Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually

Where the River Meets the Sound

brochure Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually - Where the River Meets the Sound

Where the River Meets the Sound. An introduction to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Washington. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Welcome Educator! Thank you for choosing to bring your students to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge! We are happy that you are using the Refuge’s resources to enhance the learning experience for your students. With the help of this guide, we hope that field trips to the Refuge delight the senses and nurture an ongoing process of discovery. The guide includes information about the Refuge’s habitats and wildlife, as well as the environmental education program: field trip planning, pre-field trip and postfield trip activities, and hands-on field trip activities. Our approach to learning is comprehensive, integrated and hands-on. Field trip activities are designed to compliment in-class learning, teacher’s objectives, and meet state requirements for environmental education. We believe that our role as educators is to awaken in students the following:  Awe and delight in nature with respect for all life forms  A foundation of practical ecological knowledge  A sense of belonging to a special human niche within the natural world  A feeling of accountability for human impacts upon the environment  Sensitivity towards diverse interests and cultural perspectives  The skills to identify and resolve environmental problems Together as educators, we have an opportunity to increase environmental awareness throughout our communities. We look forward to working with you! Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 1 Educator’s Guide, Introduction US Fish & Wildlife Service The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), within the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the principal agency through which the United States government carries out its responsibilities to care for the country’s wildlife and their habitats. Migratory birds, endangered species, certain marine mammals, and freshwater and anadromous fish are all wildlife resources managed by the FWS. Some of the natural resource programs within the agency include: Endangered Species The FWS leads the Federal effort to protect and restore animals and plants that are in danger of extinction both in the United States and worldwide. Using the best scientific evidence available, FWS biologists identify species that appear to be endangered or threatened. After review, species may be placed on the Interior Department’s official “List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.” FWS biologists, along with other partners, then develop recovery plans for the species that include research, habitat preservation and management, and other recovery activities. Migratory Birds Because many bird species fly thousands of miles in their annual migrations, conservation by any single state or nation alone is not possible; cooperative efforts by each are required. The United States government is responsible for coordinating migratory bird conservation under several laws and international treaties with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia. The FWS is responsible for the conservation of more than 800 species of migratory birds; it regulates hunting, studies bird populations, and acquires and manages many national wildlife refuges to provide secure habitat for migratory birds. Fisheries Restoring nationally significant fisheries that have been depleted by overfishing, pollution or habitat damage is a major effort of the FWS. Research laboratories study fish health, genetics, ecology, nutrition and other topics to provide the information needed to raise fish in hatcheries and restore wild fish populations. As part of this program, nearly 80 national fish hatcheries produce some 50 species of fish. The FWS stocks more than 160 million fish annually. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 2 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Federal Aid Through a system of excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment, more than $50 million per year is distributed to states for fish and wildlife management. Grants to states fund the purchase and development of critical habitat and research on endangered species. Law Enforcement The FWS enforces Federal laws that protect endangered species, migratory birds, marine mammals, and fisheries. The FWS carries out U.S. enforcement obligations under international agreements. Special agents work to prevent exploitation of game and nongame species, such as the interstate transportation of illegally taken wildlife. Wildlife inspector stations at major ports of entry check the legality of documents and permits and inspect shipments of live animals and wildlife products to ensure that protected species are not imported or exported illegally. National Wildlife Refuge System The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s largest and most diverse collection of lands and waterways set aside specifically for wildlife. Over 552 refuges stretch across the continent and over to the Pacific Islands. They range in size from Minnesota’s tiny Mille Lacs (less than 1 acre) to Alaska’s sprawling Yukon Delta (approximately 20 million