Friday, December 14, 2018
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Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge: the Birds (Part I)

You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to take a walk through the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. On a whim I decided to grab my 8-year-old granddaughter and drag my 20-year-old son for the long walk, to see what we could see and enjoy the day outside on the water.

The parking lot was packed, people parked as far away as a quarter mile away. We got lucky and found a spot close to the edge of the refuge.

Geese waddled up the bank close to where we parked. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know the difference between the Canada Goose and the Cackling Goose, but I’m working on it. If you know, leave a comment or email me ( and let me know.

“There’s hundreds of them!” my granddaughter exclaimed.

Yup. :)

This little guy is a no-brainer, a male Mallard duck. I love the colors!

“The Mallard is the ancestor of all domestic duck breeks, except the Muscovy Duck.

“They frequently breed with domestic ducks, producing a large variety of patterns and colors. They will also hybridize with wild species such as the closely related American Black Duck and even occasionally with Northern Pintail.”

~iBird Explorer phone app

The Mallard is one of the most commonly sighted ducks in both the smallest and the largest waterways. They are the last duck to get pushed out of deteriorating habitiat and the first to reenter when conditions improve.

The Mallard male duck is quieter than the female, his quack is quiet but deep.

The female Mallard makes a loud, resonating, down-the-scale “QUACK! Quack, quack” racket — the classic duck sound most people use when they imitate a duck call.

Imagine that, the woman is the loud one in the group or “battling,” “daggle,” “doppling,” “lute,” or “sword” of Mallards.

A group of geese can be called a “blizzard,” “chevron,” “knot,” “plump,” or a “string” of geese.

Our first Bald Eagle of the day. We saw a total of four that day. The eagles crowd the Nisqually Delta at this time of year because the pickings are easy — spawned out salmon are one of their favorite meals.

I was very excited that we spotted the American Bittern again on this trip. This guy stood stock still, just like this for at least 5 minutes — which was only as long as I could stand to stand and watch him.

A group of Bitterns can be called a “freeze” of bitterns. Now I know why!

I was amazed at the number of people that just walked on by without even slowing down as the three of us stood and pointed and talked and clicked away with our camera. If someone is talking excitedly about something, I’m going to naturally stop and look too! Maybe that’s why I’m a reporter and they’re not — I’m naturally nosey. 😛

My first Peregrine Falcon sighting, oh boy was I excited when I spotted him way up in the tree!

The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest bird on record when diving, he can “stoop” (which is what they call the dive) at 175 mph or more.

Another Bald Eagle. The Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle almost disappeared from the U.S. because of DDT, which was finally banned in 1972.

Do you remember the days when we would say, “OMGoodness! I just saw an EAGLE!”?? Now we say, “Yup, there’s another eagle.” They almost seem as common as Stellar Jays nowadays.

An immature Bald Eagle. From birth to maturity, it takes four years for the Bald Eagle to come into his own majestic (carrion-eating, fish-stealing) self.

Ben Franklin wasn’t a fan of the eagle and his “dishonorable” habits, he had put the Wild Turkey up for our national emblem. The turkey only lost by one congressional vote, by the way.

A Belted Kingfisher perched over the water. According to my iBird app, the Kingfisher has been known to dive into the water to avoid being captured and eaten by a hawk.

I watched one dive down into the water and come back up with a small fish in his mouth. I love these noisy, rattling birds and have a pair of them living over our beaver ponds.

Another pair of Mallards. Notice the shine on their feathers. I had never noticed it until I had a camera to capture the view, but the Mallard looks almost like it’s made of shiny plastic when they rise from the water. Stunning.

I believe this is a pair of American Wigeon, dabbling. They foraged like synchronized swimmers. I have frame after frame of them, tail side up, but none the other way.

Northern Pintails. It’s easy to see how they got their name. This elegant guy is also known as the “greyhound of the air” because of his lean profile and swift flight.

We started the day with geese and ended the day with geese. This guy is stretching out before he settles in for the night with his friends.

It was a beautiful day at the Nisqually NWR. We saw many, many more birds than I posted here. Go, see for yourself!

There is a free bird walk at the Nisqually NWR, led by volunteer Phil Kelley, every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. It’s well worth the trip!

One comment

  1. Incredible! I’ve never seen a bald eagle except in a zoo. It looks like a perfect day, Kim!

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