Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Deadmans Slough Creek canal repair. This project was funded by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Merced National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 10,262 acres of wetlands, native grasslands, vernal pools, and riparian areas. It was established in 1951 under the Lea Act to attract wintering waterfowl from adjacent farmland where their foraging was causing crop damage. In the last few decades, changes in agricultural practices and Refuge management have reduced these wildlife/crop issues.
The Refuge plays host to the largest wintering populations of lesser Sandhill cranes and Rossâ geese within the Pacific Flyway. Each autumn over 20,000 cranes and 60,000 arctic nesting geese terminate their annual migrations from Alaska and Canada to make the Refuge home for six months. Here they mingle with thousands of other visiting waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds making the Refuge a true winter phenomenon.
The Refuge also provides important breeding habitat for Swainsonâs hawks, tri-colored blackbirds, marsh wrens, mallards, gadwall, cinnamon teal, and burrowing owls. Tri-colored blackbirds, a colonial-nesting songbird, breed in colonies of over 25,000 pairs. Coyotes, ground squirrels, desert cottontail rabbits, beaver, and long-tailed weasels can also be seen year-round.
Vernal pools are another type of wetland found on the Merced NWR. These special pools form when natural shallow depressions underlaid with clay soils fill with winter rainwater. The pools come to life as they fill with water: fairy and tadpole shrimp emerge from cysts embedded in the soils the previous year. The endangered tiger salamander, along with other amphibians lay eggs and rear tadpoles. The vast number of aquatic invertebrates found in these pools provides a food source for wintering and migrating birds as they prepare for the long flight north to their breeding grounds. (Justine Belson/USFWS)
April 10, 2014