by Jim Lynch
Grass Lake Refuge was acquired by the City of Olympia in 1989 after a heated battle between what is now Friends of Grass Lake and land developers who had already begun to plow their tractors into the area before receiving permission.
Through persistence by Friends of Grass Lake, the refuge was acquired for 1.8 million dollars and is now approximately 165 acres of wetlands, coniferous forest, meadows as well as dozens of other microhabitats--both native and non-native. The area is home to over 200 species of plants and 98 species of birds.
See bird checklist.
Grass Lake is a seasonal wetland which fills up in fall and winter, and almost completely empties during summer. The excess water from the three main bodies of water (Grass Lake East, Grass Lake West and Lake Louise) drain out into the Kaiser wetland and into Green Cove Creek which eventually empties into Puget Sound.
Grass Lake can be reached by taking Mud Bay Rd and turning north onto Kaiser Road. The refuge is directly off Kaiser and is designated only by a gated entrance with a "No unauthorized vehicles" sign and a sign asking to keep all pets on a leash. No bikes, motorbikes vehicles or unleashed pet are allowed in the refuge.
Grass Lake Refuge contains a large diversity of plant species, some of which cannot be found in another single area in Thurston Co. Species such as Oregon White Oak, Oregon White Ash, Pacific Ninebark, Rattlesnake Plantain, Pacific Willow, Black Cottonwood, 4 types of Sedges (Carex), Western Trillium, and Fairy Slippers can be found in different areas of the refuge due to the wide variety of habitats. The large number of plant species offer diverse food sources for the birds.
Bird Watching Notes
See bird check list
Grass Lake Refuge plays a key role for migrating birds, both for those that only stop for a few hours, as well as those who spend a couple of weeks there before moving on to other areas. Due to the level of water dropping off significantly in summer and early fall, shorebirds and waterfowl can be found on Lake Louise, which is the main lake directly off the Kaiser Entrance. Species such as Common Snipe, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Green-winged Teal, and Greater Yellowlegs are commonly seen before the lake fills up in mid to late fall. In the forest, many Spotted Towhees, Winter Wrens, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Kinglet sp., and the occasional Bewick's Wrens can be found. As the water level increases, numbers of wintering birds move into the lake and the shorebirds, no longer able to feed on the muddy lake bed, begin to leave. Pied-billed Grebes, Bufflehead, and American Coots are among the few to move into the lake first as well as Purple and House Finches in the brambles along the path to the lake.
Grass Lake Refuge is an excellent Neotropical birding site, hosting Black-throated Greys, Wilson's Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Orange-crowned Warblers, Solitary Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Swainson's Thrushes, Barn Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, Tree Swallows, Western Tanangers and Black-headed Grossbeaks.
(notes and photo of house finch by Jim Lynch;
photo of Lake Louise by John Lynch)
Black Hills Audubon Society
Bird Watching in Washington
Tweeters Recent Bird Sightings
Send comments about our web site to Greg Pelletier:
Thanks to Bob Morse for getting this project started! Others who also contributed to this web site are:
Michael Clegg, Woody Franzen, Larry Goldstein, Jim Lynch, John Lynch, Sheila McCartan, Nikki McClure,
Tammy Pelletier, Brian Price, Scott Richardson, Bill Shelmerdine, Ruth Sullivan, Bill Ward, Cedar Wells,
and the City of Olympia Water Resources Program