acres). Many early refuges were created for herons, egrets and other water birds; others were set aside for large mammals like elk and bison, but most have been created to protect migratory waterfowl. Today, national wildlife refuges play a vital role in preserving endangered and threatened species. They provide secure habitat for native plants and many species of resident mammals, fish, insects, amphibians and reptiles. National wildlife refuges offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities, and many refuges have visitor centers, wildlife trails and environmental education programs. Small or large, each refuge provides vital habitat for at least a portion of America’s wildlife populations. The Blue Goose: The Symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System “Whenever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with modern civilization.” – Rachel Carson Why a Blue Goose? The Blue Goose has been used on refuge boundary signs markers, entrance signs, brochures, and exhibits since 1936. It was designed by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, while he was chief of the U.S. Biological Survey in 1934-1935. There are over 548 national wildlife refuges in all 50 states protecting over 150 million acres of land and water. Each national wildlife refuge is identified by a posted sign with the emblem of a “blue goose”. The Blue Goose was adopted as the official symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2003. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 3 Look for The Blue Goose while you’re visiting Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge! Educator’s Guide, Introduction Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located 8 miles northeast of Olympia, Washington on the biologically rich Nisqually River Delta. Here, the freshwater of the Nisqually River combines with the saltwater of Puget Sound to form an estuary rich in nutrients and detritus. These nutrients support a web of sea life – the benefits of which extend throughout Puget Sound and beyond. Together with McAllister and Red Salmon Creeks, the Nisqually River forms one of the largest remaining relatively undisturbed estuaries in Washington. Although most major estuaries in Washington have been filled, dredged or developed, the estuary of the Nisqually River has been set aside especially for wildlife. In 1974, Nisqually NWR was established to protect the delta and its diversity of fish and wildlife habitats. These diverse habitat types include salt marsh and mud flats, freshwater marshes, estuary, mixed forests, and riparian forests. As surrounding wildlife habitat is lost to development, Nisqually NWR becomes an increasingly important place for wildlife, especially migratory birds. For some birds, the Refuge is a place to feed and rest before continuing on, while for others it is the end of their season’s journey. Over 300 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians inhabit Nisqually NWR, making it an excellent place to observe and study wildlife. The Refuge provides abundant opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. Hiking, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, fishing and environmental education all allow visitors to learn more about the natural world and the importance of places rich in beauty and biological diversity. National Wildlife Refuges are set aside specifically to provide and protect habitat for wildlife. Refuge managers take care to ensure the activities of refuge visitors do not conflict with the needs of the wildlife using the refuge. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 4 Educator’s Guide, Introduction A History of the Nisqually Delta The first people to inhabit the place that is now the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge were the ancestors of the Nisqually Tribe, the Squally-Absch, people of the river, people of the grass country. For thousands of years, they fished the Nisqually River, building seasonal villages along its banks. The Nisqually also used the estuary and mudflats to harvest shellfish. 1830’s and 40’s — Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Nisqually and began farming in the area. Nisqually Tribal member harvesting cattails. 1846 — The McAllister and Shazer families began farming the Nisqually delta. The McAllister family lived for a year in the trunks of a few cedar trees while building their log cabin. 1854 — Medicine Creek Treaty signed at the Treaty Tree just north of I-5. This treaty was signed on the banks of present-day McAllister Creek by representatives of all Native American tribes in the South Puget Sound area as well as representatives of the U.S. government, including Governor Stevens and the President of the United States. The treaty sought to end wars and establish fishing, hunting and reservation rights. Chief Leschi signed the Medicine Creek Treaty. 1904 — The delta area was sold to Alson Brown, who constructed a 5-mile earthen dike to create more farmable land. The farm had a dairy, chickens, hogs, an orchard and honey bees, and produced hay for feed. The farm operated successfully for about 15 years under Brown’s direction and was sold to several successive owners who continued to farm it sporadically for the next 50 years. 