National Wildlife Refuge
|Voice of America Road
3 miles north of U.S. Hwy 101
West of Sequim, WA
Phone Number: 360-457-8451
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Continued . . . An easy 3/8-mile trail takes visitors through forest to an overlook on the bluff above Dungeness Spit. The trail continues down a steep hill to the spit and becomes a 4.5 mile beach walk to the lighthouse. Please stay on the two designated trails (main and horse trail). Recreational beach use is allowed in designated areas year round. Bicycles are not allowed on he refuge.
To minimize disturbance to wildlife, Graveyard Spit, portions of Dungeness Spit, and a 100-yard buffer zone around these areas are closed to the public. All bluff areas are closed.
Horseback riding is allowed daily October 1 to May 14 and on weekdays May 15 to September 30 on the designated horse trail through the uplands and the beach west of Dungeness Spit base. Advanced reservations are required.
Dungeness Refuge lies on the Pacific Flyway, a migration route traveled by birds between their nesting and wintering grounds. The refuge's combination of mile maritime climate, shelter from storms, and abundant food also make it an ideal winter home for waterfowl. About 8,000 ducks and 1,500 black brant spend the winter here.
Early in the fall, green-winged teal and mallards feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates in the shallow water of Dungeness Harbor. American wigeon visit Graveyard Spit at low tide to graze on sea lettuce and eelgrass. When winter rains begin, these ducks visit fields and wetlands on the mainland to feed on grain and ender grasses. Some will return to the refuge at night to roost.
Diving ducks, such as bufflehead, surf scoters, red-breasted mergansers, and long-tailed, common goldeneye, and harlequin ducks hunt for mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish in the shallow waters of Dungeness Harbor and Bay. When resting, they "raft up" in large flocks offshore. In spring, the courtship antics of bufflehead and scoters liven the waters of Dungeness Harbor.
Black brant are small (about 3 pounds), dark-colored geese that rarely stray far from salt water. Special glands remove salt from the seawater they drink. Eelgrass, a plant that grows in shallow bays, is their favorite food. About 1,500 brant winter at Dungeness Refuge from October to February. In March, they are joined by brant migrating north along the coast. Numbers peak at 4,000 in late April. By mid-May, they have left for their nesting grounds--the coastal tundra of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia.
In the fall, the entire Pacific population of black brant (about 140,000 birds) funnels into Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. For a few weeks, they fatten on eelgrass. Then most of them fly 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) to Baja California in Mexico--the longest nonstop migration of any goose. Smaller groups stop further north, including at Dungeness Refuge.
Once tens of thousands of brant wintered in Puget Sound. Now only 8,000 do so, their numbers reduced by human disturbance, coastal development, and loss of eelgrass beds. Today, 75 percent of black brant winter in coastal lagoons of Baja California and elsewhere in western Mexico.
In spring, up to 25,000 shorebirds stop at Dungeness Refuge to feed and rest on thei migration north. Unlike the brief burst of spring, the fall migration begins early and lasts several months. The first fall migrants appear in late July. About 12,000 shorebirds stop here in late summer and fall. Most continue south, as far as Peru. A few thousand dunlin, sanderlings, and black-bellied plovers spend the winter here.
Shorebirds have a wide variety of foraging strategies, so many species can feed in the same area without competition. Least sandpipers and black-bellied plovers pick invertebrates from the surface with their short bills, while long-billed whimbrels and dowitchers probe for worms, clams, and crustaceans buried deep in the mud. Turnstones, true to their name, flip over pebbles and flotsam with their stout wedge-shaped bills to find small animals hidden underneath.
Summer birds nesting on the refuge include seabirds such as double-crested cormorants, black oystercatchers, glaucous-winged gulls, and pigeon guillemots. Rhinocerous auklets forage in the deeper waters of Dungeness Harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Look for common loons, eared grebes, common murres, and gulls in the winter.
Bald eagles nest on the bluffs in spring and are frequent visitors to the refuge. Peregrine falcons hunt waterfowl and shorebirds on the Spit, using driftwood as perches.
Many species of songbirds, such as Wilson's and yellow-rumped warblers and rufous hummingbirds, can be seen and heard in the woods during the spring and summer months.
Harbor seals haul out on the tip of Dungeness Spit and pup here in July. Orcas and gray whales are sometimes seen on the Strait side of the Spit. Black-tailed deer are common in the forested part of the refuge.
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