Child with spotting scope

Shorebird Viewing at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge

Along the Refuge's Sandpiper Trail, shorebirds can be viewed from a number of spots. During peak viewing times, please adhere to social distancing guidelines and refrain from sharing binoculars and scopes with people outside of your immediate family.

Information on shorebird species at Grays Harbor.

Best viewing times:

Saturday, April 24

High tide at Refuge: 11:50 am

Best viewing times: 8:50 am – 2:50 pm

Sunday, April 25

High tide at Refuge: 12:46 pm

Best viewing times: 9:46 am – 3:46 pm

Monday, April 26

High tide at Refuge: 1:40 pm

Best viewing times: 10:40 am – 4:40 pm

Tuesday, April 27

High tide at Refuge: 2:34 pm

Best viewing times: 11:34 am – 5:34 pm

Wednesday, April 28

High tide at Refuge: 3:28 pm

Best viewing times: 12:28 pm – 6:28 pm

Thursday, April 29

High tide at Refuge: 4:22 pm

Best viewing times: 1:22 pm – 7:22 pm

Friday, April 30

High tide at Refuge: 4:22 pm

Best viewing times: 2:16 pm – 8:16 pm

Least Sandpiper Photo by Tom Rowley

At the Refuge, shorebirds can be viewed best during the period about 3 hours before to 3 hours after high tide. During high tide, birds are closer and more concentrated for better viewing. However, weather conditions such as wind and storms can greatly alter tides in Grays Harbor so good shorebird viewing is dependent on a number of factors and can be unpredictable. For coastal viewing, tidal cycles are not as critical. High tides along the coast are about 20 minutes earlier than at the Refuge.

Water Level Information: Storms generally cause higher surface water conditions in the estuary for a few reasons:

1) Heavy rains in previous days cause rivers and hillsides to rapidly drain into the estuary, which can add to tide level. If soils are saturated count on quick, heavy runoff.

2) On-shore winds push water into the dead-end (bathtub-like) basin and as it fills, mudflats become inundated and can flood into the saltmarsh. Of course strong winds exacerbate the situation.

3) Low atmospheric pressure (associated with stormy conditions) allows tide waters to rise vs high atmospheric pressure which pushes down on the water surface. These conditions, often in combination, cause the tide to come in as much as 2-3 hours early and cause tide levels to be above predicted tide peak levels. Check the predicted tide level for 'Aberdeen' and consider the recent and current weather conditions to plan an appropriate arrival time. Plan your trip and expect to spend a few hours to maximize viewing potential.

Generally tides at or near 8-8.5' are good for consolidating shorebirds into limited area of mud flat and make viewing easier. However, higher water levels (predicted or not) cause water to cover more mud. So that means go early to see them before water covers the mudflat and stay until the tide recedes to see the birds come back and resume feeding.

Grays Harbor NWR on eBird

Semi-Palmated Plover Photo by John Whitehead

Previous Year's Bird Lists

2019 shorebird survey results
2018 shorebird survey results
2017 shorebird survey results
2016 shorebird survey results

Greater Yellowlegs Photo by John Whitehead