"June 2, 2012: Crabs Show in the Tidal Pools" Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Travelogue by glabah
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 321 photos
The tidal mud flats of the Nisqually estuary and reach continue to revert to their original habitats.
Comparing this photo of the mudflats to those in previous travelogues it is possible to see that a lot of the debris has been washed away, compared to two years ago.
More and more sculpting of the mudflats is taking place as time goes on, leaving more tidal pools throughout the mud flats.
However, one little unique piece of the puzzle has started to appear (at least, it is the first time I have seen them in on the mud flats!): a very large number of crabs were running through, in, and around the tidal pools along the boardwalk.
Now, the fact that crabs are in the area should not be surprising, as the true mouth of the Nisqually River is very popular with crabbers, and crabbing is one of the favorite activities of those that launch their boats from the Nisqually Reach and its Boat Ramp.
However, some of these crabs were in tidal pools very close to the new dike.
This is another sign that the tideflats are rapidly turning back into their natural state. Remember, these tideflats were turned into farmland for over 100 years, so the rapid reappearance of such things as crabs is a huge step forward.
Shore birds have been in the restored tide flats for a long time now, but the re-emergence of crabs is certainly one major step towards this becoming an active ecosystem filled with all manner of life.
Which means our little killdeer, feeding in the mudflats, may slowly get more and more things to eat.
A month ago, there was a fairly big group of hooded mergansers hanging out in the tidal waters that had submerged the tideflats at high tide.
Today, there are hooded mergansers in a more expected place: the fresh water pond near the Twin Barns.
They are females with young ones, however. There are no signs of males.
Possibly the group seen last month was on its way to breeding grounds further north. It certainly doesn't seem possible that they would have chosen mates, hatched eggs, and gotten the youngsters this far along in only 1 month.
There is no question, however, that the Canada geese have had their young for a while. For reasons known only to themselves, here they have decided to walk across the tidal mudflats with their young - 6 adults and quite a number of little ones.
This would seem to be a dangerous was to get around, considering that bald eagles have no hesitation about eating adult Canada geese if one presents itself in the wrong way.
However, for whatever reason, these have decided to walk in such a place that is frequented by such predators. Perhaps it is less risky than the alternative, due to the open nature of the mud flats they can see trouble coming?
Whimbrels are some of the larger shore birds that wander though Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. They generally come through Puget Sound in spring and are somewhat different in their routes in fall. However, supposedly they breed in the arctic and one would think they would have already passed through by early June.
However, here they are at the edge of the water.
High tide really gives a different perspective about what is out there in the water, as it helps flush the birds closer to the new Dike Trail and allows them to be seen easier.
However, unless they hadn't moved, my traveling companion would probably not have noticed them as they were pretty far out there. I know that I would certainly not have noticed them as they were originally positioned so they blended in with the brown background of the mudflats. The water's edge was still pretty far out there and these pushed the limits of what I could photograph, and even here you can't see the curved beaks of the birds that definitely tell what they are.
Some sources do say that few and scattered whimbrel non-breeding adults do sometimes spend the summer in lower latitudes in favored ecosystems.
If this group of 30 to 40 birds does decide to spend the summer here, it could be a very good indication of the quality of food available in the rapidly restoring estuary. This huge group is certainly more than a few scattered individuals.
It may be high tide and it may be miles to the nearest barn, but that doesn't seem to matter to these barn swallows, which are well out on the tideflats.
Swallows of various colors are very active in the refuge during these months. Tree swallows, cliff swallows, and the occasional purple martin round out the population of swallows here, though once or twice I'm fairly certain I have seen Northern Rough-Winged Swallows and a few Violet-Green Swallows here as well.
Kingfishers were around, but were strangely quiet. Possibly, they didn't want to attract attention as they are feeding young in nest cavities, but that is just a guess.
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