by Bill Shelmerdine

revised by Bill Shelmerdine and Shep Thorp

Main routes between Puget Sound (Salish Sea), southwestern Washington, the outer coast, and the Olympic Peninsula meet in Olympia, at the southernmost extent of Puget Sound. A few miles east is the Nisqually River delta, the most pristine of the Sound’s large estuaries and a significant birding site. The South Sound splits into several inlets with many interesting birding opportunities, including at the end of Budd Inlet in downtown Olympia. Western Scrub-Jays now nest regularly in the city, following recent range expansion. Watershed Park, near the city center, is a fine place to look for lowland forest birds.



Nisqually NWR is a birding jewel in the South Sound, offering thousands of acres of freshwater marsh, saltwater marsh, and tidally influenced estuary of the Nisqually River and McAllister Creek. Tidally influenced sloughs and channels within the estuary, and deciduous and mixed riparian forest are the hallmark of habitat restoration, providing an essential nursery for juvenile salmon as they make their way from their birthplace in creeks and rivers to the Sound and ocean where they’ll grow into mature adults. Well over 200 species of birds have been seen in these diverse habitats, over 175 expected annually. In winter, the refuge supports thousands of waterfowl and dozens of raptors. Winter is also good for passerines such as woodpeckers, Northern Shrike, sparrows, and finches. Although thousands of Dunlins winter on the Nisqually Reach, providing an important food source for Peregrine Falcons, high numbers of shorebirds stop to feed in the spring, mid-April through mid-May.

The steady trickle of autumnal shorebird migration begins at the end of June and runs through November. Passerine migration can be excellent in the riparian woodlands during April, May, and August. Summer is the slow season, but even then the refuge is alive with good numbers of nesting Rufous Hummingbirds, Western Wood-Pewees, Willow Flycatchers, Tree, Cliff, and Barn Swallows, Yellow Warblers, American Goldfinches, and the songs of Swainson’s Thrushes. A scope will be helpful on both the Nisqually Estuary Trail and the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail.

On I-5, just east of Olympia, take Exit 114 and follow the signs a short distance into the refuge (entrance fee at visitor center kiosk or America the Beautiful Pass required). After 12 years of planning, in 2009 the refuge began a major restoration project to remove dikes and reestablish estuarine salt marsh to 762 acres of 1,000 that had been diked for agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century. Extensive renovations since 1999 include: the new Norm Dicks Visitor Center with Nature Shop, interpretive exhibits, auditorium, and parking; Environmental Educational Center for formal programs; upgraded and well-maintained trails and viewing areas; a one-mile barrier-free boardwalk loop trail through riparian habitat; a half-mile dike adjacent to the Nisqually River surge plain; freshwater wetlands; saltwater marsh; and a one-mile-long boardwalk which courses over tidal flats, channels, and marsh plain. A gravel road atop the old dike system remains between the Riparian Forest Overlook cutoff and the Nisqually River Overlook, running parallel to the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. A new dike, which includes the Nisqually Estuary Trail, was built in 2009 to preserve 250 acres freshwater marsh and riparian forest adjacent to the visitor center. The Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail was opened in 2011 and extends beyond the new dike over 762 acres of the recovering estuary, providing overlooks of Shannon Slough, McAllister Creek, and Puget Sound from atop the farthest reaches of the old historic dike. The last 700 feet of the new boardwalk are closed during hunting season (mid-October to late January) to provide distance between hunters and nature watchers. The historic Twin Barns are permanently closed due to earthquake damage. The walk along the Nisqually Estuary Trail and Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail (four miles round trip from the visitor center) provides opportunities to observe all the habitats the refuge has to offer.

Immediately west from the visitor center, at the old McAllister Creek access road, a green gate protects the sanctuary of freshwater wetlands. In winter, thousands of Cackling Geese—mostly minima subspecies, but often Taverner’s, and, rarely, Aleutian—can be found. Most winters a small number of Greater White-fronted Geese reside here, as well as hundreds of American Wigeons, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teals. Fox, Song, and Golden-crowned Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees utilize the edge habitat during the winter, and there are reports of uncommon White-throated and Harris’s Sparrows as well. Refuge staff manage water levels and vegetation in the freshwater wetlands to provide winter habitat for waterfowl and summer habitat for passerines. From May through June, American Bittern, Sora, Wilson’s Snipe, Common Yellowthroat, and Savannah Sparrow are present.

