USGS Bird Survey at Port Susan Bay, WA
The Nature Conservancy owns Port Susan Bay Preserve, a 4,122-acre estuary. It is a saltwater habitat of mudflats and tidally influenced channels. The preserve supports thousands of birds and several species of fish, including salmon. As one of the many conservation efforts happening at Port Susan Bay United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Western Washington University are studying how the marsh is changing and shorebirds use the various habitats within and around the preserve.
I came along on one of the many bird surveys that are done throughout the year at the preserve. I met up with three amazing biologists from Olympia’s USGS office and photographed as they meticulously counted the different birds and their behaviors on the preserve during the late winter. It was raining on and off during our time counting and I was amazed at how many birds we were able to see through the low hanging clouds.
We rowed across Hat Slough to an island that is being used as a reference point for the study. The island has never been used for agricultural purposes so the data taking on the preserve can be correlated against the island’s numbers and conclusions about the restoration process of Port Susan Bay can be made.
A couple of years ago The Nature Conservancy finished the restoration project that restored 150 acres of tidal marsh at Port Susan Bay to return it to a native tidal-wetlands state. This included removing an outer dike and redesigning an inner dike for greater flood protection for neighboring farmlands. The studies that are now taking place at Port Susan Bay will help researchers understand just how important tidal-wetland habitats are to the health of the neighboring ecosystems.
More information about Port Susan Bay and The Nature Conservancy can be found at: The Nature Conservancy's Port Susan Bay
USGS biologists from left to right: Sierra Blakely, Lennah Shakeri, Melanie Davis