December 06, 2019
Northern Elephant Seals – Piedras Blancas, California
In the early 1990s, two dozen northern elephant seals hauled out of the Pacific Ocean to start a breeding colony at Piedras Blancas, a ragged point off the central California coast hallway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Today, the colony numbers more than 23,000 seals scattered along 6 miles of shore during winter – the largest mainland elephant seal colony in North America.
For details, go to elephantseal.org, where you’ll also find a webcam transmitting live images of the colony.
Bald Eagles – Klamath Basin, California and Oregon
Each winter, hundreds of thousands of geese, ducks and other migratory birds heading north on the Pacific Flyway stop in the scenic wetlands and woodlands of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Oregon border. Thanks to this bounty of prey, the refuge also attracts throngs of bald eagles that fly in from as far as northern Canada. From auto-tour routes, drivers can see concentrations of eagles, as many as 50 in one spot.
To learn more, go to klamathbirdingtrails.com
Monarch Butterflies – Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada
Even as monarch butterflies decline throughout much of their range, autumn visitors to Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park still have an opportunity to see large gatherings of these iconic insects. Each fall, thousands of the migrating butterflies – flying south from Canadian breeding sites – stop in the park while winging their way down to Mexico and other wintering grounds.
Predicting when such large numbers of butterflies will turn up is tricky, so check daily posts on Facebook.com/PointPelee NP.
Sandhill Cranes -- Platte River, Nebraska
By mid-March, more than 600,000 sandhill cranes converge on a 75-mile section of the Platte River in central Nebraska to rest and feed for several weeks before continuing to summer breeding grounds in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and across Canada.
To arrange a visit, go to cranetrust.org
Elk – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Driven out of the mountains in southern Yellowstone National Park by deepening snow, hungry elk set off every autumn on a 50-mile trek to the valley of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the base of the Teton Mountains. By November, they merge with herds migrating from other regions to spend the following few months in the valley’s National Elk Refuge, where natural forage and a supplemental feeding program attract at least 7,000 of the animals.
For more information, visit: www.fws.gov/refuge/national_elk_refuge
West Indian Manatees – Crystal River, Florida
Despite their hefty size, West Indian manatees are susceptible to hypothermia. So, when late-fall ocean temperatures dip below 68 degrees F, an estimated 6,000 of the mammals – which range off the eastern and southern U.S. coasts – migrate to Florida’s natural springs, where warm water bubbles up from underground aquifers. Located along the state’s west coast, 70 pristine springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent Kings Bay host large number of the animals each winter. The 600-acre system, where water temperatures average 72 degrees F, makes up the biggest winter reserve for manatees on the Florida Gulf Coast.
For more information, go to www.fws.gov/refuge/crystal_river
SOURCE: National Wildlife magazine, August-September 2019