The Visitor Center Pond in winter is a good place to find Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, and American Coot. During spring and summer, the pond hosts Wood Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Hooded Merganser, and American Bittern. The Twin Barns Loop Trail encircles riparian forest with ponds and sloughs. Along the boardwalk during the winter look for Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Pine Siskin (during an irruption year). During spring and summer, Cliff and Barn Swallows nest at the visitor center, and many Tree Swallows nest in the snags. Female Rufous Hummingbirds build their nests in leaf-covered overhangs, most often over water, while males zealously guard blossoming Osoberry and Salmonberry. Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Marsh and Bewick’s Wrens, American Robin, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, and American Goldfinch have all been observed nesting along the loop trail. Nashville and Black-throated Gray Warblers can be seen during migration in April and May.

The cutoff for the Twin Barns is a good place to check for Virginia Rail and Swamp Sparrow in winter. Twin Barns, in fact, is one of the refuge’s most productive birding areas. A half-mile from the visitor center, it features a large wheelchair-accessible viewing platform. Scan for waterfowl, raptors, and Northern Shrike (October–April). The slough between the Twin Barns Observation Platform and the Nisqually Estuary Trail, or new dike, is the historic head of Leschi Slough, which channels through the very heart of the refuge and empties into Puget Sound at the northern extent of Nisqually Reach. The freshwater slough provides winter sanctuary for Lincoln’s Sparrow and late spring stopovers for Lazuli Bunting. Barn Owls inhabit the barns but are rarely seen due to resident, nesting Great Horned Owls in the large Black Cottonwood trees in the riparian forest. Red-breasted Sapsuckers frequent the Bigleaf Maples east of the Twin Barns. Bullock’s Orioles nest in the large cottonwood trees at the edge of forest near the Twin Barns cutoff and around the parking lot.

Between the start of the Nisqually Estuary Trail and west to where historic Leschi Slough runs under the dike, you can bird edge habitat of boggy freshwater marsh and bramble to the south, and brackish marsh, riparian forest, and surge plain to the north. During winter, check the tall trees for Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and Peregrine Falcon. Tides nine feet and higher will push waterfowl and shorebirds closer to the dike, providing nice opportunities to observe American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Mew and Ring-billed Gulls. Annually, there are two or three Eurasian Wigeons seen and, rarely, Common (Eurasian) Teal and Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gull.

The entire Nisqually Estuary Trail provides an excellent opportunity to see predators of many species, as traveling voles and insects come to the surface while looking for a way around the dike. American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk (rare), Short-eared Owl (rare), American Kestrel (uncommon), and Northern Shrike all hunt the edges of the dike. During spring and fall migration, the mudflat is a great area to scope for shorebirds like Black-bellied Plover, Pacific Golden-Plover (rare), Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Ruff, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitcher. American Pipits migrate through in large flocks for one to two weeks in the spring and fall, occasionally including a Lapland Longspur.

West of Leschi Slough, the inside of the Nisqually Estuary Trail is freshwater cattail marsh. In winter, this may be the best area for observing American Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Lincoln’s and Swamp (rare) Sparrows. During spring and summer, this freshwater marsh provides habitat for breeding Blue-winged, Cinnamon, and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Coot, Wilson’s Phalarope (rare), Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Red-winged Blackbird. During migration, Solitary (annual) and Buff-breasted (rare) Sandpipers have been observed where flooded fields meet freshwater marsh. Occasionally, Yellow-headed Blackbirds are seen, and nest-building behavior has been observed. During stormy spring days with low cloud cover, scan the skies for Black Swifts.

The entrance to the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail starts at the end of the Nisqually Estuary Trail, where the Observation Tower provides an excellent platform to scan the Shannon Slough area. Historic channels remain despite diking for nearly 100 years. Bivalves have returned, and, in winter, Surf Scoter and Common Goldeneye can be observed foraging. West of the observation tower is the Shannon Slough Blind, a good place to photograph winter residents like Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, and Least and Western Sandpipers (rare).

