Habitat is a home for animals and plants/Photo Courtesy of Rollin Bannow

 Visit the ordinary and extraordinary lives of refuge residents. Wildlife watching tips included!

These fields, wetlands and swampy woodlands create a dynamic home for the Columbian white-tailed deer and a myriad of other species. With a bit of knowledge and a dose of good luck you’ll be able to find and watch the wild residents.

Although abundant on the refuge, Columbian white-tailed deer can be hard to view. Look in the open grasslands especially near the forest edge where these small and well-camouflaged deer browse wetland plants, clover and the tender new branches of willow.  

Northern harriers slowly soar above the fields using their keen vision to search for rodents to eat. These mid-sized raptors are easy to identify by their low, rocky flight, upward pointing wings, and the white band on the upper tail.

Listen for the “conk-a-reeeee” call of the red-winged blackbird. One of the most common birds in North America it is frequently found near wetlands and open fields where insects and seeds abound. As you scan the wetland before you, you may spot a great blue heron. These large birds use their long legs to stalk wetland edges and fields for a variety of foods including fish, amphibians and rodents. Seek out their signature ‘S’-curved neck. This design packs a punch and provides the heron with quick action reflexes to catch fast-moving prey – similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball.

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On humid or rainy days a low ‘krrreck’ sound may capture your attention. Listen carefully and you may be able to discern the call of the Pacific tree frog. These small green or brownish frogs have a black mask from the tip of their nose to their shoulder. These dainty frogs are not picky eaters. Voracious predators, they search tree bark, flowers, wet meadows and wetland edges for any prey they can catch.

Not sure where to start the search?  

The intersection of habitats and daylight hours is a great place to begin. Scan wetland and forest edges for movement or unusual shapes. Perhaps that lumpy branch is a resting red-tailed hawk?

Practice this simple trick when using binoculars – keep your eyes directed at the animal or plant you want to see and then bring the binoculars to your eye without looking away from your target. This should place the plant or animal into your field of view!

Don’t forget to use your ears, too! Listen carefully for wildlife sounds, such as calls and songs. Breaking branches, splashes and flapping wings can also call your attention towards refuge wildlife. To enhance your ability to hear - take a lesson from the Columbian white-tailed deer. Cup a hand around each ear making larger, dear-like ears to capture sound waves. Try rotating your head slowly and close your eyes – do you hear the melodic tune of the song sparrow?

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