National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:33:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mark Musaus Appointed New Regional Representative, Southeast Region Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:23:42 +0000

Continue reading »]]> DSCN0139The National Wildlife Refuge Association is pleased to welcome Mark Musaus as its new Regional Representative for the Southeast Region. Musaus will represent the Refuge Association to facilitate communication between local stakeholders, nonprofits and the Service about issues dealing with government affairs and conservation programs in the southeast region.

“Mark’s extensive background working with the southeast refuges and their surrounding communities provide the perfect background to succeed as our Region Four Regional Representative,” said David Houghton, President of the Refuge Association. “Mark has the dedication and expertise necessary for this position and will be an excellent addition to the Refuge Association team.”

Musaus retired in December 2012 as the Deputy Regional Director for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a 38+ year career. He was selected for the Fish and Wildlife Service Student Trainee Program in 1974, serving one summer at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. He has served as assistant refuge manager at Choctaw (AL), J.N. Ding Darling (FL), Piedmont (GA), and Tennessee (TN) national wildlife refuges, and as the deputy project leader at Savannah Coastal Refuges (GA).

In 1998, he was selected as the project leader for the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee and Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuges. In May 2007 he accepted the Chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications for the National Wildlife Refuge System. There he administered recreation and visitor use including hunting and fishing programs, environmental education, wildlife observation and photography on 550 national wildlife refuges. From January 2012 until he retired he served in the role of deputy regional director for the Service’s southeast region. He helped oversee supervision of 1,500 employees in 10 states and the Caribbean in diverse Service programs ranging from the National Wildlife Refuge System to the Endangered Species Program, Migratory Birds, and Wildlife Law Enforcement.

Musaus received the Refuge Manager of the Year Award in 2000, the Department of Interior Superior Service Award in 2001, and the DOI Take Pride in America, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Land Manager of the Year award in 2005.


Click here to read the full press release.


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Fire prevention saves the day at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:06:52 +0000

Continue reading »]]> During the past spring’s Funny River Fire, two fuel breaks created along the refuge boundary helped save thousands of homes and other structures from destruction.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 3.04.40 PMThanks in part to the fuel breaks, no one was injured and only four seasonal cabins in remote locations were lost. When the fire met the fuel breaks, it slowed down enough to buy the firefighters some time and space to conduct burn-out operations around several subdivisions.

Fuel breaks are areas where vegetation is cleared or thinned so the burning slows. On Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, they were constructed with funding from the refuge’s hazardous fuels reduction program. Refuge Manager Andy Loranger credits the refuge’s partners the Alaska Division of Forestry and Cook Inlet Region, Inc. for making this happen.

Through a cooperative agreement, the Division of Forestry cleared a 200-foot-wide area on private land that is owned by Cook Inlet Region, Inc. The stretch on refuge land thinned understory 100-150 feet wide.

The Funny River Fire began at the refuge on May 19 – an early start to the fire season. The communities of Soldotna, Funny River, Kasilof, and Sterling were in the direct path of the fire. It eventually covered 195,858 acres and was mostly contained on the two million acre refuge. However, it continued to burn for more than a month. Without the fuel treatments it’s likely the homes would have been lost on the northern flank.

Fuel treatments are incredible investments protecting an average of $165 worth of protected residential, commercial, and industrial structures for every $1 spent.

Assessment of the burned area will begin in 2015 to determine if any rehabilitation is needed on the 10 percent of the refuge touched by fire.

Read the full story on Refuge Update here.


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Refuge Week, a Great Success! Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:25:54 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Refuge Week has come and gone, and what a fun week it was! From events all across the country, to the massive participation on social media, thousands of wildlife fans shared their love of our national wildlife refuges far and wide.

We were thrilled by the number of people who sent us photos they’ve taken at their favorite wildlife refuge! We asked our friends, followers and readers to send us photos, and in the end we got more than 600 photos! We created a slideshow with some of our favorites, and a flickr album to help share these inspiring pictures that truly capture the wonder of nature and our national wildlife refuges. Thanks to everyone who participated!



