Seasons of Wildlife
Visiting Finley National Wildlife Refuge is rewarding year-round, with each season offering new opportunities to see blooming wildflowers, migrating waterfowl or nesting songbirds.
The songbirds have begun their migration south in late August and flocks of geese and ducks begin to arrive on the wetlands throughout October. Roosevelt elk can occasionally be heard bugling at dawn and dusk and are often seen in the open fields below the refuge office or along Bruce Road. Sightings of migratory raptors increase as the season progresses, with the rough-legged hawks arriving in November just as the turkey vultures depart. Sanctuary season begins on November 1st, closing off the interior of the refuge and providing a safe and comfortable wintering site for the waterfowl.
Thousands of geese, ducks and swans can be seen feeding on refuge fields and wetlands, which makes winter a prime time to view waterfowl. With these wintering flocks come bald and golden eagles and the occasional peregrine falcon which can be seen hunting the flocks. With these groups of wildfowl and raptors, this is a great time of year to watch wildlife from the viewing blinds on McFadden and Cabell Marshes. Take a stroll down the Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk to stay above the flooding lowlands, and take a peek over Cabell Marsh at the end of the trail. River otters can be seen playing in the high waters of Muddy Creek or McFadden Marsh. Coyotes and bobcats are often seen prowling the refuge fields for their next meal.
As the weather begins warming up, pacific chorus frogs and red-legged frogs start calling and rough-skinned newts begin the overland trek to spawn in open water. In March the western trillium is blooming in the woodlands--a true sign of spring and the fields are bursting with new growth, giving the refuge a fresh emerald glow. Wintering waterfowl begin their long journeys to their nesting grounds in the north. The dusky Canada geese are the first to leave and by May only resident geese remain. On April 1st, the sanctuary season for wintering waterfowl is officially over, and interior trails are opening to the public for the first time. This makes April and May a great time to check out the Cheadle Marsh and Pigeon Butte trails before the summer heat dries up the seasonal wetlands. The songbird migration peaks in early May. The arrival of the songbirds coincides with the height of spring wildflowers like common camas, and Oregon irises. The return of the swallows makes for a wonderful slight as they swoop over the marshes in flocks of hundreds. Take a stroll up Pigeon Butte in mid to late May for a chance to view the newly reintroduced endangered Fender's blue butterfly nectaring on lupine and cat's ear lily.
With the onset of summer, broods of wood duck, hooded merganser and pied billed grebe appear on Cabell and McFadden Marshes. The water levels drop with the summer heat, so this is a great time of year to check out our Snag Boat Bend Unit. Snag Boat Bend's backwater sloughs stay flooded in the summer, and provide prime habitat for western pond turtle to sun themselves on logs. Great blue heron nest in rookeries at Snag Boat Bend, and you can often hear the squawks of indignant parents claiming their territory and defending their young. Make sure to look for the graceful birds perched high-up on snags--serving as sentries for their colonies. Black-tailed deer browse the woodland edges with their fawns and common yellowthroats and marsh wrens can be seen and heard along the wetlands. California quail are often seen near hedgerows on the refuge roads.
Page Photo Credits Finley Sunrise, George Gentry/USFWS, McFadden Marsh, George Gentry/USFWS, Western Bluebird Pair on Refuge Nesting Box, George Gentry/USFWS, Cedar Waxwings, George Gentry/USFWS, Coyote, George Gentry/USFWS
Last Updated: Aug 28, 2014