This pristine wildlife refuge protects wetland habitats for more than 200 species of resident birds and their feathered friends migrating annually along the Pacific Flyway. Between the fall and early spring, when 100,000 Aleutian geese descend en masse to the area, huge numbers might be seen in a cackling gaggle outside the visitor center.
The peak season for waterbirds and raptors runs September to March; for black brant geese and migratory shorebirds it's mid-March to late April and again from August to September. Gulls, terns, cormorants, pelicans, egrets and herons come year-round. Look for harbor seals offshore; bring binoculars. Drive out South Jetty Rd to the mouth of Humboldt Bay for a stunning perspective.
Pick up a map from the Richard J Guadagno Headquarters & Visitor Center, where you'll find the 1.7-mile Shorebird Loop Trail. Exit Hwy 101 at Hookton Rd, 11 miles south of Eureka, turn north along the frontage road, on the freeway’s west side.
In April, look for the Godwit Days festival (www.godwitdays.org), a celebration of the spring bird migration.