Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Birder's Thoughts on the New Improvements to the Refuge

We always enjoy hearing about your visits to the Stillwater Refuge. 

We think the following thoughts recently shared with us from an avid birder concerning changes to the area may be of particular interest to you for your next visit:

Hi birders....A quick note to indicate that I decided to do a tour of Stillwater NWR today, having heard and seen reports that its water supply was up this year. Indeed it is.....but equally impressive are the improvements made by Mike Goddard and his staff over the past several years to make the place more user (birder/casual viewer) friendly.

The big improvements occur at the south end of the complex, where one enters the refuge and encounters the "Auto Tour" entrance. The old maintenance shops have been removed, a nice big parking lot with kiosk/maps/info is there, along with an impressive viewing stand looking south into the marshes. Toilet facilities are also present.

The "Auto Tour" road proceeds north and makes a loop around Upper Foxtail Lake which gets the viewer fairly close to water at the upper end of the tour road. It is the quickest and easiest access to water at Stillwater, and many of the usual and expected birds can be seen along that short trip. There is also a new walking trail (Tule) off Hunter Road, just north of the intersection where Hunter Road turns north from the refuge entrance road.

For the more hardy among us, there is lots more water...widely distributed...further north along Hunter Road/Navy Cabin Road/Center Road. North Road has little to offer, has a soft roadbed in places and probably takes more time than it's worth to traverse. The water in the north end of the Stillwater complex is a bit harder to access, for the most part, requires a scope and a bit of hiking to get the most of it.

Road conditions are good, vegetation is as green and lush as I've seen it in many years, and there are birds to be seen as well. While I spent most of my time driving/viewing conditions from the car, what birding I did was productive of the usual and expected species. Travelers are reminded that to do a "complete" tour of the refuge requires considerable time, and adequate fuel. (I drove 220 miles round trip/ door to door/ from Reno.)

Again, my congratulations to Mike Goddard and his staff at Stillwater for doing a really nice job making Stillwater a much more desirable location to visit/bird than perhaps was the case in the past.