
• Mergansers
• Goldeneyes
• Ring-necked Duck
• Bald Eagle
• Double-crested Cormorant
That’s a lot of fish-eating birds.
Emil Pierson, community development director for the city of Centralia, told me the city has plans to create some walking trails around Hayes Lake. Currently, the only easy access to the lake is Bridge Street Park, just south of Harrison Avenue next to the Goodwill building.
I talked to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wildlife biologist Pat Miller about Hayes Lake and he told me that the diversity of the wildlife in and around this little urban lake show that there is a healthy ecosystem in place.

A waterbug walks across the water at Hayes Lake in Centralia. Water skimmers — also known as Water Striders, Water Bugs, Magic Bugs, Water Scooters, Water Skaters, Water Skeeters, Water Skippers and of course Jesus Bugs — have specialized legs that are covered by tiny hairs, called microsetae, with small nanogrooves that allow them to stand on water. Those microsetae are also used to detect vibrations in the water. When an insect falls in the water, the Water Skeeter will detect the ripples the insect makes and know exactly where to find their helpless lunch. Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

Calling that area a “park” is somewhat generous. It’s rundown, the access road is heavily rutted and there is trash and discarded bedding scattered about. My oldest son tells me it’s not someplace you want to hang around at dark, but I have hopes that perhaps a group of volunteers will get together and clean the place up this spring.
Do you know anyone willing to help? You can find the city of Centralia Park and Recreation Department on the web at, or call 330-7688 for more information on volunteering to help with future projects or suggest your own.

Birding Report from Onalaska
A bird feeding friend in Onalaska said that he has his hummingbird feeders up and ready. Last year he saw his first Rufous Hummingbird on March 12.
“There is a ton of bald eagles feeding/breeding out on Pigeon Springs Road. Good salmon run this year. Very good chance you will see one from the road,” he said in an e-mail last week.
I haven’t had a chance to ride up the Centralia/Alpha this week, but I look forward to it. He also said he saw a Killdeer flying over Lake Carlisle. That would be one for my life list.

Bird Talk
As I type out my column this morning I have a rather annoying Northern Flicker perched on the edge of the nut trough outside my front window, squawking his fool head off. I can’t help but giggle at him as he leans way back, like an old man in need of a pair of reading glasses, trying to get a read on the paper but his arms aren’t long enough. Then he leans forward, parallel to the rail, neck stretched out as far as it can go, I can almost believe he is squinting, trying to get a look inside.
This lasted for a full minute before a young starling landed beside him. As soon as the starling was settled — they aren’t the most graceful of creatures, there always seems to be a bit of wobble when they land and it takes them a few moments to gain their balance — the flicker jumped into the trough to chow down while the starling kept watch for trouble.
Well, that’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in action in her own backyard in Cinebar. Contact her via e-mail at