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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

What a Honeymoon!

 Ceciliz and Salvadori
Ceciliz and Salvadori

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska shared an awesome photo and story on their Facebook page recently. This is Ceciliz and Salvadori from Argentina. They are on their honeymoon.

This young couple drove their car from Argentina! They're touring Alaska and then plan to drive back to Argentina.

That’s a lot of driving. But what an amazing trip!

Where are You in the Food Chain?

Predator or Prey

Some of our folks developed a fun Buzzfeed quiz to see where you stand.

Take the Quiz

Transportation Planning Program Helps Keep Things Running

Johnson Canyon Mitigation site
California goldfields at the Johnson Canyon mitigation site. Photo by Sally Brown/USFWS

We work hard with partners to identify ways to avoid impacts to sensitive habitats and species. When damage can’t be avoided, conservation of another area can sometimes offset the impacts. Biologists with our Transportation Planning Program work with state Departments of Transportation and other agencies to make sure the nation’s roads work for people as well as the environment.

At the Johnson Canyon mitigation site on Otay Mesa in California, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) restored and conserved more than 50 acres of predominantly vernal pool habitat to offset impacts resulting from the construction of State Route 125 in San Diego. 


The Awesome Urban Wildlife Conservation Program

 Service biologist Brian Collins
Service biologist Brian Collins counts the number of elegant tern eggs at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge in California. Photo by Ian Shire

Outside Online recently called our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program “the Best Outdoor Initiative You’ve Never Heard Of.” We agree it is awesome! The magazine also prepared a photo gallery to show some of these urban refuges and the amazing opportunities they offer.

Take a look

Weather Channel Highlights Refuges

 Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

As you might expect, National Wildlife Refuges pop up frequently in the Weather Channel’s photo gallery of “Incredible Places to See Wildlife in Every State.”

Take a look

Students Get Muddy For Rhode Island Marsh Restoration

 Zoe Clougher
Zoe Clougher, of Rogers High School, lends a hand in strengthening Sachuest marsh through the spartina grass plug planting project. Credit: Scott Dickison

This summer, a small group of high school students strengthened the Sachuest salt marsh in Rhode Island, planting more than 175 native grass plugs along the wetlands of the Maidford River. This Hurricane Sandy funded resilience project at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, in partnership with Save the Bay, aims to expand, cover and recolonize an area on the marsh that has been bare since the mid 2000s.

Read More 

Saving an Iconic Duck

Jennifer Malpass with a male American common eider
Jennifer Malpass with a male American common eider. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Malpass.

Jennifer Malpass is a doctoral student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Science program at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, who spent her summer as part of the Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program, assisting the Migratory Birds Program in our Northeast Region with the development of the American common eider conservation action plan.

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Restoring a Native Plant Meadow in North Carolina

Native grasslands are disappearing across North Carolina. In fact, native prairies are the least represented habitats in the North Carolina Piedmont, the plateau between the coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains. History tells us that over time, native grasslands were changed to crops, pastures, roads and housing. Replacing grasslands with golf courses, agricultural fields and backyard lawns offer little value to the diversity of wildlife grassslands suport. In an effort to re-create and restore native grasslands, our Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office worked with the Triangle Land Conservancy to reclaim 25 acres of an abandoned agricultural field within their Horton Grove Nature Preserve in Durham County, N.C. In short four years, the site has been transformed into a healthy native plant community. Watch the video to learn how the prescribed fire, strategic herbicide applications and plantings will maintain habitat for many species, including the loggerhead shrike, prairie warbler, grasshopper sparrow, American woodcock and northern bobwhite quail.

Learn more

Balloons and Wildlife: Please Don't Release Your Balloons

Balloons collected from a beach cleanup Credit: USFWS

balloon scraps pose a threat to animalsBalloons are great at birthdays, weddings, graduations and more, but once they get loose, balloons can pose a threat to many animals.  

Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them.

In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet and hands.

For example, more than a hundred balloons were recently collected at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey at a cleanup, and that’s just the number that made it to this one particular beach.

Some of the following pictures are hard to look at, but they make clearer than any words why we all should find alternatives to letting a balloon go.

bird strangled by balloon stringCredit: Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program

bird hanging by balloon string
Photo: Pamela Denmon, USFWS

Dead Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Photo: USFWS Eastern Shore of VA and Fisherman Island NWR
Sea turtles are especially hit hard as they surface to breathe and eat and commonly eat balloons.

Avocets Help Intern Learn What it Takes to Become a Wildlife Biologist

SCA logo

Open Spaces is featuring monthly posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at www.thesca.org . Today, Sara Prussing checks in from Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah.


  Sara Prussing
  A successful capture of an American avocet chick! Photo courtesy of Jen Christopherson

Summer has come with a bang to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Cool May showers and high river flows have become distant memories in the swelter of June and July. The wetlands resound with an enticing cacophony of breeding birds. Above the deep marshes, the oinks of white-faced ibises mix with the harsh scoldings of Forster’s terns and nasally laughs of Franklin’s gulls. Passing by a stand of reeds or bulrush, a lucky visitor might hear the whinny of a nearby sora or the territorial grunt of a Virginia rail. During May and June I listened for these reticent rails during secretive marsh bird surveys and was fortunate to spot a few. Today, though, my eyes are set on a less elusive target.

Refuge biologist Howard Browers and I are on a shorebird banding mission. While we drive, high-pitched kleets ring in our ears as the mascots of Bear River Refuge, American avocets, glide into view. The avocets are in full breeding mode, adorned with cinnamon hoods and shadowed by their offspring. Once I spot three avocet chicks wading idly on our right, the game is on.

I hop out of the truck, net in hand and wader boots pounding the ground. The chicks scatter in different directions to thwart me, but my attention is entirely focused on the farthest of the three. It runs freely above the sulfurous mud, and I follow with a galumphing stride. I start to close the gap and reach out my net, closer, closer… SCHLUMP! Without warning, my left boot slides off and I collapse in the muck. Scrambling up, I watch the chick disappear behind a curtain of bulrush. As I pass the spot, I glance down to see a bundle of feathers crouched between the stems. I gently close my fingers around its torso and begin the long trek back to shore.


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