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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Planting Trees Promotes Pollinators

By Tana Nulph, USFWS

The pollinators are buzzing happily at Ennis National Fish Hatchery as they enjoy the much-anticipated arrival of summer. And thanks to more than 250 new pollinator-friendly trees and shrubs we recently planted at the hatchery, they have plenty to buzz about!

This tree project has been a cooperative effort involving the hatchery's permanent staff, the Youth Conservation Corps members, and local elementary school students, who planted several of the trees for Earth Day 2011. The goal of the project is to add habitat for pollinators, inform students of the importance of pollinators and the challenges they face, and to improve the landscape of the hatchery using native vegetation. This project has reached many students, from the 2nd to 5th graders who planted the trees to their older siblings who tend them as YCC's.

plantingWorking hard to place the plants properly! (Photo: USFWS)


Emergency Response to Elephant Poaching in Cameroon

Today's guest blogger, Dirck Byler, is a Program Officer for the Great Ape Conservation Fund with the Service's International Affairs office in Arlington, Virginia. Today, he shares a story about his recent trip to Cameroon.

In February, I was in Cameroon to meet with students attending the Garoua Wildlife College, a regional institution supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The College trains young professionals from French-speaking Africa in wildlife management.

community in CameroonCommunities in northern Cameroon surrounding Bouba Ndjida National Park. Photo: Dirck Byler/USFWS

While in Cameroon, reports filled my inbox on the slaughter of as many as 500 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park. However, the facts of these reports were disputed. Little detail was available on what interventions, if any, were being made to prevent further poaching.


Reasons to Celebrate: The Refuge System's 109th Birthday

How do you mark a 109th birthday?  

In style.  

All the more so when the honoree is an American icon, respected the world-over as a conservation force and national treasure.   

Ducks in Flight, ChincoteagueDucks take off at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Steve Hillebrand

The birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System on March 14, 1903, ensured that our children and our children’s children will inherit an America that still has natural spaces and the wild creatures.


Endangered Species Spotlight: Coho Salmon

Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day sets aside the third Friday in May to recognize the importance of endangered species and is an occasion to educate the public on how to protect them. This year, Endangered Species Day falls on May 18th.  In the weeks leading up to Endangered Species Day, we'll be putting a spotlight on a few endangered and threatened species for you to learn more about what makes them unique. And there's still time to enter the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest! The submission deadline is March 15.

Gordon Li Coho SalmonCoho Salmon by Gordon Li

The Coho salmon in the United States ranges from the central California coast to northern Alaska and weighs from 7 to 12 pounds. 


Love All Around: Nature's Courtship Rituals

It’s just about Valentine’s Day! Looking to show your sweetie just how much you love him or her? Take a cue from wildlife, who often put on fascinating shows species put on to attract a mate. These colorful, noisy rituals can be seen firsthand at many national wildlife refuges.

Take the male Attwater’s praire chicken. He’ll dance a jig and make a “booming” sound by filling orange air sacks on the sides of his neck. The spectacle can be seen in March and April at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Its annual festival is April 8-9.

If you want some help converting the chicken's moves to human form, wildlife biologist Laurie Gonzales can help:

Or maybe you aren't a prairie chicken at heart. To the north, you can find the American woodcock, whose night “sky dance” can be seen in places like Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont or Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island. The dance, which renowned author and conservationist Aldo Leopold loved, begins with a series of sharp “peent” sounds, until the bird suddenly flies up, twittering, in a widening spiral, floats briefly, and dives zigzag back to earth. 

Maybe you’re more of a greater sage-grouse. Every year, they gather in March and April on leks, or breeding grounds, where males gather to strut their stuff hoping to attract the attention of females.  The early-morning ritual involves popping and bubbling noises that can be heard hundreds of yards away. With their pointed tail feathers erect, and their white breast feathers accentuated by air sacs, they create a spectacular mating display.

Or how about the grey tree frog that inflates its vocal pouch to balloon-like proportions and sounds a melodic trill? University of Missouri researchers discovered the male can calibrate his love song to attract a mate with matching chromosomes! If you’re hoping to hear the song, head to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, or Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas in early April.

And then there are the horseshoe crabs, which come ashore in the thousands to spawn in May and June. The male horseshoe crab crowds along the water line, vying for arriving females. When the time is right, he will grab onto a mate and ride ashore. The female will dig a hole in the sand to deposit her eggs, and the male fertilizes them. Some great spots to check this out: Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware and Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Horseshoe Crabs MatingMispillion Harbor, Deleware Photo: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Photo Tour: Camera Traps

Have you ever heard of camera traps?  

They're cameras triggered by a combination of motion and heat to capture images of wildlife.  The following images were part of a four-camera project involving students from New Mexico's Rio Rancho High School who worked with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the staff of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to record mammal life on the refuge.  

About 200 students sorted through the resulting 16,000 photographs to document the presence and behavior of 11 mammal species, including some that were previously not known to inhabit the refuge!

Here's what the camera looks like to take the pictures - scent post were placed near the cameras.

The Camera Trap cameraCamera used in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM camera trap project by Matthew Farley, Jennifer Miyashiro and James Stuart.  Photo made available by J.N. Stuart, Creative Commons


Looking Back: William L. Finley

Dramatic photography, captivating lectures, memorable movie scripts and magazine articles – William L. Finley used them all to convince the American public that it was time to give birds a home of their own.

Finley/Bohlman Slide of PelicansAn American White Pelican just before take-off at its nest site in Malheur Lake, 1908. Handpainted glass slide by Finley and Bohlman.


Photo Tour: Relating to Snow

Each week, the National Wildlife Refuge System puts together a slideshow on flickr for people to see some amazing shots of wildlife from across the country.  Check it out here!

Can you guess what all these images have in common?  

Okay, it's not that hard if you read the blog title.  They all have to do with snow - from snowfalls to animals with "snow" in their names!

What's your favorite thing related to snow? 

Snowy OwlThis snowy owl sits adjacent to Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon.  Photo: Roy W. Lowe/USFWS


Ring in 2012 with these Babies!

The New Year Baby has been featured in many cartoons over the course of our history, symbolizing the birth of a new year.  It's a time for new beginnings, resolutions, and an attitude of 'out with the old and in with the new.'  

At Open Spaces, we want to take part in the tradition with a nature twist.  We couldn't think of a better way to ring in 2012 than with these adorable baby animals.

And when it comes to resolutions, let us all resolve in 2012 to do all we can to protect baby animals everywhere and the wild places they call home.

Polar Bear Cubs

Do you know the names for baby animals?  Many of them are easy to guess, like these polar bears, which are called cubs.  See how well you do with the rest!


Protecting the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie

Tallgrass prairie once blanketed more than 170 million acres from Texas to Canada. Today, just four percent of the United States’ original tallgrass prairie habitat remains.

So, what happened to it all?

Most of the habitat was converted to farmland in the 19th century to feed Americans.  But during this expansion, the Flint Hills of Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma was left untouched.  It’s geology made it unsuitable for farming, with its shallow soil and limestone. 

Since that time, ranchers have worked the Flint Hills landscape in a way that has preserved the prairie.  In the springtime, the Flint Hills is nothing but lush, green, vibrant grass far as the eye can see. People on nighttime flights have mistaken tallgrass prairie for a large, wavy body of water!

The Flint Hills wildflowers in bloomWildflowers in bloom in the Flint Hill Legacy Conservation Area, which was authorized by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2010 and established as a Refuge System unit in eastern Kansas last September. Photo: Greg Kramos/USFWS


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