1967 — Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (then Department of Game) purchased 616 acres of Delta tidelands and salt marshes. Workers outside the living quarters on the Brown Farm. 1968 — The Brown farm was up for sale again. Farming on the delta wanes. The Port of Tacoma proposes to build a deep water port facility near the mouth of the Nisqually River. Margaret McKenny organized opposition to the proposal and catalyzed support for protection of the delta from resource degradation. Harvesting hay on the farm. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 5 Educator’s Guide, Introduction 1974 — An extensive lobbying effort by local citizens, the Nisqually River Task Force, and the US Secretary of the Interior resulted in the purchase of Brown Farm and transfer to the US Fish & Wildlife Service for management as a National Wildlife Refuge. This also protected the delta from another plan to develop a landfill for Pierce and King Counties’ garbage. 1995-96 — Major flooding on the Nisqually River caused significant damage to the Brown Farm Dike, Refuge trails and other infrastructure. Money was appropriated from Congress to repair trails and buildings as well as implement habitat restoration. 1999 — The Refuge completed the construction of a new Visitor Center, administrative offices, and the Twin Barns Loop Trail boardwalk. 2001 — The Twin Barns Education Center closed following the Nisqually Earthquake. 2004 — A 15–year management plan is adopted which describes major changes to the habitats, trails, public use, and environmental education. The Epicenter of the Nisqually earthquake was 2 miles from the Twin Barns. 2009 — After two years of work, 762 acres of diked habitat is reconnected to the tides of Puget Sound. A portion of the Nisqually Estuary Trail is opened. A new Environmental Education Center is completed. 2010 —The Nature Explore Area, an integrated outdoor exploration area, is completed. Another portion of the Nisqually Estuary Trail Boardwalk is completed. 2011 — The Nisqually Estuary Trail Boardwalk is completed including an Observation Tower, Blind, two Viewing Platforms and meets ADA standards. Removing the Brown Farm Dike. The Nature Explore Area (Music and Movement Space) with Environmental Education Center in background. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 6 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Refuge Management Purpose All national wildlife refuges have purpose for which they were established. Refuge managers must consider this purpose first and foremost when making decisions about how to manage the Refuge. Nisqually NWR was established in 1974 “...for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other purpose, for migratory birds.” Refuge Goals • To conserve, manage, restore and enhance native habitats and associated plant and wildlife species representative of the Puget Sound lowlands. • To support recovery and protection efforts for Federal and State threatened and endangered species, species of concern, and their habitats. • To provide quality environmental education opportunities focusing on the fish, wildlife and habitats of the Nisqually River delta and watershed. • To provide quality wildlife-dependent recreation, interpretation and outreach opportunities to enhance public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of fish, wildlife, habitats and cultural resources of the Nisqually River Delta and watershed. Refuge Resources • Migratory Birds • Significant Wildlife Habitat • Endangered and Threatened Species Why is it necessary to manage the resources? • Loss of habitat due to development • Pollution from urban runoff, industrial and agricultural activities • Introduction of nonnative plants and animals • Trash such as styrofoam and fishing line How does the Refuge staff manage these resources? • Designs, develops and implements restoration plans to improve wildlife habitat • Monitors the populations of endangered species and migratory birds • Conducts programs to educate people about the value of the resources • Acquires additional land to protect and restore • Controls nonnative plants and animals and re-plants native species • Controls water levels How can students help the Refuge? • Learn about habitats, endangered species and migratory birds, and teach others • Never dump anything down storm drains and label storm drains with warnings • Protect wildlife from pets by following regulations • Teach others, including parents, about the Refuge • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle • Write letters to legislators Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 7 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Map of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge To print off a color version of this map, go to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 8 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Seasons of the Refuge Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge means different things to different creatures. For some it’s a place where they raise their young or a stopover during migration. For others, it’s a place to spend the winter or a year-round home. Visit Nisqually at different times of the year to enjoy an ever-changing panorama of wildlife. The darker the graphs, the more birds there are! WATERFOWL Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec SHOREBIRDS Jan Feb RAPTORS Jan Feb SONGBIRDS Jan Feb HERONS AND BITTERNS Jan Feb Mar Apr Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 9 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Seasonal