Here are a few reasons why we love our refuges, and everyone who supports them:

Wildlife Refuges are a Haven for Wildlife:

National wildlife refuges provide a haven for wildlife, ensuring a diversity of species that thrive and prosper. They also provide a place for people to visit and learn all about conservation and the natural world. In turn those visitors generate an economic return to the community. Refuges provide huge economic benefits to the surrounding community returning almost $5 for every $1 appropriated to the community.

Friends Support the Refuge System:

Friends contribute approximately 20% of the work done on refuges. They also aid immensely in the never ending battle of getting adequate funding for refuges, and make an enormous difference on Capitol Hill by educating Congress about the importance of their local refuge.

Even though Refuge Week is ending, you can still get out and enjoy your local refuge! For more information about what is happening in the Refuge System, sign up for our Flyer E-Newsletter, sign up to receive Action Alerts, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and consider making a donation to help us continue to protect wildlife.


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Appreciating National Wildlife Refuges Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:26:55 +0000

Continue reading »]]> National Wildlife Refuge Week is in full swing and we couldn’t be more excited about all the events that have happened and continue to happen. Amidst all of the celebrations, we are reminded to stop and think about why we are celebrating in the first place. What is so great about the National Wildlife Refuge System anyways? If you were wondering, you came to the right place to find out.

Havens for Wildlife

Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress
Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

Wildlife refuges provide large tracts of land that provide safe and healthy habitat for wildlife, plants, insects, etc. Different than national parks or forests, wildlife refuges are managed for wildlife first to ensure their protection. Refuge managers make management decisions based on what is best for the wildlife on the refuge and in the surrounding areas.

Wildlife also benefits sheerly from the land being protected. Without the land being developed, wildlife has more habitat. In addition, having large tracts of land reduces fragmentation which can lead to edge effects and separated populations. Both fragmentation and edge effects result in reduced populations of wildlife species.

Also, large swaths of land allows species to migrate and shift their ranges in response to seasonal and climatic fluctuations. Climate change is resulting in warmer average temperatures resulting in species shifting their ranges either north or south to reach ideal climates. Refuges give them space to do this so that they are less likely to shift into developed areas.

Without wildlife refuges, the world’s largest network of public lands and water, many wildlife species would be extinct by now. Refuges ensure that wildlife will be around for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Benefits to surrounding communities:

Not only are wildlife refuges vital for some species’ survival, they also provide many additional benefits to the surrounding communities.

Many wildlife refuges act as outdoor classrooms where visitors of all ages can come and learn about the local ecology, and the environment in general. Programs range from bird watching for the blind, to boardwalk tours that teach about different kinds of animal scat.

Refuges also provide economic benefits. Refuges:

Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America's youth. | USFWS
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America’s youth. | USFWS
  • Generate more than $2.4 billion for local economies and create nearly 35,000 U.S. jobs annually;
  • Protect clean air and safe drinking water for nearby communities;
  • Attract approximately 46.5 million visitors each year, offering activities such as wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and environmental education;

For every $1 appropriated to the Refuge System, an average of $4.87 is returned to local economies.

National wildlife refuges provide places for people to get out into nature and reconnect with the natural world. They also provide a place to recreate and hike, fish, birdwatch, photograph, and much more!

Wildlife refuges provide immense benefits that are worth celebrating. We hope you enjoy your Refuge Week and don’t forget about what you are celebrating!

The National Wildlife Refuge Association works to protect these refuges and the surrounding areas. We can’t do it without your help. Please consider making a donation to help us protect even more wildlife and habitat.

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Friends and Refuges: A Valuable Partnership Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:06:10 +0000

Continue reading »]]>

Friends lobbying on the Hill. From left to right: Joan Patterson, Director of Grassroots Outreach at the Refuge Association; Birgie Miller, "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society; Mike McMinn, Friends of Nisqually NWR; Andy Fisk, Friends of Silvio O. Conte NFWR; Cheryll Hart, Friends of Tualatin RIver National WIldlife Refuge; Judith and Bill Jewell, Friends of Louisiana Wildlife | Emily Paciolla
Friends lobbying on the Hill. From left to right: Joan Patterson, Director of Grassroots Outreach at the Refuge Association; Birgie Miller, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society; Mike McMinn, Friends of Nisqually NWR; Andy Fisk, Friends of Silvio O. Conte NFWR; Cheryll Hart, Friends of Tualatin RIver National WIldlife Refuge; Judith and Bill Jewell, Friends of Louisiana Wildlife | Emily Paciolla

Did you know that volunteers and refuge “Friends” do approximately 20 percent of all work on national wildlife refuges – the equivalent of 648 full time employees?

