October 1, 2014
Wetlands that serve as one of the most important stops for migratory
birds in the West are thriving with life after two consecutive wet winters put an end to a five-year drought.
The Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is about 60 miles east of Reno, now features 20,000 acres of wetlands compared to the usual eight-to-nine thousand acres. Federal officials say it's the most water the refuge has seen since 1997. At one of its lowest points, the wetlands covered as little as 2,000 acres in 2000.
Refuge Biologist Bill Henry says the nesting season appears to be the best there in 25 years. He says insect and minnow populations skyrocketed in the wetlands, which in turn attracted birds.
Birds such as mallards, geese, and American white pelicans are swarming the refuge in huge numbers. Other species that haven't made an appearance in almost eight years, like the green-winged teal, Franklin gulls and Wilson's phalaropes, also are flocking to the wetlands.