Scheduling When are the best times to visit? What types of wildlife can be seen? Nisqually NWR is a good place to visit at all times of the year. The wildlife you see will depend on the season. Spring (March-May) The refuge receives most of its visits by school groups during the late spring (May through early June). Visits at this time of the year usually provide good weather. Migrating songbirds move through the Refuge during the spring. Spring migrants include goldfinches, red-winged blackbirds and swallows. Watch for nesting Canada geese, red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, bald eagles and great horned owls. Summer (June-August) The best summer wildlife viewing is in the early morning or evening. Birds nesting on the Refuge in the spring can also be seen during the summer. Fall (September-November) By scheduling field trips in the fall, educators will find fewer conflicts with other school groups than they would experience in May and June. Although many songbirds leave the Refuge for the winter, fall announces the arrival of Canada and cackling geese, many species of waterfowl, and raptors. Winter (December-February) Winter field trips can be a wonderful experience for groups, allowing them to combine environmental education activities with the opportunity to see large numbers of Canada geese and a variety of ducks. Bald eagles are also more abundant during this time. Groups need to be prepared for cold weather and/or rain during the winter. Trail Distances and Times Distances and approximate hiking times are from the visitor parking lot. Times indicated are for steady walking. Add time to account for wildlife and habitat observation and activities. Trail Distance Time Walking Time with activities Twin Barns Loop Trail 1 mile loop 30 minutes 1½ - 2 hours To Riparian Forest Overlook ¼ mile one way 10 minutes 20 minutes To Nisqually River Overlook ½ mile one way 20 minutes 30 minutes To Twin Barns ½ mile one way 20 minutes 30 minutes Nisqually Estuary Trail 2 miles round trip 1 hour 2 hours Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail 4 miles round trip 2 hours 3 hours Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 10 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Hiking Trail Descriptions The Refuge has approximately 5 miles of trails, including a 1 mile loop trail. Trails provide views of a variety of wildlife habitats. Please stay on the observation decks and trails. Twin Barns Loop Trail This level, mile-long boardwalk passes through a riparian forest, seasonal and freshwater wetlands, past the Twin Barns and an observation platform. There are three spur trails off the main trail, the Riparian Forest Overlook, the Nisqually River Overlook, and the Twin Barns Observation Platform. To Riparian Forest Overlook A short trail to an observation deck branches off the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. It curves through a surge plain, where tidal changes cause the Nisqually River to spill into a wooded habitat. To Nisqually River Overlook A little under ½ mile around the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, the boardwalk extends for another 150 yards to the river. Here there is an observation deck with a mounted spotting scope for wildlife viewing along the Nisqually River. The Twin Barns Observation Platform About ½ mile around the west side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, the boardwalk spur to the left goes to the Twin Barns Observation Platform. This elevated platform provides excellent views of the freshwater wetlands and the tidal estuary outside the dike. Mounted spotting scopes can assist with viewing wildlife. The Nisqually Estuary Trail and Boardwalk This trail starts just prior to the Nisqually River Overlook and is on top of an earthen dike. The salt water tidal estuary is to the north of the trail and freshwater wetlands are to the south. The first ½ mile is on top of an earthen dike, the rest is a boardwalk. The trail is flat and easy walking. NOTE: The last 700 feet of the boardwalk is closed from early October through late January during waterfowl hunting season. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 11 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge Riparian Forest – Tidally Influenced (Stop 1, Habitat Comparison Walk) The Riparian Forest Overlook Spur off the Twin Barns Loop Trail winds through alder and black cottonwood groves. The plants and animals of this forest must be able to survive tidal influences on the Nisqually River. This forest is one of the rare, naturally-occurring, deciduous riparian forests found in Western Washington. Drought or flooding, erosion or choking silt – all are common and the habitat can change rapidly. Tidal changes in the river and sloughs bring a twice daily wash of mixed salt and fresh waters, as well as rich life-giving organic matter called detritus. In order to cope in this habitat, animals may move to higher ground or employ evolutionary adaptations which allow them to swim in water; plants adapt in various way to survive periodic flooding while retaining moisture when the waters recede. Birds, Animals and Plants of the Riparian Forest Birds Great Horned Owl Hooded Merganser Wood Duck Mallard Swainson’s Thrush Yellow-rumped Warbler Woodpeckers Animals Beaver Millipede Mosquito Red-legged Frog Pacific Tree Frog River Otter Sow Bug Satyr Anglewing Rough Skinned