Friends groups exist to support national wildlife refuges, and they do just that in many different capacities. Friends volunteers to do restoration work, handle publicity for the refuge, host events, manage and run nature stores, and much more. Without Friends groups, the Refuge System would not be what it is today!

The concept of public stewardship of our nation’s wildlife and habitat has its roots in President Theodore Roosevelt’s foresight in setting aside large areas of the public domain for wildlife and public enjoyment. In 1903, he established Pelican Island in Florida as the first national wildlife refuge. But lacking federal funds for staff, the first refuge warden started as a volunteer, laying the foundation for citizen commitment to our national wildlife refuges.

Today there are 230 Friends organizations working in support of refuges across the nation, with 40,000 volunteers contributing 1.3 million hours a year to the Refuge System.

One of the many benefits Friends provide to the Refuge System is lobbying on behalf of the System. Friends have helped significantly increase the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance budget and get significant legislation passed. Friends make a real difference on the ground and on Capitol Hill.

If you are a Friends member or want to become one, check out Refuge Friends Connect! Your go-to guide to all things Friends.

As you celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, don’t forget about the wonderful Friends groups that enhance this amazing system of public lands!


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Support the Refuge Association through the Combined Federal Campaign Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:25:55 +0000

Continue reading »]]> NWRA CFC #10076Attention Federal Employees!

As you know, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is the annual fund-raising drive conducted by federal employees in their workplace each fall. Each year, federal employees and military personnel raise millions of dollars through the CFC, benefiting thousands of non-profit charities like the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Contributing through CFC is a unique and easy way to support the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Please help us make a difference for the Refuge System by checking #10076 on your contribution form. This year, a new search tool makes it even easier to find us. CFC donations help us carry out our mission of protecting the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System by building community support and educating decision-makers about the importance of refuges for wildlife conservation.

Since the first campaign in 1964, CFC has brought in over $7 billion for charities. Last year alone more than 800,000 employees donated over $209 million to charities including the National Wildlife Refuge Association. We cannot protect wildlife and ensure that refuges will be around for future generations without your help.

Every donation makes a big difference!

Click here to learn more about how the Refuge Association helps protect America’s wildlife refuges.

Click here for our CFC Flyer

For more information, visit the CFC website here.

View the Press Release for this year’s campaign here.


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It’s Almost Refuge Week! Thu, 09 Oct 2014 18:59:52 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Next week is National Wildlife Refuge Week! There are events happening all over the country. Do you have any plans for Refuge Week? If so, let us know in the comments!

Kids and adults painted with their hands in “Art with your hands” during Refuge Week at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Kids and adults painted with their hands in “Art with your hands” during Refuge Week at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

The Refuge Association is in full force gearing up for a week of celebrations surrounding our favorite thing – the Refuge System! We know that visitors to refuges love these spaces as well and also love to take photos of these incredible landscapes. That is why we asked you to share some favorite photographs you have taken while visiting your favorite wildlife refuge. So far, we’ve gotten an overwhelming number of beautiful shots and can’t wait to share.

If you want to submit a photo, simply use #seerefuges on instagram, facebook, or twitter, or just email your photos to epaciolla@refugeassociation. We’ll be posting about 2 photos per day, so keep an eye out to see if your picture has been chosen.

Next week our blogs and Flyer will also be Refuge Week themed! Keep an eye out for all things Refuge Week. Be sure to check out our blog, and if you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter, the Flyer.

If you don’t have plans yet, be sure to check out the Refuge System’s list of events here.