The next covered platform is the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform, which overlooks the confluence of Shannon Slough and McAllister Creek. In winter, this is an excellent place to scope for dabbling ducks, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated and Common Loons, Horned Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret (uncommon), Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, and Mew, Ring-billed, California, and Glaucous-winged Gulls. In spring, there is an active Bald Eagle nest just south of the confluence along the west bank of McAllister Creek. Belted Kingfishers and Northern Rough-winged Swallows nest in tunnels along the clay banks of McAllister Creek. Rarely, Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet have been seen in migration feeding in the mudflats. You can occasionally see Baird’s and Semipalmated Sandpipers during fall migration.

Starting in February and ending in October, the Nisqually Delta is visited by upwards of seven swallow species. Tree, Northern Rough-winged, Cliff, and Barn Swallows all nest on the refuge. There are Purple Martin nest boxes on an aging pier that is now closed to access (page 205) on the west side of McAllister Creek across from the end of the boardwalk, and this species is often seen and heard foraging over the refuge. High numbers of Violet-green Swallows migrate through, foraging on the swarms of midges and sandflies from March through May. Bank Swallow is seen each year during spring and fall migrations. As you walk along the boardwalk toward the Puget Sound Viewing Platform at the end, listen to the sounds coming from the coniferous forest on the west bank of McAllister Creek. This is the most reliable area to add Pileated Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, and Red-breasted Nuthatch to your refuge species count. Occasionally, Common Raven is seen flying from one hillside to the other over the delta. At the viewing platform, you can appreciate the expanse of the delta and Nisqually Reach. In winter, this is the best place to observe Brant, Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons, Horned and Eared Grebes, Brandt’s, Double-crested, and Pelagic Cormorants, Northern Harrier, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Bonaparte’s and Glaucous Gulls, Snowy Owl (irruption years), Short-eared Owl (mouth of Nisqually River), Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Harbor Seal, California Sea Lion, and Killer Whale (rare). A second pair of nesting Bald Eagles can be observed directly west on the west-bank hillside of McAllister Creek in spring. In summer, Caspian Terns are frequently heard and seen foraging. Scope the marsh plain for unexpected visitors like Pacific Golden-Plover, Whimbrel, Franklin’s Gull, and Black and Common Terns.

The Nisqually River Overlook can be the best place to observe Common Merganser in late winter. The river also is a good spot for observing Mallard, Common and Barrow’s (uncommon) Goldeneyes, and, occasionally, Spotted Sandpiper. In August, this can be a good place to pick up Green Heron during juvenile dispersal. The recently restored habitat just north of the overlook has yielded visits by MacGillivray’s Warbler during spring migration. Along the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, larger-diameter tall trees can host Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers and Brown Creeper. Where the forest opens up and elderberry is available, Band-tailed Pigeon, Swainson’s Thrush, and Cedar Waxwing feast on berries. In winter, the resident Great Horned Owl occasionally can be seen. Pine Siskins frequently are found feeding on Red Alder catkins. Red Crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks are heard most often as they fly over. Chestnut-backed Chickadees can be difficult to find due to the lack of coniferous trees, but the mature deciduous trees in the southeast section of the Twin Barns Loop Trail near the Riparian Forest Overlook cutoff have been productive for this species in winter. In spring, this habitat is very good for Western Wood-Pewee, Hutton’s and Warbling Vireos, Swainson’s Thrush, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Tanager, and Black-headed Grosbeak.

In spring the section of forest surrounding the Riparian Forest Overlook is a good spot to see Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo (rare), and Pacific Wren. The understory provides nice habitat for breeding Wilson’s Warblers; wherever the forest opens up exposing bramble, you may find Orange-crowned Warbler year round. The orchard next to the Education Center is a good place for Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Varied Thrush (winter), Orange-crowned Warbler, and White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows (winter).

The area east of the Nisqually River can be viewed from Mounts Road and from the Hoffman Hill Trail. Take Exit 116 (Mounts Road) from I-5, head west, and follow the road for 1.6 miles to the turnaround near the end of the road. Walking this quarter-mile section of road provides a good view of estuary saltwater marsh.

Hoffman Hill Trail is accessible from I-5 Exit 118 (Center Street in Dupont). Proceed west on Center Street, then take a left onto McNeil Street. Follow this road for nearly two miles to a rotary T-intersection with Ridge View Drive and take a left. Follow Ridge View for a half-mile; park on the right side of the road across from the basketball court in the local park. The gravel path behind the homes on Sinclair Drive leads to the refuge’s Hoffman Hill Trail, which provides mixed-forest habitat and views of the Nisqually River mouth, Red Salmon Creek, and the northeast side of the Nisqually Reach.


