Category: National Wildlife Refuges
We wrote last month about Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge birding tours and open house this weekend, and Tuesday the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge announced one of its "Open Roads Days" this weekend.
The irregular open roads events allow the public to drive roads normally closed to vehicular traffic around impoundments at the end of Mackay Island Road. This month, particularly, the open roads will allow visitors to observe and photograph the abundant waterfowl, including tundra swans, ducks and large concentrations of snow geese, that frequent the refuge this time of year.
Mackay Island is in the extreme northeast corner of the state. The open roads areas are located 1 and 6.2 miles south of the North Carolina state line on N.C. 615 in Knotts Island. They are marked by large brown signs.
The additional touring areas will be open from sunrise to sunset Saturday and Sunday.
The Refuge visitor center will be open 10 a.m. to sunset Saturday.
Mackay Island also offers a Charles Kuralt Trail observation site, an elevated platform with spotting scopes for views of the Great Marsh, and seven miles of dikes suitable for walking or cycling.
The Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge will show off its new visitors center and the incredible birding opportunities around the 40,000-acre Lake Mattamuskeet on December 8 with an open house and guided tours.
Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, including a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans (including Tundra swan, below), stop at Lake Mattamuskeet and surrounding areas on their winter migration every year.
Refuge staff have offered one-hour open-air tram rides to view waterfowl on the east side of the refuge since 1984. We went on one last year.
A news release from the refuge says new natural resource exhibits and dioramas at the visitors center explain the history of Lake Mattamuskeet and showcase many of the plants and animals that live on the refuge. They include a "virtual airboat tour" of the lake, and "interactive learning displays for kids of all ages."
The tram tours will run at 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. on the 8th, a Saturday. The tours are free but, since space is limited, registration is required. Non-registered visitors may be turned away if space is not available.
Reservations will be available by calling the refuge office at 252-926-4021 beginning Tuesday, November 20. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"To give everyone a fair chance to reserve a space on the tram, we will not accommodate large groups or organizations during this event," the news release says. "Because there are a limited number of seats available on the tram, it is important to call early."
As the release advises, and we will attest to, it will be cold during the tour. Dress appropriately if you go.
If you're not interested in the tour, there is also an interpretive bird walk on the trails and boardwalks near the visitors center where you can view waterfowl and migratory song birds along the edge of the lake. There are also several other viewing platforms around the lake.
Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is in Hyde County about 70 miles east of Washington (in Beaufort County) along U.S. 264. It's about a three-hour drive from Raleigh.
The open-air tram below was used for tours of the eastern edge of Lake Mattamuskeet last December. The tours will be offered again December 8. Click on the photo for more information and several more photos from the tour and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.
Eight NWRs in South Carolina conserve more than 161,000 acres of land, water surfaces and wetlands to provide habitat for a wide variety of animals. Seven of the refuges are open to the public for birding and wildlife observation, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting and other recreation compatible with the preservation mandate.
The new page for South Carolina wildlife refuges joins pages for South Carolina National Parks, National Forests and U.S. Corps of Engineers Projects (dams and reservoirs), and directories for camping at National Parks and National Forests in South Carolina.
Carolina Outdoors Guide is a comprehensive directory of federal and state recreation sites in North Carolina, including national and state parks and forests, wild and scenic rivers, National Wildlife Refuges, Corps of Engineers projects, Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs, coastal reserves and more, with separate sections for camping and hiking, plus a links section with more than 50 links to federal and state outdoors resources and various advocacy/support groups connected to preservation and conservation of parks and the natural environment.
No other single source on the Web or in print lists as many federal and state public recreation sites in the Carolinas.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has its eyes on 23,000 acres in the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains that it would like to see become the 12th National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
The proposed Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge would comprise as many as 30 sites in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties, North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties, Tennessee, the Fish & Wildlife Service says.
The refuge would protect Southern Appalachian bogs, one of the nation’s rarest and most imperiled natural habitats.
"National Wildlife Refuges are lands, managed by or in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, set aside for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants," Rick Huffines, deputy regional chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System, says in a news release. "Given the rarity of these bogs and their importance to plants and wildlife, creating a refuge to conserve them is a natural fit."