Here are some highlights:

October 11-19: Various Events

Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, OH

The Refuge will be hosting a variety of events all throughout Refuge Week! On October 11 is the Big Sit Birding Event, and international day of birding. Also on OCtober 11 is a Naturalists Meeting. On October 14 you and your family and friends can enjoy a Night with the Stars. On October 15 bring the kids out to At Home in a Habitat. October 18 is a photography scavenger hunt. Finally, on October 19 is a Hayride and Live Raptors on a Middle Island Adventure. Click here for more details!


October 11: Walking Tour (2pm-3pm)

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA

“The nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges protect wildlife habitat while cleaning our air, filtering our water and pollinating our crops. They also provide world- class hunting and fishing and hiking. Come with us on a walking tour as we explore the 1st urban national wildlife refuge and learn about the unique habitats that are in your very own backyard. Questions? Call Julie: 408-262-5513 ext.104.” Reservations required.


October 11: Wildlife Festival (starting at 9am)

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL

This event is filled with tons of wildlife-centric activities such as a sea turtle obstacle course, live snake displays, shorebird photo presentation, a bioluminescent kayaking trip, and more! Click here for more details.


October 12 The Big Sit!

Scores of refuges will host this annual birding event in which teams count and report bird species seen or heard from a 17-foot-diameter circle. Refuges participating include:


October 12-18: Sunset Walks every night (5:30pm- dark)

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ

Join us to watch the many species of migrating ducks that descend into the Refuge pools to spend the night. It’s awesome! Easy walk on service roads. Van available Sunday and Thursday nights; space in the van is limited – reservations required. Meet at Bluebird Parking Lot, 197 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Township, NJ.


October 19: Guided Birding Tour (9am-11am) and Reception (1pm-3pm)

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NY

For the birding tour, join refuge staff and volunteers for a tour of the refuge with visits to birding hot spots. The reception will feature live music by Jim Clare and Perry Cleaveland with fall favorite snacks and beverages.

Monica Harris and Blue Goose wave to the audience during Refuge Week at Savannah Refuges Complex | Garry Tucker, USFWS
Monica Harris and Blue Goose wave to the audience during Refuge Week at Savannah Refuges Complex | Garry Tucker, USFWS


Don’t forget to tell us your plans in the comments below!

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Pioneer of Kodiak Brown Bear Biology Passes Away at Age 89 Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:48:19 +0000

Continue reading »]]> A pioneer of capturing and tracking bears, a wildlife enthusiast, and a force to be reckoned with, Will Troyer passed away September 21 at the age of 89 in Alaska.

Troyer lived life to the fullest, as they like to say. Not one to shy away from adventure, Troyer reportedly escaped death three times, and that doesn’t include his close calls with bears. One time he went over a waterfall in a raft, and the other two times were crashes in small planes; in one crash he had to be cut out of the wreckage.

Troyer conducting a swan nest survey at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Troyer conducting a swan nest survey at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Troyer feared nothing, which is probably why he decided to become one of the first to capture and trap Kodiak brown bears in Alaska. Before 1955 when Troyer began tracking the bears, very little was known about them.

As refuge manager of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Troyer made it his mission to learn more about these great bears, which can weigh over 1,400 pounds. Troyer’s first method was to use ether to subdue the bears. He and his team quickly learned that ether worked better on humans than bears, and had to be careful not to inhale too much to avoid passing out before the bear. After a few close encounters, the team decided to try an alternative method – leg-hold traps.

The first few times they lassoed the animals, tied them down, and anesthetized them, they were able to successfully take measurements and release the bears to go on their way. It wasn’t until they had a run-in with a bear cub and its momma that Troyer decided there might be a better method. Troyer’s trial and error methods and work became the foundation for future bear and other wildlife capture techniques around North America.

Troyer and his airplane that he flew and landed onto Surprise Mountain in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Troyer and his airplane that he flew and landed onto Surprise Mountain in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Eventually, Troyer moved on to become manager of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where he initiated the Swan Lake and Swanson canoe trails that are now nationally recognized by canoeing enthusiasts. After leaving the Refuge System, Troyer continued his work with bears for the National Park Service. He retired in 1981, but didn’t slow down a bit. He spent his time writing and consulting, spending nearly every day outdoors – always observing.

