by Bob Morse and Woody Franzen
Nisqually NWR has a variety of habitats. Up to 20,000 ducks and 300 geese find food, water, and shelter in the grasslands, mudflats, and freshwater ponds during spring and migration (part of the refuge is closed during hunting season).
Salt marshes serve as resting and feeding habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. Brant feed on beds of eelgrass. Deciduous woodlands host numerous songbirds and raptors. Grasslands attract Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Northern Harrier, and feeding Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, American Wigeon, and the occasional Eurasion Widgeon.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is on the southern end of Puget Sound between Olympia and Fort Lewis. Take Exit 114 from I-5 and follow the signs to the refuge. The refuge is open daily during daylight hours. The daily entrance fee is $3.
Bird Watching Notes
Birding the Brown Farm Dike Trail can be especially rewarding. Check the Nisqually River for Red-breasted Merganser and Barrow's Goldeneye, and nearby riparian and brush habitats for Bushtit, Winter Wren, Spotted Towhee, sparrows, and finches. Listen for Marsh Wren in the cattails and search for migrating warblers in the alders. The observation tower offers good views of the mudflats. A Black-headed Gull was seen from here on January 17, 1993.
Scope the mudflats and saltwater for ducks, geese, Bald Eagle, shorebirds, and gulls. Red-throated Loon are sometimes in the McAllister Creek river mouth. The McAllister Creek mudflats can be a good place for Greater Yellowlegs. In the fall, watch for Greater White-fronted Geese, Sharp-shinned and Cooper Hawks, and maybe a Sandhill Crane. Lincoln's Sparrow mix with migrating and wintering sparrow flocks. Freshwater ponds hold Sora (rare), American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, and Virginia Rail.
Great-horned Owl can often be seen in the cottonwood trees on the one-mile Twin Barns Loop Trail between the Twin Barns and the intersection with the Brown Farm Dike Trail.
Barn Owl nest in the attic of the north barn and can be spotted going in and out of the west end of the barn after sunset.
Nisqually Reach Nature Center
While you are in the neighborhood, you may want to stop by at the Nisqually Reach Nature Center, located off the refuge at nearby Luhr Beach (near the upper left corner of the map below). Birding at the Center can be great with the right tide, weather, and season. Spring, fall, and winter are all good for observing birds, with winter providing the greatest number of species. During winter, Brant, Bald Eagles, and Great Bluen Heron are always present along with abundant waterfowl and often, Peregrine Falcon. In deeper water to the north, Oldsquaw, Rhinoceros Auklets, murrelets, and Common Murre may be sighted. Often interesting gulls and terns put in their appearance. Spring and fall shorebird migration offer another dimension of birding. Bring a canoe or kayak and have a much closer viewing opportunity. If you are really lucky in the spring, you see White Pelicans.
A spotting scope is a birding essential at the Center. If you plan your trip there on Saturday or Sunday between 12:00 and 4:00 pm, you'll be able to observe birds from inside, out of the wind and rain. A covered pier provides shelter and excellent viewing. If you have any questions about the Nisqually Reach Nature Center, call 459-0387 and leave a message.
NOTE: Some of the trails at the Nisqually NWR may be closed through spring 1999 due to the flood restoration project. For information on closures, call the toll-free construction hotline at 1-877-606-4400. For further information, write Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Road, Olympia, WA 98576 or call (360) 753-9467.
(notes by Bob Morse and Woody Franzen)
Tweeters Recent Bird Sightings
Send comments about our web site to Greg Pelletier: firstname.lastname@example.org
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