Creating the refuge will require fee-simple purchases, conservation easements, leases or cooperative agreements with landowners. Money would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which includes money collected from the sale of offshore oil and gas drilling leases.
The Service is authorized to acquire in fee-title or hold conservation easements on 30 sites covering approximately 23,000 acres containing bogs and surrounding lands among a 45,000-acre area.
"Mountain bogs are ... typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands," the Service says. "Important to wildlife, they’re home to five endangered species and provide habitat for migratory birds and important game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, for which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation.
"In addition to their wildlife importance, bogs provide key services to humans. They’ve a natural capacity for regulating water flow - holding floodwaters like giant sponges then slowly releasing the water, thus decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts."
Parts of the proposed refuge would be too fragile for recreation, but other parts would be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.
The Service is seeking public input about the proposed refuge at firstname.lastname@example.org or U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa St., Asheville, NC 28801, or at 828-258-3939.
The Service is also hosting a series of open houses to receive comments and answer questions:
* June 26, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Henderson County Public Library in Hendersonville.
* June 27, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Ashe County Public Library in West Jefferson.
* July 10, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin.
* July 11, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone.
The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge homepage has a project overview, FAQs, wildlife benefits, a fact sheet and other documents, video and photos about work being done to conserve mountain bogs, and more.
The refuge comprises 154,000 acres on the Alligator River and Intracoastal Waterway, Albemarle Sound, and Croatan and Pamlico sounds in Dare and Hyde counties. It is about 190 miles east of Raleigh.
A news release says "as you discover why this place is important for wildlife and YOU, be on the lookout for black bear, bald eagles and other animals. Watch for the budding of wildflowers and many plants along the way."
Reservations for the tour are not required. Contact Cindy Heffley at 252-475-4180 with questions, the release says.
Lake Mattamuskeet, the largest natural lake in North Carolina at 40,000 surface acres, is the heart of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County. It is best known as a wintering spot on the Atlantic Flyway for hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl, including Tundra swans (below), Canada geese, snow geese, ducks and coots.
The refuge is also open to fishing and crabbing, and hunting for waterfowl and deer in season.
We visited last Saturday and joined one of the annual tram tours of wetland impoundments on the lake's eastern shore.
Except for ducks and coots in the canal along the dikes the tram followed, the tour mostly provided the opportunity to see birds from afar. The refuge provided a spotting scope at one stop.
Most of the refuge's levee system is closed to the public from November through February, but roadsides and observation decks provide several spots for bird watching. The causeway bisecting the lake, which is a part of N.C. 94, has several places to stop.
A gazebo on the causeway, below, is part of the Charles Kuralt Trail, a series of similar spots on the 11 refuges in North Carolina and at the national fish hatchery in Edenton dedicated to the North Carolina-born journalist's fondness for out-of-the-way points of interest.
Lake Mattamuskeet attracts birds because its waters are shallow - ranging from half a foot to 4 feet deep and averaging 1.5 feet deep - and clear, Stanton said. The Fish & Wildlife Service also allows farmers to plant 125 acres of cropland on the refuge, and some corn is left unharvested to feed the birds.
The group of Tundra swans below includes two juveniles, identifiable by their gray plumage.
A small visitor center has a few exhibits, some merchandise for sale and staff offices. Across from it, the quarter-mile New Holland Trail provides a scenic walk through a stand of bald cypress and open marsh.
Beyond the New Holland Trail, the dike passes one of lake's two state-operated boat ramps on the Central Canal, below, and ends another quarter-mile away at a photo blind on the lake shore.
Find our entire report, with additional photos and video, at Carolina Outdoors Guide - Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.
The fire, which burned for 111 days from August 4-9 to November 21, consumed more than 6,500 acres and cost more than $12.5 million to suppress, it says.
The fire on the 111,000-acre refuge also briefly crossed into Dismal Swamp State Park, which had closed in anticipation of the approaching flames.
Most of the refuge's forested wetlands are in Virginia but a portion extends into Camden, Pasquotank and Gates counties in North Carolina west of U.S. 17. Lake Drummond, a 3,100-acre natural lake in Virginia, is at the heart of the swamp.
The state park is just south of the Virginia state line in Camden County.
The refuge is conducting bus tours to Lake Drummond on December 13 and 27, which will provide the first public views of the Lateral West Fire zone. Reservations are required. Phone 757-986-3705.
The refuge continues to recover from the fire's effects, and some areas remain closed because of safety concerns.
Environmental groups are fighting plans for an 11,000-acre wind energy farm to be built near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, saying the farm's 492-foot windmills threaten thousands of migrating birds, The News & Observer reports this morning.
The N.C. Utilities Commission will hear arguments for and against Pantego Wind Energy's plans at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in room 2115 of the Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury St. in Raleigh.
Several environmental groups claim that giant blades of the Pantego Wind Energy farm's turbines, which would spin at more than 100 mph, "will bat birds out of the sky as they fly to surrounding farms to forage during their winter migrations," The N&O says.
The wind farm would consist of 49 turbines rising 492 feet to the tip of their blades. Some are to be built as close as three miles from the refuge while others would be more than 10 miles away.
Invenergy, the parent company of the farm, expects the 80-megawatt Pantego project to generate electricity between 25 percent and 36 percent of the time, according to the Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Invenergy currently operates 1,200 turbines on 26 domestic wind farms.
The same groups complaining about the wind farm - the Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club and Friends of Pocosin Lakes NWR - stopped the U.S. Navy from building an airfield near the Pocosin Lakes refuge a few years ago.
The refuge attracts more than 100,000 wintering snow geese, tundra swans, and many species of ducks, as well as tourists who travel to the Beaufort County refuge to see them.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has also suggested that the rotating blades could pose a danger to bats, songbirds, bald eagles and migrating waterfowl in the area, and the wind-energy company is counting birds until the end of the migration season in the spring, the newspaper says.
Many area landowners have already signed leases to let the company build turbines on their land, The N&O says. One quoted in the report says area farmers whose crops have been eaten by the wintering birds for years are looking forward to payments from the energy company.
Swans flock to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in a News & Observer photo from 2004 below.
Four one-hour tours in open-air trams are scheduled for Saturday, December 17. The refuge got "overwhelming positive feedback" after offering the tours last year, a news release says.
Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina's largest natural lake, has significant wintering populations of ducks, Canada geese, snow geese and tundra swans (below). Bald eagles also winter at Lake Mattamuskeet and are frequently seen perched in trees along the shore, the release says.
Tours are set for 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. Refuge staff will begin taking reservations, which are required, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday (November 29) at 252-926-4021.
"Unless the weather is so bad it poses a safety hazard, the tours will go on, rain or shine, windy or calm," Refuge Manager Deb Pierce says in the news release.
"It is critical that participants dress for cold weather, including heavy coats that will break the wind, scarfs, gloves, and especially hats," the release says.
Miller-McCune magazine in a November feature profiles a pilot project at the 154,000-acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to determine whether man can slow rising sea levels and the inevitable loss of land and habitat.
The world's sea level has been stable for about 5,000 years, Jim Morrison's 2,600-word report says, but "today, melting glaciers and rising sea waters have accelerated the transformation, making larger areas vulnerable to flooding, erosion, saltwater intrusion, and loss of wetlands and biodiversity."
At the Alligator River site, the Nature Conservancy has built oyster-shell reefs to slow currents and lessen the impact of waves to stave off erosion. Other efforts include filling man-made drainage ditches and installing gates in others to slow the advance of salt water, and planting salt-tolerant trees such as bald cypress and black gum.
Orrin Pilkey, the Duke University professor who is well-known for his warnings about the vulnerability of North Carolina's coast, says the state should plan for a rise of 7 feet. Meanwhile, models demonstrate that a 1-foot rise in sea level would flood up to 469,000 acres of the Albemarle Peninsula, the article says, and a 20-inch rise might inundate nearly 750,000 acres, more than a third of the peninsula.
Morrison quotes an independent report co-written in 2008 by Jim Titus, an EPA expert who has been considering the dangers of sea-level rise for three decades. About North Carolina, Titus concludes "there is no explicit plan for the fate of most low-lying coastal lands as sea level rises."