Troyer received the prestigious Olaus Murie Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation in 1987 for his life’s work in wildlife conservation. Throughout his career, he also published three books: From Dawn to Dusk: Memoirs of an Amish/Mennonite Farm Boy; Into Brown Bear Country; and Bear Wrangler: Memoirs of an Alaska Pioneer Biologist.

Kevin Painter, a Service regional environmental education specialist in Alaska, says Troyer was “ahead of his time, leading the way with innovative ideas and plans of action from wildlife research to visitor services. He dedicated his life’s work to being a good steward of the people’s lands.  He was role model for many in Alaska.”

For more information, see the article in Alaska Dispatch News, and Refuge Update.

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The Birding Community E-Bulletin October Tue, 07 Oct 2014 21:02:30 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics.

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA).



On Friday, 12 September a Whiskered Tern was found at Bunker Pond in Cape May, New Jersey. The tern was initially associating with a Black Tern, and was first reported by Louise Zemaitis and Alec Humann. Bunker Pond is a body of water at Cape May Point State Park that the famous hawk-watch platform overlooks.

The Whiskered Tern is a widespread Old World species. In North America however, there are only two previous records, both on the NE Atlantic Coast and, surprisingly, both with Cape May connections. One of the previous records involved a bird that was at Cape May for a few days in July, 1993, before it moved to Little Creek, Delaware, where it stayed for over a month. The other Whiskered Tern occurrence was a bird at Cape May for a few days in August, 1998.

Last month’s Whiskered Tern at Cape May often moved back and forth between Bunker Pond and the nearby beach, where it often roosted with Common Terns, Forster’s Terns, and Laughing Gulls. After the first weekend of observations, it also began to be seen near the Coral Avenue jetty and the jetty behind the St. Mary by-the-Sea Retreat Center.

Hundreds of birders came to see the tern through 20 September, which was the final day that the Whiskered Tern was observed.

For a good report from the Atlantic City press, see here:

And for a unique video by Andy McGann, see here:


In July of last year, researchers with the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation (ICF) found a dead radio-tagged Whooping Crane in a Waupaca County wheat field. The bird had been shot. Matthew Kent Larsen, 28, of New London pleaded guilty in federal court in Green Bay for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by killing a protected species. Larsen told authorities he shot the crane because he thought it was an albino Sandhill Crane. Of course, Whooping Cranes are white and Sandhill Cranes are normally gray or reddish brown. Neither bird is legal to be hunted in Wisconsin. You can read more about this issue from the USFWS, a summary of which was released this past summer here:

While rare, white Sandhill Cranes have been described by several observers. Birds with non-eumelanin schizochorism, a genetic pigmentation condition producing a leucistic (i.e., pale or white appearance), have been described from Saskatchewan, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, and elsewhere. Some such cranes are almost totally white with a red forehead and brown wings, while others are white with only a scattering of gray feathers on their wings and back. Still other cranes have only the wings and back white.

While researchers in the past have speculated that one of these leucistic Sandhill Cranes could be mistaken for a Whooping Crane, it is also possible that a Whooping Crane could be mistaken for a leucistic Sandhill Crane.

In a reminder in the most recent Eastern Crane Bulletin, fall migration for cranes has begun, and the experimental and legal Sandhill Crane hunting seasons in Kentucky and Tennessee will take place at the end of the this year. It is important to know the differences between Whooping Cranes and normal and leucistic Sandhill Cranes. With the ongoing effort to establish a migratory population of Whooping Cranes in the eastern U.S. between Wisconsin and Florida now at almost 100 birds, the issue becomes even more important.

In the meantime, people can learn the difference between endangered Whooping Cranes and normal Sandhill Cranes from a chart developed by the International Crane Foundation called “Large Water Birds: An Identification Guide”:


Two years ago, we reported on how the effort to respond to North Dakota’s oil and gas boom by dedicating a portion of the state extraction tax revenue to conservation had failed:

Now, North Dakota voters have a second chance to vote on this proposal. Last month, North Dakota’s Secretary of State announced that an attempt to place the issue on the November ballot had qualified, with more than 41,000 voters signing the initiative petition.

