Tag Archive | National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Winter

On the way home from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Jon and I stopped for a short visit at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. My mother and I had visited on the hottest day of July, when no animals in their right minds would be outside in the scorching sun.

This time, the refuge was transformed. The huge grass field from July was now under several inches of water, flooded by seasonal rainfall and the tidal system. There were ducks and geese all over, enjoying their winter feeding grounds. Visitors can look at the birds from the viewing platform, or can walk further out on the boardwalk. We did both, but there weren’t very many birds out further on the open water of the field. Plus, it was cold and windy (although not really raining), so we only took a brief walk before heading back to dry land.

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

On land and in the water close to shore were lots of American Wigeons, Mallards, and Canada Geese (or maybe Dusky Geese, who knows…).

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

I spotted a white bird far off in the distance – I wasn’t sure if it was a bird or a plastic bag at first (my far vision really is getting crummy these days – I blame my mom). I was able to zoom in and get a closer look (and some photos) at a white goose. I identified it later with my bird book and the internet – a Snow Goose! He was hanging around with several ducks, and it was odd to see him without any other Snow Geese. I hope he wasn’t injured…

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

We couldn’t hang out too long though, as we still had a long drive home.

A Visit to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Imagine for a moment, a farm on a floodplain.  Not a foreign concept, as many farms are located where the land is most fertile.  The Brown Farm was no different.  After establishing the 2300 acre farm on the Nisqually flood plain in the early 1900s, the Browns did what was all too popular at the time; they built a dike.

The Brown Farm Dike got rid of that pesky problem of tidal surge and seasonal flooding, but the consequence was loss of critical salt marsh habitat for fish, birds and marine mammals like harbor seals.  Over 700 acres of estuary were eliminated, and the saltwater remained cut off from the freshwater for over 100 years.

The Browns grew crops, raised dairy cows, poultry and hogs, and prided themselves on a farm that was completely self-sustaining.  For a period of time the farm was successful enough to even have its own box factory onsite.  Unfortunately for the Browns, World War I took its toll on their fortune and Alson Brown was forced to sell the farm to pay his creditors.

The farm then changed hands a couple of times before it was sold to the federal government to create the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in 1974.  It wasn’t until 2009 that over four miles of dikes were removed to restore a significant portion of the estuary.

The huge, twin barns of the Brown Farm remain, a visible reminder of the land’s history.  There is a peaceful grassy area there and a few picnic tables for visitors.

The barns speak to the refuge’s farming history

The barns speak to the refuge’s farming history

My mother and I visited in mid-July on our way home from an antique show.  Admittedly, it was a terrible time to visit, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of the day, on a day when the temperatures were above 90 degrees.  Temperatures that high are rare in Washington, so most of the birds that would normally be there mid-summer were staying hidden in the shade.

Although there wasn’t a lot of action, we did enjoy a walk on the estuary boardwalk, and we found several frogs in the freshwater marsh that were willing to pose for pictures.

The perfect camouflage!

The perfect camouflage!

We also watched a mother duck with her older ducklings foraging for some good eats in the marsh.  They weren’t bothered by the attention.  Plenty of songbirds flitted about, but they were notoriously difficult to capture on camera.

The vegetation is so thick that it coats their feathers!

The vegetation is so thick that it coats their feathers!

We did find a happy colony of wasps making their home within the boardwalk railing, but they weren’t aggressive or flying too near to us.  I took a few pictures, but didn’t want to stick around for too long.

Even wasps make their home on the Refuge

Even wasps make their home on the Refuge

I am hoping to return to Nisqually NWR soon; fall is the best time to see migrating waterfowl, and there are several species of birds of prey there in the winter.  Jon and I actually planned a weekend visit in November, but canceled when the forecast called for super-heavy rain.  I hope there is dry weather for Jon’s next weekend off!

Sacramento Wildlife Refuge Preview

Jon and I got home last night from a trip to California.  I’ll be posting about it soon, and posting the rest of my trip to Olympic National Park, but in the meantime, I thought I would share this photo from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  Enjoy!

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge