It’s World Oceans Day – a time for people to spotlight the importance of oceans, which connects us all on our blue planet. Located halfway between Hawai‘i and American Samoa, Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is a circular string of about 26 islets nestled among several lagoons and encircled by 15,000 acres of shallow turquoise reefs and deep blue submerged reefs. Palmyra Atoll is one of six refuges in the area that provide a safe haven for millions of birds and marine life that feed, mate and give life to their offspring in the shallow waters nearby.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware was established in 1937 as a link in a chain of refuges extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge protects one of the largest remaining tidal salt marshes in the region, which serves as a vital feeding and resting place for migratory birds. Wildlife can be seen year round at Bombay Hook, but spring and fall offer the best opportunity to observe large numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds. Photo by Tim Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The gorgeous landscape of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma includes the delightful oasis of Treasure Lake near Elk Mountain. The refuge boasts almost 60,000 acres of natural grasslands that are now home to reintroduced species including bison, elk, prairie dogs, river otters and burrowing owls. Visitors can enjoy wildlife watching, fishing, climbing, hunting and walking among wildflower blooms. Photo by Stan Schwartz (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge in Florida is a haven for great white herons, migratory birds and other fascinating wildlife. The refuge consists of almost 200,000 acres of open water and scattered islands, and is known in the Keys as the “backcountry.” The refuge provides critical nesting, feeding and resting areas for hundreds of species of birds and sea turtles. The beaches, mangroves and sparkling blue water are favorites for the visitors who explore this beautiful and fragile place. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
One of the earliest wildlife refuges, Quillayute Needles was created by Teddy Roosevelt to protect and enhance habitat for seabird populations. Today 13 species of seabirds nest and raise their young on these windswept islets, rocks, reefs and islands that stretch along Washington’s coast. Black oystercatchers tend pebbly nests at the water’s edge, common murres lay gravity defying eggs on barren ledges, and tufted puffins burrow their nests deep into the loamy bluffs. Kelp beds surrounding the islands provide territory for a growing reintroduced sea otter population to cavort. While the refuge is closed to human disturbance because of it’s fragile and remote nature, visitors can view the refuge and its inhabitants at one of the several beaches in Olympic National Park. Photo by Melissa Hahn (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It’s National Wildflower Week! Of all the unique and colorful wildflowers on public lands, few are as fascinating as the Cahaba lily. A rare type of spiderlily with striking 3-inch white flowers, the Cahaba lily requires a specialized habitat of swift water flowing over rocks with lots of sunlight. Cahaba lilies bloom from mid-May to mid-June (or Mother’s Day to Father’s Day). The best and largest populations are located at Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. Photo by Keith Boseman (www.sharetheexperience.org).
You have to have sharp eyes to spot an eastern screech owl in the wild.
Masters of disguise, screech owls nest in tree cavities, camouflaging themselves in their surroundings. This one was spotted at Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. So next time you visit public lands, be sure to look for hidden wildlife – you never know whoooo might be watching you. Photos by Graham McGeorge (www.sharetheexperience.org).
A maze of meandering bayous and rippling marshes, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana occupies over 125,000 acres of waters and wetlands. Providing habitat for an impressive variety of birds, the refuge is also a vibrant nursery to shrimp, blue crab and numerous fish species. Boardwalks and hiking paths allow visitors to explore the area. On sunny days, it’s common to see alligators resting by the water. Photo by Colleen Stringer (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The calendar says it’s spring, but it still looks like winter at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. The snow and fog glow in the purple gloom on this April morning. Despite the chill, the wetlands, forests and prairies of the refuge are great places to see migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Listen for their calls in the morning. Photo by Mitchell Baalman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A group of river otters is called a romp. Commonly found in the South, Great Lakes region and in the Pacific Northwest, this romp was spotted hanging out at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. While they engage in playful behavior with each other, they are deadly hunters and can be dangerous when their territory is invaded. Please enjoy watching them from a distance. Photo by James Perdue, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, @usfwsmtnprairie.