The North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife & Parks measure – known as “Measure 5″ on the ballot – is intended dedicate five percent of the state’s oil and gas extraction tax revenue to protect North Dakota’s clean water and lands through a voluntary grant program administered by a citizen advisory board and the Governor, Attorney General, and Agriculture Commissioner.

Potential projects would include protecting clean water in rivers, lakes, and streams; preserving critical habitat for fish and wildlife; creating and improving parks and other areas for recreation, hunting, and fishing; protecting communities and private property from flooding with natural flood controls; and providing more opportunities and places to learn about and to enjoy the outdoors.

The proposal is supported by a coalition of concerned citizens, including teachers, family farmers and members of the health community, conservation organizations, hunters, anglers, and small business owners from across the state.

Because North Dakota is at the very center of North America’s “duck factory,” and is also home to Yellow Rails, Sprague’s Pipits, Baird’s, Nelsons, and LeConte’s Sparrows, and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, this is potentially a very important ballot initiative.

For more on Measure 5, see here:


Having just mentioned the importance of nesting areas for Yellow Rails, it may be appropriate to consider access issues in the species’ wintering areas. This is especially true along the Gulf Coast in fresh, brackish, or salt marshes, as well as in dry fields or rice fields.

Although birders can sometimes find secretive Yellow Rails at certain coastal National Wildlife Refuges, it is far easier to encounter these elusive birds in rice fields, especially during the fall harvest season.

Rice farmers, however, are sometimes reluctant to allow access to their fields, citing liability issues, if not the inconvenience of hosting visiting birders.

One happy alternative is found through the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival (YRARF) in southwest Louisiana in late October. There, accommodating farmers, organized birders and researchers, and Louisiana state law combine to make seeing Yellow Rails a pleasant reality. Not only are birders given access to specific rice fields, but they also are afforded the opportunity to ride rice-combines as the machines harvest a fall – or “ratoon” – rice crop and flush rails from the moist fields at the same time.

The third crucial ingredient in this opportunity is Louisiana’s “Agritourism Limited Liability Law” (R.S. 9:2795.4) which helps legally protect the farmers and “agricultural professionals” for injuries that might occur during the activity – in this case, birding. Passed in 2008, the law instructs the organizers to maintain a sign or signs containing s warning notice at the entrance of the location and at the site of the activity.

While there is no absolute freedom from liability, the posting of such signs and making participants aware of the inherent risks; explaining safe ways of participating; stopping unsafe participation; correcting, eliminating, isolating, or warning of risky conditions; and having regard for the safety of participants can protect those involved from liability under the Agritourism Law.

Participants at YRARF are usually asked to sign a release related to the law before participating in activities. Everyone wins, and the process facilitates increased access to Yellow Rails and other birds on these private properties.

You can find out more about the festival and the agritourism protections on the festival website. (And, by the way, there are still openings for participants this month):

You can access information on the Agritourism Limited Liability Law here:


On 20 September, a panel of five judges chose new artwork to grace the 2015-2016 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp. After judging 186 pieces of artwork, there was a three-way tie in the voting. This was a first in the history of the contest. Extra rounds of judging had to be run to select the final top three pieces.

The winning artwork was of a pair of lovely Ruddy Ducks painted in acrylic by Jennifer Miller of Olean, New York. Describing her outdoor as well as artistic interests, Miller said, “I am mostly self-taught, with no formal art education, and studied under the guidance of the natural world… I go out of my way daily to study, observe, and learn about my interests. I am equally happy examining a wild bird through binoculars as I am examining bits of moss growing across a fallen tree.”

Miller is only the third woman to win this prestigious contest. You can find out more about Miller and her work on her website:

For more on the contest and the program see the website for the Federal Duck Stamp Office:


Last year, in our June 2013 issue, we drew attention to the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, an effort initiated in Ontario in 1981 by Bird Studies Canada (back then, Long Point Bird Observatory) and expanded nationally in 1989:

The 34th season of the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey ended in mid-September, with more than 700 citizen scientists across Canada monitoring loons and their reproductive success. While final results for this year are being tabulated, you can read a summary of the 1981-2012 findings here:

And you can review survey background and resources here:


Yes, it’s another penguin book. But there never seems to be enough for penguin aficionados! Still, Penguins: the Ultimate Guide (Princeton) by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite might just fulfil the promise of its subtitle.

