For more information on GHNWR, contact:
Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge
c/o Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
100 Brown Farm Road
Olympia, WA 98516
A FIELD GUIDE TO
NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Chehalis Basin Education Consortium
The Chehalis Basin Education Consortium is a partnership comprised of Educational Service District 113, the Chehalis River
Council, school districts, natural resource agencies, and institutions of higher education. The primary purpose of the CBEC is “to
support stewardship of the Chehalis watershed through environmental education by linking Washington's learning goals and
standards to environmental issues that are part of this watershed.”
Want to get involved?
If you are a 4th—12th grade teacher interested in becoming involved with the CBEC, please contact: Kathy Jacobson, CBEC
Coordinator at (360) 464-6722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding for the GHNWR Interpretive Field Studies and
Guide provided by the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
and Educational Service District 113.
Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge (GHNWR)
GHNWR was established in 1990, to conserve habitat for a variety
of wildlife, particularly migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. The
refuge is located within Grays Harbor Estuary, at the mouth of the
Chehalis River, which makes up the second largest watershed in
Washington. The refuge is located on Bowerman Basin. The basin
is especially important to shorebirds as it is last place to be flooded
at high tide. This gives the shorebirds more time to locate and feast
on invertebrates in the mudflats.
The refuge protects about 1,500 acres of intertidal mudflats, salt
marsh and upland habitat and is one of four major staging areas
for migrating shorebirds in the Pacific Flyway. Shorebirds gather
here in spring and fall to feed and rest. From late April through
early May, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds concentrate on
the muddy tideflats of the estuary. Shorebirds gather here to feed,
store up fat reserves and rest for their non-stop flights to their
northern breeding grounds.
Grays Harbor is designated as
a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site,
recognizing Bowerman Basin
as internationally significant
shorebird habitat. Although
the refuge occupies only two
percent of the intertidal habitat of Grays Harbor, it hosts
up to 50 percent of the shorebirds that stage in the estuary.
You Can Help Protect Migratory Birds
and Other Wildlife
While at the Refuge…
Stay on the boardwalk at all times.
Walk and talk quietly while observing wildlife.
Observe animals from a safe distance.
Leave all plants and animals
where you found them.
Carry out all of your garbage.
Leave your pets at home.
Tell others about your experience.
Properly dispose of all motor oil, paints and household chemicals.
Help stencil storm drains with the message, “Dump no wastes, drains to
Be informed about land use issues in your community. Birds and other
wildlife are losing areas that they need to feed, nest and rest.
Keep learning about wildlife and the healthy habitats we all need.
Be a wise user of water and electricity.
Recycle and reuse things you use around your house.
Along the Beach and Waterfront....
Join efforts to plant buffer strips along the waterfront.
Protect and restore riverside grasses, shrubs and trees.
Keep a safe distance from birds and other wildlife. Never chase or flush
birds or other wildlife.
Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after your pet.
Pick up litter.
On Your Boat....
Observe posted speeds and “no wake” signs. Waves damage shorelines and
Secure loose items so they don’t o overboard and become marine waste.
Be vigilant about repairing oil and gas leaks from boat engines.
REFLECTION PAGE II:
Something I did well today…
USE THIS GUIDE to observe, explore and discover the importance of GHNWR to migrating shorebirds, waterfowl, birds of
prey and other wildlife. The guide contains photographs and information on key plant and animal species. Pages have been setaside for you to sketch and record your own observations and inquiries.
Keep this guide handy to learn what native plants and animals you
Trail Map.................................................................................. 9 - 10
Activities......................................................................... 7 - 9, 17 - 19
I strongly believe…
List at least two questions that you are going to find the answers to once
you are back at school:
This program is made possible through partnerships between Educational Service District 113’s Chehalis Basin Education Consortium ,
Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, Grays Harbor College, Grays
Harbor Audubon Society with funding by the U.S. National Fish and
Wildlife Services and the National Wildlife and Wildlife Foundation.
What is the Grays Harbor Estuary?
REFLECTION PAGE I:
The best part of the trip was…
Saltwater from the Pacific Ocean mixes with the fresh water
from the Chehalis River to form Grays Harbor Estuary. Twice a
day, the tide from the Pacific Ocean comes into Grays Harbor and covers
the marshes and mudflats. When the tide recedes, vast mudflats and
saltmarshes are exposed.
