Tag Archives: refuge

Definitely wouldn’t do that with kudzu…

Today we are hearing from Mallory Gyovai, an AmeriCorps intern at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.

Invasive species management is a prevalent issue at any national wildlife refuge, but it is especially important at Canaan Valley NWR. With its unique ecosystem that has been noted as “a little bit of Canada, gone astray”, the battle against non-native and invasive competitors is fought fiercely. Generally, our invasive species list targets those hard to remove ones, like Japanese stilt grass and autumn olive, but we also target different areas of the refuge that need to remain in the successional habitat that they currently are. So, when the biology team began to discuss the grasslands and shrublands located throughout the refuge, the presence of juvenile non-native Scotch pines within those ecosystems were also mentioned.

AmeriCorps intern Mallory Gyovai showing off a “Charlie Brown” Christmas Tree/Credit Lauren Merrill

AmeriCorps intern Mallory Gyovai showing off a
“Charlie Brown” Christmas Tree/Credit Lauren Merrill

That is when an idea struck. What if we removed the pines, which are the most common species of Christmas tree in the United States, and host an event that gives back to the community? It would be an invasive species management themed tree giveaway that would offer the community a chance to get together, enjoy hot chocolate and candy canes, learn about invasive species management on the refuge, and provide trees to people who may not have otherwise been able to get one! Instead of letting the “Charlie Brown” looking trees lay where they are, we loaded up trucks and brought them to our Visitor’s Center.

Refuge visitor loads a Scotch pine

Refuge visitor loads a Scotch pine

The event lasted two days, in the midst of a snowstorm, and we had 64 brave souls come out and pick up 57 of our trees. They were sent home with information on how to recycle their tree after the holiday season, a little piece of Canaan Valley NWR, and warm wishes from the volunteers and staff. This small gesture for our community went a long way, and many people were so grateful for the opportunity. Who would have thought that one person’s nuisance invasive species could be another’s holiday tradition?

Where bird biologists ‘Give Wing to Their Wild Side’

In honor of National Wildlife Refuge Week, I asked two of our Region’s bird biologists to answer the question, “When you go birding, which National Wildlife Refuge do you like to visit and why?” As you can see from their responses, picking just one proved to be impossible! Read on to hear some of the amazing experiences they have had while birding on America’s beautiful National Wildlife Refuges!

Mitch Hartley


Hartley looks on while a student examines a tufted titmouse. Credit: Bennett Gould

Asking me what my favorite refuge is for birding isn’t a hard question…  It’s an impossible question!  It’s a bit like asking me which of my children I love the most.  To me, birding is about experiencing the wonder and diversity of nature in its many forms.  I have more refuge birding memories than I can count, many of them uniquely special and irreplaceable.


A puffin swimming at Seal Island NWR. Credit: LightHart via Flickr

That includes seeing Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills up close on Maine’s Seal Island NWR, hearing–and feeling–the force of hundreds of wingbeats as flocks of shorebirds poured over my head (a Peregrine Falcon in close pursuite) at Montezuma NWR in New York, and waiting patiently to get a great look at one of the more secretive–and rarest–birds on the Atlantic Coast, the tiny Saltmarsh Sparrow, at Parker River NWR in Massachusetts.


The elusive saltmarsh sparrow. Credit: Brian C. Harris

I was lucky enough once to visit some of the hundreds of potholes that make up the refuge system’s Wetland Management Districts in North Dakota, surely some of our most productive “refuges” on a per acre basis.  I had more exciting and satisfying duck hunting in a few days there than I had experienced over twenty five years in other states.


A duck takes flight. Credit: Ryan Moehring

The joy of birding is seeing new species, seeing something you haven’t seen in a while, or just getting a great look at something unusual.  I’ll never forget the first rail I saw in the open, walking along the edge of the marsh at New Jersey’s Forsythe NWR.  But it’s nearly as exciting when a Whimbrel lands near you on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, or you get really clear views of a Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Blackburnian Warbler in the same conifer forest at Umbagog NWR in New Hampshire.


Hartley scanning a Connecticut field for birds.

Each visit to a refuge is another great chance to have one of these unexpected moments, where I get the thrill of feeling like I am connected directly to nature.  I look forward to those encounters every time I’m birding, whether they involve a relatively common bird or a rarity from far away.

Caleb Spiegel


Spiegel spotting piping plovers. Credit: Craig Watson

During 20 years as a wildlife biologist I have been lucky enough to spend numerous hours watching and studying birds, both on and off the job. Some of my most memorable bird experiences have been on National Wildlife Refuges across the country. Here are a few of my favorites:


The forest at Hakalau NWR. Credit: David Patte/USFWS

Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, Big Island of Hawaii: Some of the rarest birds in the world find sanctuary from threats such as avian malaria and habitat loss among the massive native koa and o’hia trees on this jewel of a refuge. One of my favorite birding experiences was at Hakalau while helping to lead public birding tours during a refuge open house. Many species of native forest birds fluttered from tree top to tree top, from the flame orange ‘Akepa, to the long-billed ‘Akiapola’au.  I can’t think of another refuge where you can see so many incredible endemic forest birds in one place.

The flame orange ‘Akepa. Credit: HarmonyonPlanetEarth via Flickr

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Amidst the hustle and bustle of the San Francisco Bay area, this refuge provides critical habitat to a huge variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and marsh birds…Not to mention bird lovers. In 1996, while a Student Conservation Association Intern at Don Edwards, I lived in a staff trailer only feet away from one of the most beautiful brackish marshes I have ever encountered. Every day after breakfast, I’d grab by binoculars, climb down the steps of my trailer, and stroll the boardwalks of my ‘home’ marsh. I really got to know the birds that lived next to me.  This experience helped solidify my career path.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge: Many miles of ever-changing sands and marshes of Monomoy refuge jut off the ‘elbow’ of Cape Cod and out into the ocean as far as the eye can see. A great number of breeding, migratory, and wintering birds call this spectacular place home. Since 1998 I have had the opportunity to go out to (and even fly over) Monomoy several times to help hard-working Refuge Biologists and other partners study shorebirds and waterbirds, including the listed Piping Plover and Roseate Tern. My times on Monomoy have always been memorable, from watching the sun set over a tidal flat with several hundred foraging Red Knots, to the cacophony of thousands of Common Terns circling above my head.

Spiegel releasing a common tern. Credit: Pam Loring/USFWS

 If you would like to go on a birding adventure at a nearby Refuge, plan your visit on the Northeast Region National Wildlife Refuge System website!

Nia Edwards ties Baltimore Latinos to resources at Masonville Cove

In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.


My name is Nia Edwards…

and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.


A reminder that litter negatively impacts wildlife and our environment

Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.


Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.


Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.

Next, this week, we’ll hear from Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla as he strives to connect Providence, RI residents to green spaces in their communities.