Bright green leaf-buds on many, many trees, myriads of Yellow-rumped warblers calling their schep, schep, schep from tree after tree, and our resident Great Horned Owl beginning to sit day after day in her well-built nest–all are telling us that springtime is right around the corner. In another month or two, winter will be but a memory, but it will be an interesting memory for those who have come and continue to come to the Refuge.
Some of the highlights of what I have observed this past winter, as a volunteer at the Visitor Contact Station, are: People getting used to the new fee system begun in October. Although many have said that the fee is a good thing, remembering to pay is still hard, especially for those who had been frequent visitors. The refuge now has an Officer/Ranger who will help remind folks about this new fee system; Seeing the Tundra Swans by the thousands come and blanket Rest Lake for several months. It was only a couple of weeks ago that most of these swans decided to leave for their journey north; Noting, just about every day, the Red Shouldered Hawk who calls a couple of acres of Ash trees along the auto tour his home; Saying good-bye to the White-tailed Kite in January who pretty much had been a fixture for a number of months along the auto tour road;
Enjoying the Short-eared Owl show many evenings starting at around 4:30-5:00. Cars line up for this event staying until just a few minutes before the gate closes and then hurrying to not get locked in; Observing that Nutria truly are part of the food chain as Coyotes catch and really appreciate them for their meals; and finally, enjoying some uncommon visitors to the refuge such as Rough-legged Hawks, Common Goldeneyes, Eurasian Wigeons, Northern Shrikes, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Pileated Woodpeckers, occasional deer, and once a Red Fox.
If you haven’t been to the Refuge lately, it’s time to come again. There is always a certain excitement as one starts on the auto-tour–you just never know what you will see. Come and share the excitement.