Several side trips near the Nisqually NWR often are worthwhile. The open fields and agricultural lands along Nisqually Cut-Off Road SE, just south and on the other side of I-5, are often good in fall and winter, attracting large flocks of waterfowl, gulls and blackbirds—and at times shorebirds, raptors, and locally uncommon birds.

Another worthwhile nearby birding destination is Luhr Beach. To reach it, go right (west) 1.1 miles on Martin Way E up the hill from the Nisqually interchange immediately south of I-5. (See map on page 200.) Turn right (north) onto Meridian Road and go a half-mile to a traffic circle; exit the traffic circle on the first spur to the right, remaining on Meridian Road. Continue north 2.1 miles to 46th Ave NE and turn right. In 0.2 mile turn left onto D’Milluhr Road NE and follow it around a half-mile to a boat ramp and parking area for the Nisqually Reach Nature Center. To the east is the Nisqually Delta and the outer edge of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. To the north are the open waters of the Nisqually Reach of the Salish Sea. Birds are often plentiful here, but distances are often long—a scope is a must for birding this site. The nature center has an aging dock that is now closed to access. Birding is from the edge of the parking lot or the adjacent shoreline. Look for Purple Martins, which nest here. This is a popular location for kayaking, fishing, and duck hunting. Those wishing to bird by kayak are advised to avoid the waterfowl hunting season (October–January).

The distance across the mouth of McAllister Creek—a popular high-tide roost for gulls and sometimes waterfowl—to the edge of the delta is 1,500 to 2,000 feet. This site has produced a number of remarkable sightings over the years and is worth checking, particularly near high tide. It is a mile north to the deep waters of the Reach where wayward seabirds are sometimes sighted.

Waterfowl, loons, and grebes are often abundant here. It is perhaps the most reliable spot in the county to find Brant, as well as Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, Black Scoter, and Eared Grebe (all local rarities and not found every year). In September–October you have a reasonable chance of spotting a Parasitic Jaeger out on the Reach when numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls or Common Terns (uncommon) are moving through. In Snowy Owl invasion years this is often the best place in the South Sound to find one (or three) hanging out on the outer part of the delta.



Washington’s capital offers a variety of waterbirds and passerines right in the center of town. From I-5, turn off at Exit 105 and follow the signs for the Port of Olympia. The exit will deposit you onto Plum Street. Head north and in 0.7 mile turn left onto Olympia Avenue NE. Park on Olympia or turn left onto Chestnut or Jefferson Streets for parking and walk back to the head of East Bay to check an outfall pipe there where gulls and diving ducks often feed. Mudflats exposed at low tide attract small flocks of shorebirds in spring and fall, and Purple Martins use the nest boxes on pilings in the bay. You may follow the footpath along the west side of the bay as far as the marina, or drive, pulling off where shoulders and views allow. If driving, head north on Marine Drive along the shoreline of East Bay, bearing right at the intersection in 0.4 mile toward Swantown Marina. This deeper (dredged) part of the bay is good in winter for bay ducks, loons, and grebes. A raised parking area just past the marina and boat launch offers the best vantage point of lower Budd Inlet. Park here and walk along the path, or continue driving, bearing right, and park between Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill and KGY radio station, at the tip of the point between East and West Bays, called Northpoint. Bonaparte’s and Mew Gulls, and Caspian Terns (summer) are sometimes here in numbers, along with diving birds, including three species of cormorants and Rhinoceros Auklet. Shorebirds are not common, but a few unusual species have turned up here, and this is your best bet in the downtown area.

Backtrack on Marine Drive, turn right onto Market Street NE, and go 0.2 mile to the roundabout at Olympia’s Farmers Market. Directly across the circle and ahead one block is a marina and parking. Viewing is from the boardwalk along the water or from the observation tower to the north. The water is deeper than in East Bay and may have a different assortment of waterbirds. Check sailboat rigging for Purple Martins. Return to the circle, turn right, take Capitol Way N seven blocks south (toward downtown), and turn right onto Fifth Avenue. In four blocks, at Simmons Street, park in the lot on the left to go birding on foot along Capitol Lake—noted for diving ducks and a large gull flock that roosts there in the afternoon. Cross 5th Avenue at the traffic light and then head west (left) two blocks. At low tide, the footbridge across the 5th Avenue dam is a great spot to view the schools of Chinook Salmon that stage at the mouth of Capitol Lake in August, awaiting entry to the Deschutes River.