Newt Caterpillars Plants Black Cottonwood Red Alder Big Leaf Maple Skunk Cabbage Scouring Rush Moss Lady Fern Licorice Fern Stinging Nettle Snowberry Oregon Ash Willow Salmon Berry Great Horned Owl River Otter Salmon Berry Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 12 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge Riparian Forest (Stop 2, Habitat Comparison Walk) Along the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail is a Riparian Forest that is not tidally influenced because it is behind a dike. This area was once similar to the tidally-influenced riparian forest, but was logged, diked and farmed. Second growth trees now form a forest that includes native species such as red alder, black cottonwood and big leaf maple. Some snags (dead, standing trees) still remain in the forest and provide nesting habitat for swallows and forage for woodpeckers. Many of the understory plants are a mix of nonnative plants like the Himalayan blackberry and English ivy. This area is undergoing restoration work by Refuge managers, including cleaning, contouring and replanting with more native plants. Birds, Animals and Plants of the Woodland Habitat Birds Great Horned Owl Hooded Merganser Bufflehead Black-Capped Chickadee Peregrine Falcon Swainson’s Thrush Sparrows Swallows Woodpeckers Downy Woodpecker Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Animals Black-tailed Deer Red-legged Frog Pacific Tree Frog Mink Long-tailed Weasel Plants Black Cottonwood Red Alder Big Leaf Maple Himalayan Blackberry (non-native) Stinging Nettle Snowberry Oregon Ash Willow Black-tailed Deer 13 Stinging Nettle Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge River (Stop 4, Habitat Comparison Walk) The Nisqually River’s source is the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier. The river gathers water from other tributary streams and slows and widens as it reaches the delta. The delta has been formed by the river carrying and dropping sediment as it slows to meet the Puget Sound. The Nisqually River is a critical habitat for endangered and threatened salmon runs. The River Overlook provides a great view of the river, including an area influenced by salt water from the Puget Sound. During fishing season, Nisqually Tribal fishing floats are visible in the water. Birds Common Mergansers Double-crested Cormorant Great Blue Heron Belted Kingfisher Mallard Belted Kingfisher Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Animals River Otter Harbor Seal Beaver Black-tailed Deer Beaver 14 Fish Chum Salmon Chinook Salmon Coho Salmon Pink Salmon Steelhead Salmon Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge Seasonal Freshwater Wetlands (Stop 4, Habitat Comparison Walk) Depending on the time of year, you may not think that habitats inside the dike are wetlands, but not all wetlands are wet year-round! Seasonal freshwater wetlands like the ones around the Twin Barns, fill with water in the fall and winter, and then gradually dry out over the spring. The Refuge manages seasonal freshwater wetlands by pumping water into them in the fall. With winter rainfall, these areas remain wet until the late spring when warm weather dries them out. In the fall and winter these seasonal wetlands are a great place to watch waterfowl; Northern shoveler, American wigeon, green-winged teal, gadwall, Northern pintail and Canada geese feed here. Migrating shorebirds find food in the drying- out ponds as early spring hatches of invertebrates provide birds with a boost of fat and protein they need to migrate. A cacophony of calls signifies the beginning of the breeding season for the Pacific tree frog. During the summer, songbirds nest in the wetlands vegetation. Animals use the seasonal freshwater wetlands for hunting. In particular, red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, and Northern harriers hunt for mice and voles. Vegetation around the edges of the wetlands including meadow foxtail, tall fescue, and a mix of pasture grasses, provide year-round shelter for sparrows, towhees, and juncos. Birds Red-tailed Hawk Northern Harrier Bald Eagle Canada Goose Mallard American Wigeon Animals Deer Mice Townsend’s Vole Red-legged Frog Pacific Tree Frog Garter Snake Mallard Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Plants Black Medic Creeping Bentgrass Reed Canarygrass Velvet Grass Canada Thistle Townsend Vole 15 Nootka Rose Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge Permanent Freshwater Wetlands (Stop 5, Habitat Comparison Walk) The permanent freshwater wetland around the Visitor Center and visitor parking lot was first created in 1970 by manipulating the flow of water from artesian wells inside the Brown Farm dike. The plants and animals in the permanent freshwater wetland are adapted to constant contact with freshwater in the form of shallow and deep pools and ponds. Refuge staff continues to restore this wetland by planting native species and removing invasive plants. Over 75% of freshwater wetlands in the Puget Sound have been dredged, filled or diked. The Refuge’s freshwater wetlands provide important habitat to replace that which has been lost elsewhere. Birds Animals Plants Mallard Mink Cattail Marsh Wren Beaver Reed Canarygrass American Bittern Black-tailed Deer Duckweed Wood Duck Red-legged Frog Pacific Willow Ring-necked Duck Pacific Tree Frog Bittersweet Nightshade Red-winged Blackbird Bullfrog Stinging Nettle Hooded