Wildlife Viewing Tips

Kids with Binos - Meghan Kearney - USFWS_512x219

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew i would never see it again?”
― Rachel Carson


Any visitor must remember that this is a wildlife refuge and all its inhabitants are using this habitat in their instinctual ways. Animals depend on their fear of humans and other large predators to keep them safe. Refuges maintain a “hands-off” approach to managing wildlife so no feeding or care takes place unless under special circumstances. This means that you will have to be a patient and regular observer to see the amazing sightings that you may see in photographs and videos. However, we promise that after repeat visits you will increase your observation skills and see the amazing things you have heard others visitors tell stories about.

Here are a few tips:

When

Early morning, late afternoon, and when the weather clears after a storm are good times to observe wildlife. Spring bird migration usually goes from mid-March through mid-May, and fall migration from September through December. Warm days will bring out turtles and other cold blooded creatures on logs in the water and along the trail.

Where

Be sure to look in a variety of habitats, along the "edges" between habitats, and in distant fields. Remember to look high and low, not just at eye level.

Birds and small mammals can be seen anywhere along the trail but you will notice that different animals prefer specific areas. Even the parking lot can be full of birdlife with its native shrubs and trees. Do not overlook fields that look “empty.” These are great place for wildlife to hide from predators, as well as great places for predators like hawks to hunt for food! Keep an eye out for a bird to pop out of the long grass or a small mammal such as a rabbit or weasel to run across the path.

How

You will see more animals if you are QUIET. Remember that even your foot steps create vibrations that can be heard and felt by wildlife close by. Be sure to listen for animal calls and songs, or the rustling of small animals like rabbits hiding from you in the bushes.

Use “wide angle vision” to look for movement in a general area to key you into bird and other small animal activity. You can then narrow your focus to find that specific animal.

What to Bring

You need nothing but your excitement for wildlife and weather appropriate clothing. Binoculars or spotting scopes are helpful for observing wildlife, and a good field guide will help you identify what you see. However, many birds, especially raptors and waterfowl are easily seen without special equipment.

Always hike with a bottle of water and a snack. Best practice for hiking is to always have a first aid kit as well.