Estuaries are among the world’s most biologically productive ecosystems. Plants grow abundantly in estuaries and when the plants die,
the dead plants materials provides food for snails, clams, worms,
birds and other wildlife that live in the mud, marshes and open
Estuaries are also vital because:
Estuaries are a nursery,
feeding, spawning, resting,
and migration area for salmon
and other fish. Chum, pink
and chinook salmon fry and
fingerlings may spend months in
estuaries, feeding, growing, and adjusting to salt water.
If I were a shorebird, this is what I would like about Grays Harbor
National Wildlife Refuge…
Estuaries are also important because….
They are a breeding, feeding, staging, and migration area for birds.
Two thirds of the fish and shellfish we eat spend part of their life
Nearly 50 % of all endangered and threatened species in this
country utilize estuaries.
They act as filters for pollution, helping to clean our waters.
They hold sediment which helps to prevent flooding and erosion.
They are like sponges and absorb water during big storms.
And, estuaries are a popular tourist destination!
-CREATE YOUR OWN FIELD PAGEList special sights and sounds that you
experienced today and/or sketch one of your
favorite sights today.
Habitat: Grassy fields, wet meadows and marshes; it
nests near to or on the ground.
Description: Small and stocky. Male has a broad black
mask and a bright “ yellow throat” and breast. The female lacks the black mask and is a more olive color. Its
call is a “wichity wichity wichity wichity wich.”
Niche Notes: Mainly eats insects.
Interesting Facts: A recent study showed that males with large black masks were more
likely to win mates than males with small black masks. The males perform song flight
displays, especially during the late afternoon. The male gradually ascends into the air,
climbing to a height of 20 feet or higher, whereupon he utters a number of short sputtering notes, followed by song. He then drops back to the ground.
Habitat: Fresh and saltwater marshes, wet meadows, coastal
Description: Small and stocky, with tail held upright.
Niche Notes: Nests in cattails, bulrushes and spirea/
hardhack. Eats land and aquatic insects and spiders.
Interesting Facts: Local marsh wrens build up to 22 “dummy” nests which may help
with predator avoidance. Males have up to 200 songs, which resemble the sound of a
Habitat: Wet meadows, salt-water marshes, and fields.
Description: A 16-24 inch, slender-bodied hawk with
distinct facial disks and a conspicuous white rump
patch. In flight, the wings are held in a shallow "V."
When startled, makes a "ke-ke-ke-ke-ke" sound.
Niche Notes: Eat small mammals such as voles, mice,
shrews, also small rabbits, small birds, reptiles, amphibians, and large insects. Hunts
primarily by sound.
Interesting Facts: Circus is the Greek term for “circling hawk.” Some males manage
to feed two or three nests of about five young each at the same time.
GREAT BLUE HERON
Habitat: Forages in many types of open habitat from stream
and pond edges to wet meadows and upland fields.
Description: Large grayish blue heron.
Niche Notes: Feeds on fish, small animals and other prey.
Interesting Facts: Nests in colonies in trees. Its voice is a very
deep, hoarse, trumpeting or croaking “fraaahnk.”
Habitat: Common and widespread. Nests in tall trees with
open feeding areas nearby.
Description: Stocky and broad with rounded wings and tail.
Adults have a striking red tail.
Niche Notes: Feeds on small mammals and occasionally on
Interesting Fact: The eyesight of a red-tailed hawk is eight
times better than a humans.
The raspy cry of the red-tailed hawk is used in movies to represent any eagle or hawk anywhere in the world.
Habitat: Freshwater and brackish wetlands on
every continent except Antarctica.
Description: Stout, tall up to 14 inches reed-like
perennial, with hollow stems. The leaves are stiff
with loose sheaths that twist in the wind.
Niche Notes: May provide cover for small mammals and food and nesting habitat for
Interesting Facts: It is considered an undesirable, noxious weed in Washington state,
as it is highly aggressive and out-competes other plant species.
Habitat: Tidal marshes and flats, estuarine meadows,
Description: Stems single or in clumps from well
developed creeping rhizomes. Flat leaves.
Niche Notes: It is prime forage for geese during
spring migration and for trumpeter swans and grizzly
bears as it contains as much as 25% crude protein when young.
Interesting Facts: Lyngby’s sedge is a pioneer colonizer of tidal mudflats, and is our
dominant species in tidal mudflats, growing in dense, almost pure stands.
Habitat: Uncommon in open areas.