Merganser Male and Female Wood Ducks Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Red Elderberry Tree Frog 16 Red Elderberry Educator’s Guide, Introduction Habitats of the Refuge Coniferous Forest Tall Douglas firs and big leaf maples grow on the western bluffs overlooking the delta. This area used to contain an old growth forest which was logged many years ago. Bald Eagles use the tall firs as lookouts. One pair nests here every spring. The Estuary Where the freshwater of the Nisqually River meets the salt water of the Puget Sound, a rich habitat called an estuary is created. Estuaries provide rich nutrients and sediment for plants, animals and invertebrates. Twice each day, the high tide floods the estuary with water and twice each day the low tide drains the area of water. The Refuge has restored 762 acres of the Nisqually estuary by removing dikes and introducing tidal waters after an absence of more than 100 years. In the estuary there are several distinct habitat types that are described below. Salt Marsh, Sloughs, and Channels of the Estuary The Nisqually estuary has both high and low salt marsh. Salt marshes are areas of slightly higher elevation and covered with water only during high tides. The low salt marsh (lower elevation) will be covered with water most of the time during high tides. The high salt marsh (higher elevation) will only be covered during very higher tides. Plants and animals that live in the salt marsh must adapt to handle salt water. Some examples are the Puget Sound gumweed and pickleweed, which sweat out salt through evaporating pores in their leaves. This process deposits a salt film or dusting on the leaves. Sloughs and channels on the estuary provide habitat and food for salmon fry before they head out to the Sound, as well as adults returning to spawn. These fish provide food for birds such as great blue heron, hooded merganser and grebes. Mudflats on the Estuary The Nisqually River and McAllister Creek continually drop sediment on some 1,000 acres the mudflats. This area is rich in invertebrates, including worms, clams and crustaceans (crabs). One square yard of mudflats can contain 100 clams, 2,000 worms and 30,000 amphipods! During spring and fall migrations shorebirds gather to feed on this wealth of invertebrates. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 17 Educator’s Guide, Introduction Birds, Animals, Fish, and Plants of the Estuary Birds Grebes (various species) Great Blue Heron Common Merganser Caspian Tern Glaucous-winged Gull Bufflehead Animals/Fish Clams Crab Amphipod Salmon (see river species) Steelhead Lugworm Plants Puget Sound Gumweed Lyndbys Sedge Tufted Hairgrass Pickleweed Mudflat Birds, Animals and Plants Birds Western Sandpiper Dunlin American Wigeon Greater Yellowlegs Animals/Fish Amphipod Threadworm Midge Larvae Fly Larvae Clam Snail Sculpin Plants Sea Lettuce Phytoplankton Western Sandpiper Open Salt Water The Nisqually NWR boundaries include the deep waters of the Nisqually Reach and Puget Sound. Here, the marine environment takes over. Harbor seals hunt for flounder and Dungeness crab. Scaup and surf scoters feed on clams, while American wigeon rest and feed on sea lettuce (algae). Birds, Animals and Plants of the Marine Habitat Birds Scaup Surf Scoter American Wigeon Glaucous-winged Gull Animals/Fish Harbor Seal Flounder Clam Dungeness Crab Salmon Steelhead American Wigeon Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 18 Plants Sea Lettuce (Algae) Phytoplankton Phytoplankton Educator’s Guide, Introduction Birds of the Refuge The following list, although not complete, describes some of the birds most commonly seen on the Refuge. Drawings are not to scale. For a complete list see the enclosed Bird Checklist. The checklist is also available online at American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) This is a bright-yellow bird with a black cap and wings. It is common in flocks in weedy fields, bushes and roadsides, and in seed-bearing trees. American Wigeon (Anas americana) The wigeon is a surface feeding duck that eats mostly aquatic plants. In flight, wigeons are mostly brown with a white wing patch. The males have green and white on top of their heads. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Adult bald eagles are readily identified by a white head and tail and huge yellow bill. Immature bald eagles are mostly dark brown; it takes four or five years for bald eagles to reach full adult plumage. It feeds mainly on fish. The bald eagle was an endangered species, but thanks to intense recovery programs populations are increasing. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) This swallow has an iridescent blue back, with a cinnamon-colored belly and throat. Most distinctive is its long, deeply forked tail. It makes open cup-shaped mud nests. If it can’t find any mud, it makes its own by walking in water and then soil. It eats insects while flying. Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) The kingfisher dives from the air, head first into the water to catch fish with its long beak. They nest in tunnels dug into the banks of rivers and lakes. It is gray on its head and back with a gray band across its white breast. The female also has a rusty colored band. Belted kingfishers can also be found along the Nisqually River. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) Th

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