Monday, February 7, 2011

Friday 2/4: Nisqually NWR - Thurston County

As soon as the classroom was empty on Friday, I got into my packed car and left for Thurston County.  This for some reason is a county I've done a lot of birding in - more so than Snohomish or Pierce, even though they're a little closer.  Several years back, I saw there were Pine Grosbeaks at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, so I went down to check it out, and made a day of it, visiting Mud Bay, Capitol State Forest and a lot of the Olympia waterfront.  Stop one this time was Nisqually again.  They've got a new boardwalk, and there have been some good birds seen there, including a Great Egret.

Nisqually NWR headquarters - actually from the end of my walk
- lights were very welcoming as it got darker, chilly and drizzly.
So I hadn't been here in a while, but knew there had been quite a hubbub and a ribbon cutting on my birthday three days prior.  Just poked around on line about the changes - much of the land here had been protected by dikes to allow for farming, but these dikes were broken and bulldozed away to allow for a true river delta for the Nisqually, which should be good for salmon, and provide good habitat for migrating birds, especially shorebirds.  The hike to the end of the boardwalk was four miles (I just baaarely had time to get back by sunset!) making it one of the longest marine boardwalks on the west coast.

Eurasian Wigeon drake
 Checked the pond above for American Bitterns... I'm going to see one there one of these times.  Entirely possible of course that there's one in the picture pretending to be a bunch of reeds, which they do quite well I've heard.  Lots of dabbling ducks including a Eurasian Wigeon in the ponds before Twin Barns, and the trees at times were completely filled with Yellow-rumped Warblers, Golden-crowned Kinglets and chickadees.  I've heard there's a Great Horned Owl that hangs out along this stretch too, but haven't seen it yet.  I am exceptionally bad at noticing owls during the day.  Once past the barns, I was on the boardwalk.  Reminded me of the walk out to the lighthouse at Dungeness Spit, where you can see the end of the path (in that case, the lighthouse 5 miles away), but it just never seems to get any closer for a looooong time!
The boardwalk from the barns

The barns from the boardwalk
I did see the Great Egret - heard from another person that they had seen it out fishing.  As I turned a bend, I saw it a good bit off.  Before I got too close, a Great Blue Heron chased it off.  Got a nice fuzzy picture of it leaving which I shall not include!  Also at the observing platform at the end - Common and Red-throated Loons, as well as Brant and Dunlin feeding on the islets at the mouth.

Nisqually River Delta from the boardwalk's end

The boardwalk from the very end.
Enough for now, but I will be adding my Saturday morning in Thurston, Saturday afternoon running through Lewis, Cowlitz and Clark, and Sunday in Wahkiakum.  Soon on all I hope!

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