Description: Large, sleek and powerful; with pointed
wings and a short tail. The Peregrine has a dark head,
uniformly patterned underwing, and gray or dark barring
Niche Notes: Feeds mainly on songbirds, shorebirds, and ducks.
Interesting Facts: It is the fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine dives on prey at
speeds of up to 250 miles per hour! Its name comes from the Latin word peregrinus
meaning “foreigner” or “traveler.”
Habitat: Sandy or muddy intertidal areas.
Description: Long, thin, green leaves. Z. marina has leaves
up to three meters (10 feet) in length. Z. juponica leaves are
finer and don’t exceed 15 centimeters. The seeds are contained in translucent packets.
Niche Notes: Brant geese eat eelgrass as a staple part of their
diet. Ducks and other waterfowl also dine on its seeds and
Interesting Facts: Eelgrass is considered a critical habitat in support of marine fisheries. It is commonly referred to as a nursery for many fish and crustaceans.
Habitat: Transitional area between wetlands and uplands.
Description: Cascara is a small tree with a smooth, gray bark. Its
yellow-green leaves are oval and have distinct parallel veins.
Small, green flowers develop into small green to purple-black berries.
Niche Notes: Quite a few species eat cascara’s fruit. Up to onequarter of a pileated woodpecker’s diet may consist of these berries, when available. Band-tailed pigeons, sapsuckers, thrush, raccoon, and mule deer also feast on the fruit.
Interesting Facts: Cascara bark is collected and made into a laxative. Native Americans also used it for this purpose and for other medicines. The berries were used for
Habitat: Disturbed areas, stream edges and moist woods.
Description: Alder may be found as a crowded shrub or a
tree as tall as 80 feet. The bark is thin, smooth, and marked
with horizontal lines called lenticels. Leaves are pointed ovals, with toothed, rolled under edges.
Niche Notes: Birds, such as goldfinches, chickadees, and pine siskins, eat the tiny seeds
in alder “cones.” Elk and deer may also eat the twigs or foliage. Beaver browse leaves.
Interesting Facts: Alder actually adds nitrogen to the soil. Bacteria, living in nodules
on its roots, take nitrogen out of the air and enrich the soil. Alder provides excellent
wood for smoking fish and carving. Its bark was boiled for a dye.
SALT MARSH PLANTS
Habitat: Tidal marshes, and seashores.
Description: A sod-forming perennial with solid stems. The
leaves are erect, short and stiff with a yellowish-green color.
Niche Notes: Saltgrass is an important food for birds, insects and
voles. The dense areas of grass are used by animals to hide from
predators and for nesting. It is also the larval food plant for several
species of butterflies.
Interesting Facts: Saltgrass has adapted to living in environments with high amounts
of salinity by having salt secreting glands on the surface of its leaves.
SHOREBIRDS: As many as 24 species of shorebirds use Grays Harbor Estuary. These Arctic bound shorebirds, coming from as far south as Argentina, are
among the world’s greatest migrants. Many travel over 15,000 miles round trip!
From June through October, the shorebirds return to the estuary in lesser concentrations on their way south during the longer fall migration period.
Thousands of shorebirds, primarily dunlin, stay for the winter.
Habitat: Mudflats and sandy beaches, representing 8590% of the shorebirds present at the refuge during migration.
Description: Small, grayish bird with dark legs. Joins
group of small sandpipers known as “peeps.”
Niche Notes: Eats crustaceans, mollusks and marine worms.
Interesting Facts: In migration, the western sandpiper stages huge spectacular flocks,
from the Pacific Coast to Alaska, with more than 6 million birds. Western sandpipers
migrate over 250 miles per day between stop-over points.
Habitat: Sandy beaches and mudflats. Often in large
flocks that move slowly, probing busily in mud or shallow
Description: Dunlins are medium sized sandpipers, with
fairly long bills with a distinctive droop at the end.
Niche Notes: Feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and marine
worms using the a “sewing machine action.”
Interesting Facts: Birders describe them as “the little old man.”
Habitat: Beaches and tide flats. Most common plover.
Description: Slender, dark-backed bird with white
underparts, conspicuous black breast band and white face markings. Their call is a soft musical “tsowee.”
Niche Notes: Their diet includes mollusks, crustaceans and
Interesting Fact: The killdeer, which this bird resembles, is about twice as large and
has two black bands across its breast.
Habitat: Open mudflats, beaches and fields.
