Last updated: February 17, 2010
Wildlife Calendar of Events
This calendar is meant to provide visitors with a general guide to seasonal events on Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
Annual limited desert bighorn sheep hunt closes. Rams break away from ewes and yearlings and form "bachelor" groups, generally on the lower hills and mountain slopes. Phainopeplas, year-round residents in southern Nevada, are particularly numerous during the winter months, feeding on mistletoe berries in mesquite stands at the Corn Creek Field Station.
Lambing season for desert bighorn sheep begins. Cool season, annual grasses begin to green up on the lower, sunny exposures. Weather in the high country (up to nearly 10,000 feet) is still unpredictable with freezing temperatures and snow storms common.
Lambing season reaches its peak by the end of the month. Warblers, flycatchers, and other neotropical migratory birds begin arriving at the Corn Creek Field Station, attracted by the compound's orchard, ponds, and pasture. Western and mountain bluebirds can be found in the pinyon-juniper habitats, along with wandering flocks of pinyon jays. Weather in the low country is generally pleasant, but occasionally quite windy. Refuge staff and volunteers begin maintenance and construction of water sources for summer, resident wildlife, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and house finches. The desert tortoise, a federally listed species, emerges from its winter burrows.
Lambing season tapers off. Spring wild flowers begin to bloom, particularly along road side depressions. The number and variety of wild flowers is highly dependent upon the amount of rain received earlier in the year. Large numbers of neotropical migratory birds, such as western tanagers, yellow-rumped warblers, and northern orioles pass through the Corn Creek Field Station as they head north to their nesting areas. Resident birds at lower elevations, such as black-throated sparrows and loggerhead shrikes, begin nesting.
The mulberry trees in the Corn Creek orchard have borne fruit, attracting resident and migrant birds like a magnet. The Corn Creek pasture has greened up, providing forage for numerous cottontails and black-tailed jackrabbits, as well as a good evening hunting area for coyotes. Young Say's phoebes, rock wrens, common bushtits, and blue-gray gnatcatchers leave the nest and begin venturing around Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Ash-throated flycatchers and ladder-backed woodpeckers can be found at the lower elevations, particularly Yucca Forest. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated during the month.
Snow is almost gone from the high country and desert bighorn sheep begin moving up to forage on growth stimulated by the melt. Black-throated gray warblers, juniper titmice, hairy woodpeckers, gray flycatchers, and spotted towhees are nesting in the pinyon-juniper habitat zones. Bullfrogs can be heard croaking loudly from the Corn Creek ponds, especially towards dusk. Wild flowers remain in bloom until month's end.
Migrant songbirds depart as temperatures begin to soar. Water sources in the mountains start to receive heavy wildlife use. Bighorn sheep can be viewed by spending the morning watching these water sources and the surrounding steep terrain. "Bachelor" groups of rams break up as they seek mates, usually in close proximity to the water. Scott's orioles, cactus wrens, and ladder-backed woodpeckers can be seen in the Joshua trees. Tortoises return to their burrows, but other reptiles, particularly the western whiptail, zebra-tailed, and side-blotched lizards, can be easily observed.
The bighorn sheep breeding season, or rut, reaches its peak. Summer monsoons can occur during this time, causing sheep to disperse temporarily from water. Resident birds abound in the high elevation, roadless wilderness. Species include Cassin's finch, brown creeper, pine siskin, Clark's nutcracker, broad-tailed hummingbird, canyon wren, and white-breasted nuthatch.
Temperatures moderate, generally by month's end. Mourning doves begin their southward migration. Several species of flycatcher, common to the western United States, pass through Corn Creek Field Station. Tortoises may reappear for a brief feeding period prior to winter hibernation.
Annual bighorn helicopter surveys are conducted. After these surveys, state and Federal biologists cooperatively conduct bighorn net-gunning and transplanting operations on an intermittent basis. Spotted towhees congregate in Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Temperature decline and weather conditions become generally pleasant. National Wildlife Refuge Week is celebrated during the month.
Annual limted bighorn sheep hunt begins. Lambs have been weaned and closely resemble ewes from a distance. Night time temperatures are cold and below freezing at the upper elevations. Bullfrogs begin estivation in the muddy ditch and pond bottoms at Corn Creek Field Station. Rabbit populations have been significantly reduced by summer predator activity.
Christmas bird count is conducted by members of the Red Rock Audubon Society and other volunteers. Bighorn sheep have moved to lower elevations for the winter and rutting activity has, for the most part, terminated. The holiday season slows Air Force training on the western one-half of the refuge, allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide bighorn sheep hunting opportunities in this area.