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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

American Woodcock Know They Can Dance; Want to See Them?

Woodcock are good at hiding out. Photo by T. Oots

Kyle Daly is a wildlife biologist working for the Service in Minnesota. Kyle conducted research on American woodcock breeding ecology and survey assessments for his M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota. Here, he shares some tips on seeing this elusive bird’s stunning dance.

American Woodcock are a highly cryptic bird species and are rarely seen by people because they avoid harm by sitting down and remaining perfectly still, letting their camouflage do its work. However, this bird exhibits one of the most conspicuous breeding displays in the avian world -- the “sky dance. 

Every spring, males “dance” to attract mates by spiraling through the air while making a twittering sound with their wings.  They then land, give a series of nasally “peents,” or vocal calls, and return to the skies to repeat the process.


Live Streaming Video Camera Offers Glimpse of Sage Grouse Strut

The best time to view the male sage-grouse courtship dance is between 5:00 am and 9:00 am PST.

This live-stream camera provides a one-of-kind viewing of greater sage-grouse: http://bit.ly/GRSGCAM

You’ll want to get up early (at  least  on the West Coast) to view all the action on the lek.

What the heck is a lek? A lek is the traditional breeding ground where male sage-grouse puff out their chests and fan their tail feathers to attract females. Leks are located in the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada in sagebrush country. Sagebrush is a plant that acts as a nursery area for a lot of wildlife such as pronghorn, elk, mule deer and golden eagles. Viewers might see one of these critters wandering by. 


Aaron Heimann Lets the Outdoor Classroom Steer the Course of Learning

SCA interns Emilie Sinkler and Aaron Heimann. Photo by Tony Rondeau

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, Aaron Heimann, an environmental education intern at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center at the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District in Minnesota, talks about using the great outdoors as your classroom.


Formica ants. Photo by Aaron Heimann

I weave my way uphill along a gravel trail. Glancing behind me, I see an undulating line of second-graders and their teacher. Since our early stop at a Formica ant mound, we have been walking with heads bowed into the prevailing winds, and as I look back I see one little girl get visibly jostled by a particularly strong gust. They are outside on this early April day to investigate “Amazing Animals,” per the lesson plan, but I fear they aren’t comfortable enough to enjoy the experience, let alone be amazed by the animals we are encountering.


Strengthening our Conservation of North American Bats

Conservation leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States sign the historic bat conservation Letter of Intent. Photo by Chris Tollefson/USFWS

 We share hundreds of species with Mexico and Canada, and coordinate conservation activities with these neighboring partners on many of them, including monarch butterflies, migratory birds, and many more. But until now, comprehensive coordination for  one group of animals has fallen noticeably short: bats. For the first time in history, with the signing of a  “Letter of Intent” at this week’s Canada/Mexico/US Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management, we have official coordination on the conservation of North America’s bats.


California Condor and its 9.5-foot Wingspan Spread to Mexico

California condor
One of the male California condors at Mexico's Chapultepec Zoo. Photo by San Diego Zoo Global

Don’t let the name fool you. California condors used to call many areas of the United States home. During the Pleistocene Era, ending 10,000 years ago, the condor's range even extended across much of North America. When the European settlers arrived, California condors ranged all along the Pacific Coast, from British Columbia, Canada in the north to Baja California, Mexico in the south.  Now, some California condors are moving back to Mexico.

The California condor population fell as people spread over North America. By 1982, only 22 condors survived in the wild, and all were limited to the mountainous areas of southern California. A captive breeding program helped the condor survive -- the population now totals 425 California condors and more than half of them live in the wild -- and begin its slow road to recovery. In 2014, a total of 15 captive bred California condors were released in the wild.

In addition to our work, we have some tremendous partners helping the condor, such as the California State Fish and Game Commission and the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos. And last year, we strengthened our partnership with a longtime member in the condor recovery community: Mexico.


Celebrating 10 Years of Cooperation on the Lower Colorado River

 Laguna Division Conservation Area
Partners also dedicated the newly created Laguna Division Conservation Area (LDCA), a conservation area of more than 1,110 acres downstream of Imperial Dam. Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

Last week, we gathered with the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local partners in Yuma, Arizona, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. The program helps balance the use of Colorado River water resources with conservation of native species and their habitats.

Holy Toledo! Partnerships Span the Continent and the Oceans to Conserve Native Species

Our Pacific Region has a nice blog about the benefits of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR).

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True Story: A Bobcat Catches a Shark

A Bobcat was caught on camera catching a shark.

The Backstory: On a stroll while at Sebastian Inlet State Park, John Bailey noticed what he thought was a dog staring into the water. Upon closer inspection he realized it was a bobcat, transfixed on a shark feeding on some smaller fish. All of a sudden, the bobcat leapt into the water atop the shark and dragged it ashore! After Bailey took the photo the cat dropped its catch and ran into the woods. So what can we learn about this bobcat fishing for one of the ocean’s top predators?

As blogs and news stations pick up the story and it’s deemed “viral” online, we wanted to take a closer look at the situation.


Service Grantees Shine in Mexico

Conservation in Mexico
People get instructions on a conservation project. Photo courtesy Samuel Levy

Wildlife don’t politely turn around when they reach a national border, so conservation must be a global responsibility. Recognizing that, we have, since 1989, provided more than 2,700 grants for international conservation totaling more than $100 million and raising more than $200 million in additional leveraged funds.

The Service's Mexico Program works with our neighbor to the south. We share hundreds of species with Mexico, and for a country that makes up just 1 percent of the Earth’s land mass, Mexico contains a staggering amount of wildlife: It’s home to one-tenth of all species known to science. We have provided 351 grants in Mexico totaling more than $11 million. Better yet, that original funding has brought in 26 million in leveraged dollars. 

As preparations continue for next week's annual meeting of the Canada/Mexico/US Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management, we celebrate three standout partners of our Mexico Program.


Deep Waters: The Search for Lake Michigan’s Elusive Cisco

A male bloater, a type of deepwater cisco, collected from Lake Michigan. Photo by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS

A type of deepwater cisco, the bloater is an important part of the Great Lakes food web providing important nutrients to native predator fish such as lake trout.  Yet their populations are low, if not completely extinguished, in much of the Great Lakes due to over-fishing, invasive species and habitat degradation. An effort by the Service at the request of the state of New York and the province of Ontario aims to restore bloater populations in Lake Ontario, which will help to support growing populations of lake trout and Atlantic salmon. The lessons learned as part of this effort will help to guide cisco restoration efforts in other parts of the Great Lakes.

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