Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Nisqually: A Mosaic of Habitats
Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, marsh and water birds...all are attracted to the mosaic of habitats found on the Nisqually Delta. A five mile long dike separates saltwater habitats from freshwater habitats and creates a land of diversity for up to 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. By walking the 5-1/2 mile Brown Farm Dike Trail visitors can view six distinct habitat types and the wildlife that live in them.
Outside the Dike
Outside the dike are saltmarshes and open mudflats washed by the changing tides of Puget Sound. The salty water brings rich nutrients to the variety of clams, crabs, worms, and shrimp living in the mud, while these creatures in turn feed shorebirds, gulls, ducks, and herons.
Inside the Dike
Inside the dike freshwater marshes and open grasslands provide a quiet resting and wintering area for up to 20,000 migratory waterfowl. The grasslands teem with mice and voles, which are a ready meal for hawks, owls, and coyotes. Thick cattails and sedges surround the freshwater marshes and give protection to marsh wrens, soras, bitterns, and salamanders.
Along the Dike
A walk on the Brown Farm Dike Trail also takes visitors through riparian woodland and brush habitats. Careful observers may see winter wrens, red-legged frogs, pileated woodpeckers, and even great horned owls among the large cottonwood, alder, and big leaf maple trees growing along the Nisqually River. Along McAllister Creek, crabapples, roses, and blackberries provide a smorgasbord for songbirds. Watch for evening grosbeaks, cedar waxwings, and finches.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public daily during daylight hours. The trails are open only for walking and pets are not allowed. Bring your binoculars, spotting scope, and camera, and enjoy your visit!
Wildlife Observation Tips
WHEN - Early morning, late afternoon, and when the weather clears after a storm are good times to observe wildlife. Spring bird migration usually goes from mid-March through mid-May, and fall migration from September through December. The refuge is open daily during daylight hours.
WHERE - Be sure to look in a variety of habitats, along the "edges" between habitats, and remember to look high and low as well as at eye level. Please stay on the trails.
HOW - You will see more animals if you are QUIET. Be sure to listen for animal calls or songs, or try sitting down along the trail and waiting.
WHAT TO BRING - Binoculars or spotting scopes are helpful for observing wildlife, and a good field guide will help you identify what you see. You are always welcome to bring your camera and a lunch to eat along the trail. Don't forget your raincoat.
ReptilesSQUAMATA Boidae ___ Rubber Boa Charina bottae Colubridae ___ Common Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis ___ Northwestern Garter Snake Thamnophis ordinoides ___ Western Garter Snake Thamnophis elegans ___ Alligator Lizard Gerrhonotus coeruleus ___ Fence Lizard Sceloporus occidentalis
AmphibiansCAUDATA Ambystomatidae ___ Long-toed Salamander Ambystoma macrodactylum Salamandridae ___ Roughskin Newt Taricha granulosa Hylidae ___ Pacific Treefrog Hyla regilla Ranidae ___ Red-legged Frog Rana aurora
Staff of the Nisqually NWR compiled the information on species occurrence from data supplied to the refuge office over the years by many individuals. NWR staff, Bill Hesselbart, Refuge Manager; Mike McMinn, Assistant Refuge Manager, and Ellie Henke, Outdoor Recreation Planner, reviewed and refined the species lists. Ellie wrote the habitats text and drew the cover artwork. Dr. Murray L. Johnson, Curator of Mammals, Burke Museum, University of Washington, reviewed the listed mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, and enhanced the accuracy of many details. Bob Mowrey served as editor with Flo Brodie as associate.
Margaret McKenny was a teacher and places like the Nisqually Delta were her classrooms. She visited these wetlands often and brought people of all ages here to explore it, enjoy a day in the field, and to tell them about nature. "Everything speaks its name," she used to say; and it seemed as though she could tell you the name of absolutely every mushroom, plant and animal here if she were put to the task. People found themselves listening to this old-world naturalist and being gently persuaded that the Nisqually Delta was somehow more than the sum of its parts - it was a larger environment that protected and nourished life and it was worthy of preservation. It supported the resident life forms, including man; and also sustained populations of migratory waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway. It had international importance. In those early days, there was no wildlife refuge on the delta and the area was being favored for development by industry. She was one of the first to recognize the impending threat, advocate protection, and influence people to take action. This refuge is her legacy to you and future generations.
For more information, contact:
Refuge Manager Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 100 Brown Farm Road Olympia, Washington 98516 Telephone: 360/753-9467