Four Fantastic Reasons to Bird in Thurston County
Thurston County is a fine place to visit for a whole lot of reasons, and if you’re a birder, we’ve got a solid case for you loading up the gear and heading our way!
- Birding is available here year-round. Head to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, for example and check out waterfowl Fall-Spring and shorebirds Spring-Fall. Keep on the lookout for a variety of nesting species including the American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Sora, Great Horned Owl, Rufous Hummingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Marsh Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Western Tanager. Look for Northern Harrier, American Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons year-round, Great Blue Heron and Osprey Spring-Fall. Between Tumwater Historical Park and Capitol Lake look for Belted Kingfishers, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadees, Townsend’s Warblers Bonaparte’s Gulls and American Bald Eagles, from Spring-Fall. From Fall-Winter, watch Canvasbacks, Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, Horned Grebes, Common Goldeneyes, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Thayer’s Gulls, American Wigeons, Coots, Buffleheads, plus Ruddy Ducks, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, Wood Ducks, Gadwalls, Common Loons. Cormorants and Wood Ducks.
- Our birding areas offer a variety of habitats, so your likelihood of seeing a variety of birds and other flora and fauna is high. Explore riparian zones at Millersylvania State Park, saltwater shorelines at Tolmie State Park, confluence zones where freshwater of the Nisqually River meets the saltwater of the sound in an estuary of mudflats, shallow water, marsh grass, and open water at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Further inland you’ll find prairie grasslands (yep, you read that right—we have prairie over here) at Mima Mound Natural Area Preserve where you’ll find all kinds of interesting birds including the Western Bluebird, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, and the Common Nighthawk.
- Thurston County is easily accessible from Seattle/Tacoma and Portland. Just hop on I-5 and you’ll be here in no time, easy-peasy.
- Don’t worry if you forget some much-needed gear such as memory cards for your camera, comfy shoes, or binoculars for viewing? Not to worry—you won’t be so far off the beaten path that you can’t find what you’re looking for readily.
Check the forecast before you head out and remember that we’re close to the coast, so weather is fickle throughout the day.
Dress for changing weather and the environment(s) you’re planning to visit.
- Pack layers so you can bundle or unbundle as needed.
Bring a raincoat—again, the Pacific Northwest is home to some wildly variable weather year-round.
- If you’re heading out in rainy weather, be sure to bring a plastic bag that you keep inside your backpack if you’re carrying camera gear and/or pricy binoculars. This will give your gear an added layer of protection.
- If you’re planning to really venture out along local shorelines, plan to bring your muck boots. It can get downright goopy out there, but hey, the birds seem to love it!
- If you’re planning to visit a state park, remember to bring your Discover Pass. Nobody likes taking home a ticket!
- Pack a cooler and make time to pay a visit to local farmers markets, farms and locally owned shops while you’re en route. There nothing quite like a good old-fashioned picnic with bird song in the background to add to your trip!
Be prepared! Don’t forget:
- Water bottles
- Lip balm
- Bug spray
- Bandages (nothing ruins a day birding quite like awful blisters!)
Not Sure What To Bring?
Check out our handy packing guide to help you pack for your outdoor adventures like a pro!
There’s a bit of a long-standing joke among Pacific Northwesterners that we’re always dressed for a potential hike and/or rain. And if we’re being honest, it’s true. Thurston County is full of amazing hiking and outdoor opportunities just minutes from Olympia proper, and unless you’re visiting in July and August, you’re probably going to experience some rainy weather.
Spend the weekend and find dining, lodging, events, festivals and entertainment ideas at www.experienceolympia.com. Make sure to share your best shots with us by tagging social posts #ExperienceOlympia and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter (@Experience_Oly) and Instagram (@ExperienceOly).
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