Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

Washington Shorebirds in Peril

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer
A Red Knot searching for food on Bottle Beach, Bottle Beach State Park.
A Red Knot searching for food on Bottle Beach, Bottle Beach State Park.

While presenting a shorebird identification program to the Grays Harbor Audubon Society last weekend, I learned that there are plans for railroad oil tankers to offload crude oil into ships in the Port of Grays Harbor.  All of this oil transfer would take place right next to the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. During spring migration it's estimated that 50% of the 17,000 remaining roselaari subspecies of Red Knot use Grays Harbor.  The Red Knots used to concentrate across the harbor on Bottle Beach, but now use an area near Grass Creek which is closer to the Port transfer site.  Grays Harbor has been described by the American Bird Conservancy as the most important staging and stopover spot for shorebirds on the Pacific Coast outside of Alaska. 50% of the remaining 3,500,000 Western Sandpipers also use Grays Harbor during migration. The Western Sandpiper population has already declined by 50% or more, in 1973 there was an estimated count of 6,500,000 just on the Cooper River Delta alone.  Over one million birds use the harbor as a critical feeding spot.  Even a slight degradation on the food supply could make migration more difficult or reduce body fat so the birds can't survive the first few days or weeks on the tundra. For more information visit Friends of Grays Harbor or Grays Harbor Audubon Society.