Description: In flight, note white tail and wing stripe; all
plumages have “black armpit” on white underwing, and
breeding plumage has all-black belly.
Niche Notes: Eats worms, clams, snails, and crabs.
Interesting Fact: The alertness of this species is well-known. It is believed that this
species even changed its stopover points to avoid hunters!
Habitat: Mudflats and shallow muddy ponds along the
Description: Dowitchers are stocky, long-billed sandpipers, and an entirely white rump.
Niche Notes: Dowitchers feed on insects, crustaceans, and marine worms by rapid,
rhythmic, vertical sewing machine-like probing, often in water up to their bellies.
Interesting Fact: Despite their names, long-billed and short-billed dowitchers are extremely similar and best distinguished by their calls. Short-billed have lower sounding
calls than long-billed dowitchers.
Habitat: Coastal mudflats, tidal zones, sandy beaches.
Description: Large and sturdy, with relatively short legs
and bill. Rich red under parts. In flight, note wing stripe,
gray rump and tail, and very long wings.
Niche Notes: During its migration, feeds primarily on
mollusks, marine worms and crustaceans.
Interesting Fact: Red Knot is one of the champion long-distance migrants of the bird
world, with some individuals migrating from their high Arctic breeding grounds in
North America to wintering grounds in extreme southern South America. Red Knot's
propensity for gathering in huge flocks at traditional staging areas makes it vulnerable
to habitat degradation and destruction and to hunting pressure in South America.
Habitat: Wet, disturbed areas.
Description: A jointed stem, up to 24 inches tall, is surrounded
by whorls of wiry branches and small, scaly leaves.
Niche Notes: Whistling swans or a hungry black bear may eat
horsetails, but overall they are of little value to wildlife.
Interesting Facts: Horsetails are known as “scouring rush” because the silica in their stems makes them tough and abrasive
enough to scrub pots. Native Americans also used the stems to
polish arrows and for an invigorating body scrub. The juice was
used as an eyewash. The spore cone was mashed with salmon eggs and eaten. The stem
and root were eaten with whale or seal oil, boiled for a hair rinse, or woven into baskets.
Habitat: Open sites, especially on disturbed sites, but also invades
natural meadows, forests.
Description: Small, spindly, deciduous shrub with typical ‘pea
Niche Notes: Little value to wildlife.
Interesting Facts: Highly invasive plant that has endangered many
of our region’s rain shadow flora.
Habitat: Found growing on the banks of ponds and
Description: Long, narrow and pointed leaves. Excellent for reclaiming riverbanks or wetlands because of
its extensive root systems and ability to quickly take
Niche Notes: Willows provide cover and attract insects. Grouse and grosbeak will eat its buds or tender twigs. The dusky-footed wood rat
eats its foliage and catkins.
Interesting Facts: Willow bark contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.
Native Americans chewed the bark as a pain reliever.
Habitat: Open hillsides and along streambanks
Description: A low scrambling deciduous shrub. Flowers
re a showy white, with thimble like groups of berries.
Niche Notes: Fruit is eaten by birds, bears and s small
mammals including coyote, raccoons and skunks. Thickets
are good nesting habitats for many small birds.
Interesting Facts: Naïve people enjoyed the berries fresh in the summer and dried in
the winter. The bark was boiled and made into a soap, and leaves used to make a medicinal tea.
BIRD FIELD NOTES
1. Take a quick look around the wetland. How many birds do you see?
___________ Move a short distance away from the rest of the class and stand
or sit down where you can see most of the wetland. Sit as quietly as possible.
Listen and look carefully.
Do you hear any sounds? _______ Describe the bird sounds:
Try to see the birds that are making each sound.
Habitat: Moist forest, streamside, swamps and thickets.
Description: Woody, branching honeysuckle shrub with yellow tubular flowers and black shiny twin berries.
Niche Notes: Are a favorite of bears, and are also known as
“bearberry honeysuckle.” Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees
Interesting Facts: The bitter tasting berries are known as
“ravens food” and “monsters food” by northwest coastal people. The Haida people
rubbed the berries on the scalp to prevent hair from turning grey.
Habitat: Standing water or saturated soils. Two species,
Lyngby’s and slough sedge, are tolerant of brackish water.
Lyngby’s is more salt-tolerant than slough sedge.
Description: This grass-like plant has triangular stems
and fibrous roots. If it has leaves, they are grass-like and
shaped like a ‘w’ when cut across their width.
