Seasons of Wildlife

  • Spring

    Goslings-FWS-150x118

    Resident Canada geese set up nesting territories on the Snake River islands in early March, and goslings hatch by mid-April. At the same time, large numbers of white-fronted geese gather on the Snake River below Homedale and Weiser for up to a month before continuing their northward migration.

    Bald eagles, osprey and great horned owls nest on both sectors of the refuge, with most feeding nestlings by the end of April. Getting a slightly later start are great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, and double-crested cormorants that nest in large rookeries on some of the Snake River islands in April and May.

  • Summer

    Grebe nesting-Mohler-150x118

    In early summer, western grebes dance on Lake Lowell while resident bald eagles look for food for their young. Visitors can see large numbers of white pelicans on the lake and large broods of Canada geese on pastures and fields adjacent to the Snake River.

    By late July and early August, mallards and wood ducks begin to congregate on the lake, looking for food in flooded vegetation. As summer progresses and the lake is slowly drawn down for irrigation, large numbers of shorebirds come to feed on the exposed mudflats. Look for dowitchers, sandpipers, godwits, yellowlegs and plovers.

  • Fall

    Canada geese flying copyright Mike Shipman

    As fall approaches, the number of birds using the refuge increases. The large, exposed mud flats continue drawing vast numbers of shorebirds. Resident flocks of ducks and up to 6,000 Canada geese are usually on Lake Lowell by the second week of October.

    As colder weather drives migrating ducks and geese south, migratory birds join the resident birds at the lake. Some birds pass through, while others spend the winter. By mid-November, the goose population peaks at up to 15,000 birds.

  • Winter

    Bald Eagle

    Duck populations peak in mid-December, with up to 150,000 on Lake Lowell. Mallards predominate, but small numbers of northern pintail, American wigeon, green-winged teal, wood duck, common merganser, and northern shoveler are also present. The Snake River also provides a winter home for a variety of ducks and geese.

    Geese and ducks roost on the lake at night, their activity usually keeping patches of water open all winter. At dawn, they depart in large flocks to feed in the surrounding area. Visitors can see these feeding flights of ducks and geese at dawn or dusk, or view the large flocks of geese that feed on refuge farm fields during the day. Bald eagles, which move into the area to feed on weak and injured birds, can often be seen around the lake.