The book is modeled on Albatross – Their World, Their Ways (2008) in which Tui De Roy and Mark Jones teamed up with Julian Fitter to describe how that pelagic bird family is wonderfully adapted for life at sea. Now, De Roy and Jones approach the penguin family and have brought in Julie Cornwaite to make up the creative trio.

Penguins: the Ultimate Guide is part coffee-table book, part informative essays, and part species profiles for each of the 18 species. Moreover, the 400+ photos are gorgeous.

Actually, there are three sections of the book, each commandeered by a co-author. The first, by Tui De Roy, covers the different penguin genera and reviews a typical penguin year, explaining the differences among species. The second section is led by Mark Jones, where aspects of penguin science and conservation are reviewed. In this, he is assisted by a team of 16 authors. Finally, Julie Cornwaite takes the reader through all 18 species of penguins in excellent species accounts.

Indeed, until further notice, this may be “the ultimate guide” to penguins and their lives.


Previous editions of the national “State of the Birds” report have had specific themes (e.g., public lands and waters, climate change, and birds on private lands). This year, the fifth report from the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), a 23-member partnership, is a little different.

This year’s report, released last month, offers a comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds. The report draws attention to a “Watch List” of 228 high-concern species as well as 33 common bird species in steep decline and in need of immediate conservation assistance.

At the same time, the report reveals that in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made, bird populations do recover which suggests that investments in monitoring, research, and smart land-management will pay for themselves.

The report and other information on this State of the Birds can be accessed from this page:

You may also wish to listen to a short and informative report from National Public Radio (9 September) on the report here:


President Obama signed a proclamation in late September designating the largest marine reserve in the world, and one that is completely off limits to commercial resource extraction including commercial fishing. The proclamation expands the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, created by President George W. Bush, to six times its current size, resulting in 370,000 square nautical miles (490,000 square miles) of protected area around a series of tropical islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

The designation is a scaled-back version of a more ambitious plan the administration had originally floated in June, and a plan we reported on in the July E-bulletin: 

Last month’s decision will allow for fishing around roughly half the area’s islands and atolls, thereby aiming to limit economic impact on the U.S. fishing interests.

Besides the treasure of under-sea life in the monument, the area is also home to millions of seabirds that regularly forage over hundreds of miles and bring food back to their young on nesting sites on the monument’s islands and atolls.

The expanded monument will continue to be managed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration respectively.

You can view a map with the old and new Monument boundaries here:


In early September, at the cusp of the very first, and very successful World Shorebirds’ Day, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve (WHSRN) hemispheric-wide council announced the addition of the 90th site to join WHSRN. The Sistema Tóbari is a Mexican Important Bird Area (IBA) site known to support large numbers of American Avocets, Marbled Godwits, Northern Pintails, and Lesser Scaups.

The bay of Tobari (or Bahía de Tóbari), is located in the Gulf of California in the state of Sonora. It consists of over 40,000 acres of shorebird habitat: grasses, mangroves, mudflats, and sandy areas, as well as Isla Huivuilai, a barrier island in the center of the bay. The site is already part of the “Gulf of California Islands” Protected Area for Flora and Fauna (APFF is the Spanish acronym), owned and managed by the National Commission on Protected Natural Areas (CONANP, another Spanish acronym).

The bay qualified as a WHSRN Site of International Importance for hosting more than 10% of the biogeographic population of the frazari subspecies of American Oystercatcher, and federally listed in Mexico as being “in danger of extinction.”

At least 44,000 shorebirds representing 17 species were recently recorded at Bahía de Tóbari, including 2.3% of the biogeographic population of American Avocets, 1.2% of Willets, and 3.0% of Marbled Godwits.

To date, there are WHSRN sites in 13 countries across the hemisphere, comprising more than 32 million acres of shorebird habitats.

More details on the Bahía de Tóbari may be found here:

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:


You’ll never know when you’ll need a field guide once you’ve gone out to watch birds. No matter how familiar you are with the birds of the area and their occurrence, there are times when you will confront something unfamiliar.