There are two options for birding Capitol Lake. Birding on foot is from the paved (barrier-free) footpath that makes a 1.5-mile loop around the lower (north) lake and goes down the west side of the upper (south) lake. The less green approach is to drive west two blocks on Fifth Avenue and bear left at the fork onto Deschutes Parkway, which parallels the shoreline with many places to park. Marathon Park is a convenient parking area between the lower (north) and upper (south) pools. Check both lakes and Percival Cove for a good variety of waterfowl; the species composition varies between these three impoundments. Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, and Red-winged Blackbird nest in the small marshes at the south end. American Dipper is a regular wintering species at Tumwater Falls about a mile farther upstream.

Boston Harbor, about seven miles north of Olympia at the confluence of Budd and Eld Inlets, is a good place to view birds of the deeper, more open waters of Puget Sound (Salish Sea). Go back east on Fourth Avenue through the business district and turn left (north) onto Plum Street, which soon becomes East Bay Drive NE. A sidewalk provides a good place from which to look for birds on East Bay. Priest Point Park, at 1.5 miles from the Fourth Avenue intersection, is good for waterbirds and birds of the wet conifer forest.

Continue on north 5.5 miles (name change to Boston Harbor Road), then go left 350 yards on 73rd Avenue NE to the harbor. Scope the inlet from the vicinity of the boat ramp. Saltwater ducks, loons, grebes, cormorants, alcids, gulls, and terns, fly above the channel or feed along current lines when tides are changing, sometimes in good numbers. Oddities may appear after large winter storms.


Watershed Park is a 115-acre wooded ravine a mile south of downtown Olympia. Go south on Plum Street, and at the traffic light just before the I-5 onramps bear right toward the southbound onramp but then stay left and go under the freeway onto Henderson Boulevard SE. A 1.5-mile loop trail begins at a gravel parking area on the left shoulder 0.3 mile ahead. Douglas-fir, Western Hemlock, Bigleaf Maple, and other large trees shade a lush and varied understory. Snags are numerous. Red-breasted Sapsucker and Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers have nested. Vaux’s Swifts are often overhead. Barred Owls are sometimes found roosting along the creek. Many forest birds nest here or are year-round residents; others can be found in spring migration. This is a decent spot to look for Hutton’s and Cassin’s (spring) Vireos.


At the upper end of Eld Inlet a few miles west of Olympia, (map on page 206) Mud Bay is one of the last areas to be flooded by a rising tide. One to two hours before peak high tide, shorebirds and small gulls often concentrate close to the road for excellent viewing. At low tide, birds disperse up or down the bay. Take the Second Avenue SW exit from US-101 (just across the bridge over the bay, if you are coming from Olympia). Turn east (right if coming from Olympia, left if from Shelton) onto Mud Bay Road and park at either end of the concrete bridge spanning Mud Bay (0.2 mile). A good variety of gulls can be found here. Franklin’s has been seen with the large Bonaparte’s flock in September and October. Shorebirding is good in fall and spring, with all of the typical migrants occurring at least occasionally. Dunlins winter in good numbers, along with the occasional Black-bellied Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, or Willet (rare). Sometimes there are large numbers of Hooded Mergansers in fall.

Also be sure to check Perry Creek. Two viewing spots are available. From the US-101, 2nd Avenue (Mud Bay Road) exit, cross south over US-101 and go 0.3 mile to Old Highway 410 SW, turn right and proceed to the concrete bridge over Perry Creek (0.4 mi.). This is a great place to view migrating Chum Salmon late November through December. The site excels for gull watching with flocks of 500–1,000 birds at times, mostly of the large species. Lower Perry Creek is reached from Madrona Beach Road, on the north side of US-101, 0.6 mile from the 2nd Avenue exit.


