Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trip Report

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Starting Out On the Boardwalk

Swimming snakes! Exploding cattails! Dabbling ducks! Croaking frogs! Sunning seals! This hike had it all.

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Visitor Center

We enjoyed a day of record spring temperatures by walking at Nisqually with my mother-in-law. Spring is just getting started at Nisqually, with Indian plum being one of the few shrubs leafing out. The frogs are loudly croaking now, though we only were able to spot one. A few turtles have ventured out to sunny logs to warm up. Yellow jackets have begun gathering wood shreds from the plentiful boardwalk lumber.

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Spring Green
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Early Spring View

Willows are greening, their thin stems turning yellow and bright in the afternoon sunshine.

We sauntered down the Loop Trail boardwalk, pausing frequently to scan the water and bushes.

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Swimming Snake!

We were surprised to see a garter snake swimming through the water! At one point, I heard something rustling near the trail, and looked down to see a brown bunny hunkered under the brambles. I expected more songbirds to keep us company with their twittering, but they haven’t shown up in the area yet.

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Out on the Dike
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Fresh Catkins
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Canada Geese

We decided to walk out on the long boardwalk that goes out into the estuary. While walking the dike trail, we noticed a bunch of green-striped garter snakes congregating in the dried grasses.

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Snakes in the Grass

The Canada geese were not afraid of people, and we saw a heron close to the trail, where we always see one.

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Twin Barns and Tip of Mt. Rainier

The tide was way out, leaving large expanses of mud and pools of briny water.

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Orange Mud Flats

Green-winged teals and northern pintails fed in the shallows, and various gulls wheeled and chattered. Hooded mergansers and surf scoters dove in the deeper channels. Seals were hauled out on one of the larger islands.

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Viewpoint at the End

This was the first time I’ve made it out to the very end of the boardwalk; there is a great view of the top of Mount Rainier from out there, and a pair of eagles was resting in the line of shrubs at the verge of the bay.

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Mt. Rainier Over the Mud Flats

We were counting down to sunset, when the gates to the refuge are closed, so we walked more quickly back to the Twin Barns area, where we sat and had a snack. Then we decided to complete the Loop Trail, so we could see if we could spot the great horned owl on her nest. We were successful in that endeavor, though I would never have spotted her if I didn’t know where to look.

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Great Horned Owl On the Nest

We saw abundant signs of recent beaver activity on the back side of the loop. We looked for the saw-whet owl, but it must have been out hunting, because its tree was empty.

It was so amazingly warm, and I’m really glad we got the chance to get out for a few hours. I was happy to pull out my short-sleeved shirt and hiking skort. It was doubly nice to have the company of Grandma for conversation. I hope to get down there again once the songbirds arrive from their winter homes.

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Evening Gold

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