Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is located adjacent to Bowerman Airport in Hoquiam. It occupies just 2% of the intertidal habitat in Grays Harbor estuary yet hosts up to 50% of migrating shorebirds. The mudflats here are the last to be flooded at high tide and the first to be exposed as the tide recedes.
One of my favorite places to go for a daytrip is the Washington coast and, in particular, the area around Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The town of Raymond, located where the Willapa River enters the bay, is just 70 miles and 1½ hours from home. I have passed through it many times on my way to explore Washaway Beach or the fishing town of Westport.
On this trip, my main goal was to look for migrating shorebirds. I knew the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival was coming up soon, and it spotlights the migrating birds, as well as year round residents. We have had a warm spring, so the migrating birds might already have come and gone, but it was worth a try and as good an excuse for daytripping as any. Besides, I had a new camera to try out. A quick check of the tide tables told me it would be low tide in Willapa Bay around 2:30 the next day (Sunday, April 26) and low tide is a great time to look for shorebirds foraging in the mudflats exposed by low tide. And that was that.