The rich estuary of Kennedy Creek at the end of Totten Inlet is particularly good for shorebirds and gulls. Extensive mudflats at low tide make for difficult viewing, but incoming tides often push birds in close. Visiting within an hour or two of high tide should do the trick. Continue west on US-101 from Mud Bay. In 1.0 mile, where SR-8 goes straight ahead, bear right with US-101 (appears as an exit), following signs toward Shelton and Port Angeles. In 5.5 miles, turn off right onto Old Olympic Highway, just after the Kennedy Creek bridge (traffic is heavy; be careful). A gravel parking area just off the highway, on the right, gives a view of the innermost part of the estuary.

The mouth of Kennedy Creek is an important wintering site for Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin. In spring and fall migration, these species as well as Greater Yellowlegs, Least and Western Sandpipers, and Long-billed Dowitcher are common. In September, high numbers of the smaller gulls stage here, mostly Bonaparte’s, Mew, and Ring-billed. Kennedy Creek has one of the largest remaining Chum Salmon runs in the South Sound, attracting the larger gulls (and fishermen) from late October into December to feed on the spent carcasses. The outer part of the estuary can be seen well from a second gravel pullout about 0.1 mile ahead on Old Olympic Highway. Birds often roost just across the creek at high tide. If visiting on a weekend from the first of November through the first weekend in December, check out the salmon spawning trail about one mile upstream. Drive across US-101 and go 0.7 mile on Old Olympic Highway. Turn right onto a gravel road and drive an additional 0.5 mile to the Salmon Spawning Trail and interpretive site.

To reach Chehalis River valley and South Coast birding sites (page 64), return south to SR-8 and turn west. Continuing north on US-101 will take you to Hood Canal.



The 90,000-acre Capitol State Forest, at the heart of the Black Hills southwest of Olympia, is probably the most reliable, readily accessible place in Washington to look for Hermit Warbler (especially higher-elevation areas along ridges). Also found here are Mountain Quail (uncommon to rare) and a lowland population of Gray Jay. This is a working forest—in other words, intensively managed by the DNR for timber harvest. Vegetation is generally young to middle-aged conifers dominated by Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock interspersed with clearcuts in various stages of regrowth. Few large, old forest stands remain. The network of logging roads can be confusing. Some areas are poorly signed; road numbers change; closures may spring up unexpectedly. It is essential that you pick up a map ($9) at the Olympic National Forest headquarters at 1835 Black Lake Boulevard immediately southwest of US-101 (phone: 360-956-2300), open Monday–Friday. An alternative is to check the DNR web site for downloadable maps ( Roads are aggregate-surfaced and usually suitable for passenger vehicles, but beware of logging-truck traffic, especially on weekdays.

Convenient access points are the Rock Candy Mountain Entrance from SR-8 on the north side of the forest (4.5 miles west of the US-101 intersection with SR-8), the Delphi Entrance on the east side, and the C-Line Entrance one mile southeast of Porter on US-12. To reach the Delphi Entrance, take the Black Lake Boulevard exit from US-101 (the first exit west of I-5 in Olympia) and head south (the USFS office is immediately on your right). In 4.3 miles, go left onto Delphi Road. At a fork in 2.1 miles, turn right onto Waddell Creek Road to reach the Delphi Entrance at Sherman Valley Road in 2.7 miles. Another option is to continue west from Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve (page 192) on Waddell Creek Road for 1.6 miles to the Waddell Creek Entrance. A good through route starting at the Rock Candy Mountain Entrance follows the B-Line to Road B-5000, which turns into C-4000, thence to the C-Line and out the Delphi or Waddell Creek Entrance.

Some worthwhile areas to search for Gray Jay and Hermit Warbler include along Road C-4000 between Larch Mountain and Capitol Peak (the two highest points in the Black Hills), the trail at Fuzzy Top (accessed from the west on Road D-1500), and along the C-Line between the junctions with Roads C-4000 and C-5000. Mountain Quail have been seen in spring along Road C-4000 near Larch Mountain.

Other species of interest in these wet conifer-forest habitats include Sooty Grouse (uncommon and heard in spring more often than seen), Band-tailed Pigeon, Northern Pygmy-Owl (uncommon), Hammond’s Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, and Black-throated Gray (alder patches) and Townsend’s Warblers. Search brushy clearcuts and margins for Olive-sided Flycatcher, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Western Tanager. The most common species encountered will likely be Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, and Golden-crowned Kinglet; Varied Thrush is common in fall and winter.