Lots of wildlife at the wildlife refuge

Which makes sense. Last Sunday, I decided to go out to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge  — the main link doesn’t seem to be working for some reason, but this one should — which occupies most of the estuary of the Nisqually River (the one I showed you the glacial headwaters of last week ). It’s the largest remaining undeveloped estuary on Puget Sound, and the site of a heated battle between developers and preservationists back in the 1970s, which resulted in the creation of the refuge.

The refuge used to be mostly diked farmland, and a few years ago, the management decided it would be better for the critters if the dikes were removed, so they were, and a beautiful two-plus mile boardwalk replaced the dike trails. The boardwalk leads to a gazebo at the very edge of the estuary, where you can see open water and most of the southern end of the sound.

For some reason, on this trip I didn’t see any critters on the way out to the gazebo except for gulls, but I saw lots on the way back. I’m not sure why that was.

The trail to the head of the boardwalk is mostly a boardwalk, too, and traverses forest of bigleaf maple and black alder. In spite of the trees, it’s mostly wetland, and this time of year the water is covered with bright green algae. Jewelweed blooms this time of year, too.

The boardwalk leading to the estuary boardwalk.
The boardwalk leading to the estuary boardwalk.
Bright green algae covering the wetland.
Bright green algae covering the wetland.
Jewelweed blossoms.
Jewelweed blossoms.

Then the forest stops and the estuary starts, and the sky opens up.

Out of the forest and onto the tideflats.
Out of the forest and onto the tideflats.
You can see the gazebo at the end of the boardwalk, just to the left of the end of the bluff (not the dock and building, to the left of that).
You can see the gazebo at the end of the boardwalk, just to the left of the end of the bluff (not the dock and building, to the left of that).  The white spots are gulls.
Looking back towards the twin barns at the beginning of the estuary boardwalk.  The parking lot's about  half a mile past that.
Looking back towards the twin barns (there really are two, although you can only see one of them in this photo) at the beginning of the estuary boardwalk. The parking lot’s about half a mile past that.

I walked all the way out to the gazebo, which, like I said, is over two miles one way. The clouds kept coming and going. I kept wishing they’d stay, because it was warm, and out on the tideflats like that it was humid. Under the clouds it was fine. Under the sun, it was sweaty.

On a clear day, you can see all the way up to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from the gazebo, a distance of somewhere between 15-18 miles as the gull flies.

If you look very closely, you can see one of the uprights on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, dead center.
If you look very closely, you can see one of the uprights on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, dead center.

And then, on the way back, I saw Critters. With a capital Cr.

An egret.  Isn't he gorgeous?
An egret. Isn’t he gorgeous?  What I really want to know is how he stays so white out there in the mud.
A great blue heron.  I saw about half a dozen of these coming back, but this one was the closest.
A great blue heron. I saw about half a dozen of these coming back, but this one was the closest.
Another heron, who really isn't headless (see his reflection?).
Another heron, who really isn’t headless (see his reflection?).
My birder friend says this is a hawk, probably a red-tailed hawk just because they're so common here.
My birder friend says this is a hawk, probably a red-tailed hawk just because they’re so common here.
And, as the enthralled little girl I was watching this with said, "a bunny!"
And, as the enthralled little girl I was watching this fellow with said, “a bunny!”

I also saw a lot of swallows out swooping around eating mosquitoes, but they were moving far too fast to photograph.

All in all, a wonderful day out at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.