And if you don’t have your guide with you, you may end up totally flummoxed.

Perhaps it’s a plumage that’s strange to you, or perhaps it’s a matter of range or distribution. If your guide is at home, it can’t help solve your problem.

Regardless of whether your guide is a printed book or a handheld device, simply be prepared.

Additionally, if you’re about to go out specifically for a day of shorebirding or hawk-watching (both popular at this season), then don’t neglect to bring along a specific field guide to that family group either.

It may pay off!

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You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:

If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

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We’ve Reached 100k! Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:21:36 +0000

Continue reading »]]> In celebration of the Refuge Association Facebook page reaching 100,000 likes, here are our most popular Facebook posts. Enjoy!


  1. PipingPloversPiping Plovers: This photo, posted mid August, highlights one of the main species that is protected at Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges: Piping Plovers. Just before this photo was posted, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, which the Refuge Association chairs, presented Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) with a carving of piping plovers in recognition of his support for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Reed, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, has been a longtime supporter of adequate funding for America’s wildlife refuges and has demonstrated his commitment to conservation through his leadership in Congress. To learn more about Senator Reed and his award, click here.
  2. pathsDirt Trails:  We love this quote posted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to preserve land for wildlife, it is also imperative that people enjoy it as well. About 80% of the United States population now live in urban areas and a large portion of those people very rarely spend time outside. That is why the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program works to bring the majority of Americans onto refuges, and bring the refuges to them. Spending time outside, on refuges provides immense benefits for the community, the individual, and also the wildlife.
  3. ospreyLunch is Served!: This osprey definitely is not camera shy, as it appears some aren’t! In a story from the May Birding Community E-Bulletin, An osprey set up a nest right in front of a traffic camera the western side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on its span to the DelMarVa Peninsula. The Service stated that the nest could be removed as long as there were no eggs in the nest. So the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) removed the nest, only for the osprey to rebuild it time and time again. Finally, MdTA built a wooden platform near the cameras where the osprey was finally able to set up a nest. Birding Community E-Bulletins are posted every month with more great stories like this one.
  4. pelicanCarp” Diem: What a mouthful! The nutrient rich carp will definitely keep that pelican full, just as the Bear River Watershed, where this photo was taken,  is teeming with wildlife and provides nutrients and sustenance to a wide variety of wildlife and people. The Bear River Watership is one of the Refuge Association’s focus areas in the Beyond the Boundaries Program. The Bear River is the largest waterway in the arid Great Basin region, and thus plays a crucial role in supporting habitats and wildlife here. For example, the river sustains more than 41,000 acres of freshwater wetlands that provide refuge to thousands of migratory birds. The river is also vital to the people of the region, providing an irreplaceable source for irrigation to support crops and cattle, as well as outdoor recreation. Development and pollution pose major threats to this unique and irreplaceable resource. The Refuge Association has been working with the Service since 2009 supporting planning and outreach efforts, expanding conservation education programs, and advocating for funding to support land and water acquisition. Click here to learn more about our work in the Bear River Watershed.
  5. albatrossYou lookin at me? This black-footed albatross attracted hundreds of comments and shares from our loyal facebook fans. Without you, we wouldn’t have made it to 100k likes on facebook – quite literally! It is also because of you, our readers and supporters, that we are able to protect wildlife and our public lands on a daily basis. From your written and verbal support, to donations and work out on the refuges, we appreciate it all.


Have you taken any photos on a National Wildlife Refuge? Share them with us!* Use the hashtag #seerefuges on instagram or twitter, share them on our facebook page, or email them to epaciolla@refugeassociation. Just make sure to include which refuge you took the photo on!


flyer-square-230px-v2If you haven’t already, don’t forget to sign up for our Flyer E-Newsletter for more wildlife photography and stories about happenings around the Refuge System!



donatenowAlso, consider a donation to the National Wildlife Refuge System so we can continue to protect this beautiful and important wildlife.


*By submitting photos through email, facebook, or with the hashtag #seerefuges, you are granting the National Wildlife Refuge Association permission to share your photos on social media and in our blog.

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