Seasons of Wildlife

  • Spring

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    Bald eagles begin nesting. Spring migrants begin to arrive; the last week in March may be the best time to see and hear spring migrant birds. Early flowering salmonberry and Indian-plum provide nectar for returning rufous hummingbirds.  



    Bald eagle pair incubates eggs this month and chicks usually hatch late in April. Late April and early May bring flocks of approximately 5,000 western sandpipers and dunlin to forage on delta mudflats during northward migration. Air is sweet with flowering shrubs and trees. Insects attracted to new leaves are plentiful food for songbirds. Weekend Nature Programs begin in early April.



    Wet and cloudy season gives way to occasionally clear days. Ground nesting birds under way. Bird songs fill the air. International Migratory Bird Day is the 2nd Saturday in May.  


  • Summer

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    Dry, sunny seasonal weather. Chinook salmon move up the Nisqually River to spawn in tributaries until September. Songbirds are feeding their young. Weekend Nature Programs continue. 



    Juvenile eagles flying and foraging on the Refuge. Wildlife consumes abundant fruit on native woodland and forest shrubs. Summer Lecture Series begins. Weekend Nature Programs continue. 



    Mowing of grasslands and irrigation of seasonal wetlands provides important habitat for wintering waterfowl. Shorebirds migrate southward, stopping briefly to feed out on Refuge mudflats. Summer Lecture Series continues. Weekend Nature Programs continue. 


  • Fall

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    Drizzle and rain begins the wet season: fall, winter, and spring. Migrating waterfowl begin to arrive. Come check out the Nisqually Watershed Festival. Weekend Nature Programs continue. 



    Waterfowl numbers increasing. Wintering songbirds start arriving (Northern shrike, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned kinglet, varied thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, and sparrows). Peregrine falcons, merlins, and American kestrels arrive to forage on wintering birds. Bald eagles hunt waterfowl flocks. National Wildlife Refuge System Week is the 2nd week in October. Waterfowl hunting season begins and the Estuary Boardwalk Trail is partially closed until late January. 



    Abundant waterfowl. Chum salmon return to spawning grounds in Nisqually River tributaries. Raptors increasingly abundant throughout the winter. 

  • Winter

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    Approx. 4,000-6,000 wintering geese and waterfowl can be seen in seasonal wetlands, pastures, and estuary habitats. Earthy, sweet smell of the Pacific Northwest permeates the air.  On December 18, 2015, the "Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act" was signed into law and the refuge officially became Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.



    Wetlands are fully flooded with seasonal rain. Waterfowl are abundant. Peak of chum salmon in Nisqually River. Bald eagles forage on chum salmon along river and on the delta. Estuary Boardwalk Trail re-opens at end of waterfowl hunting season. 



    Best time to observe sea ducks and black brant on Nisqually Reach. Waterfowl fatten up before migrating north. Pacific treefrogs start chorusing.  The Nisqually NWR was formally established in February 1974.