Niche Notes: The small seeds of sedges are eaten by birds
such as ducks, rails, grouse, and songbirds. Pika and chipmunks also eat the seeds and
leaves. Sedges provide valuable cover for wildlife.
Interesting Facts: Native people weave baskets using sedge.
3. Use your binoculars or a spotting scope to scan the water and shoreline
carefully. Can you see any birds? Record your observations here:
Type of Bill:
Short and stout
Long and thin
4. What do you think are the names of he birds that you saw?
FOREST/ FRESH WATER WETLAND
WESTERN SWORD FERN
5. Why do you think that birds have different types of bills?
Habitat: Abundant in moist forests.
Description: Grows in clumps with fronds 20-25
Niche Notes: Provides cover for wildlife and serves
as a host plant for some butterflies. Elk, deer, black
bears, and mountain beavers forage on the fronds.
Interesting Facts: Native people used fronds to line baking pits and for bedding and
flooring. Young curled leaves can be chewed raw and swallowed for sore throats. Today picked for decorative purposes.
6. Watch a single bird that is probing in the sand or mud for food. Can you tell
when the bird finds food and when it doesn’t? How?
7. How many times does the bird poke in the sand or mud before it finds
something to eat?
8. In flight, how can shorebirds protect themselves from predators?
Habitat: Common and often abundant on disturbed
sites, thickets and dry, open forest and low to middle
Description: Vines trailing, armed with slender,
curved prickles. Toothed leaves are alternate with sets
of three leaflets. Produces delicious berries.
Niche Notes: The ripe berries are a favorite of bears, hence the species name ursinus,
meaning bear in Latin.
Interesting Facts: Also known as dewberry and pacific berry, the trailing blackberry is
our only native blackberry.
Habitat: Moist lowland forests, wetlands or along
Description: Shrub grow 3 - 10 feet tall. Yellow to red,
often salmon colored fruit. Toothed leaves; older stems
have orange bark that is thin and papery.
Niche Notes: Birds and mammals eat the fruits. The early blooming flowers are an important food source for
insects and hummingbirds. Deer graze the twigs, stems,
and leaves. The thickets provide important cover for birds.
Interesting Facts: Salmonberry signals the return of salmon as it is one of the first
BLACK TAILED DEER
Habitat: Wooded areas.
Description: A tan or reddish-brown in the summer
and grayish-brown in the winter.
Niche Notes: Commonly eats green plants in the summer, nuts in the fall, and the buds and twigs of woody
plants in the winter.
Interesting Facts: The scent glands found on the inside of their legs are used by deer for identification, dominance, and during mating season. Males shed their antlers between January and March, with the antlers growing
again in April or May.
Stop and draw a bird that you have been observing.
Look at the shape and posture of the bird. Consider bird anatomy as you
sketch, paying special attention to the relative proportions of the head,
wings and tail. Whether you sketch a hawk, or sandpiper, all
birds have oval, egg- shaped bodies. The differences are in the
wings, tails and legs giving each species a distinctive form. Watch
carefully to see at what angle the bird holds its body, and then begin to
assemble body parts, outlining head and neck, wings, tail and legs.
Habitat: They are usually found in a variety of moist
habitats, but seem to avoid dense coniferous forests.
Niche Notes; Garter snakes are active during the day, and
feed primarily on slugs, earthworms, salamanders, frogs and
Description: Up to four feet long, they are usually yellow or
red striped against a plain or checkered background color. They breed in late spring to
early summer, and the females give birth to about a dozen young in August and
Interesting Facts: Garter snakes swim readily and when pursued, can hide for many
minutes among the rocks at the bottom of a stream. Garter snakes are not poisonous,
however, they may use the smelly contents of their anal glands as a defense mechanism.
Now draw a picture of the estuary:
Habitat: Harbors and bays along the Pacific Coast.
Description: The harbor seal has short, thick fur, grows to
be up to 6 feet long and can weigh up to 375 pounds The
whiskers help the seal's sense of touch. The nostrils are closed
in the resting state.
Niche Notes: Harbor seals are carnivores and eat mostly mollusks (like squid and clams), fish, and crustaceans.
Interesting Facts: Harbor seals are hunted by orcas, sharks,
steller sea lions, walruses, eagles and coyotes.
National Wildlife Refuge
Note on this map where you observed wildlife and
discovered evidence of wildlife. For example,
where you found bird feathers, animal tracks or
places where birds have probed in the mud.