New Trails for Birders
As the popularity of bird watching grows, new and improved birding trails are popping up around the country, many in National Wildlife Refuges. The number of bird enthusiasts — birders for short — are legion. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the most recent such survey, more than 47 million people in the United States observed wild birds around the home or traveled to see them in 2006. Birders and other wildlife watchers spent more than $45 billion as part of this activity.
Two new offerings:
The Makoke Birding Trail in central Iowa is less a single trail than a collection of 22 separately mapped sites, each distinct in habitat and species, and none more than 40 minutes from downtown Des Moines. One of those 22 sites is the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, where tallgrass prairie restoration is bringing back habitat for more than 200 species of birds. Among these: Henslow's sparrow, Bell's vireo, willow flycatcher and red-headed woodpecker. A guide to the trail and the Neal Smith piece of it can be downloaded at: http://www.iowabirds.org/places/documents/Makoke_Trail.pdf.
The new Sun and Sage Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail features more than 200 of the state's 346 annually recorded bird species. The loop has 52 stops in southcentral Washington. One of the sites (stop # 29) is Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge, with its 1,700 acres of seasonal wetlands and shrub-steppe. Each fall, 30,000 waterfowl arrive at the Toppenish Refuge and stay for winter. Among them: Pied-billed grebes, northern pintails, mallards and northern shovelers. You may also spot short-eared owls. Learn more about the trail at: http://wa.audubon.org/birds_GreatWABirdingTrail.html. For a downloadable trail guide, visit: http://wa.audubon.org/BirdingTrailMaps/TM_index.html.