165,000 Acres All to Myself – Stillwater Wildlife Refuge

I had an wonderful time today out at the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge about 70 miles east of Reno. I had only visited this area once years ago before I became interested in photography. I usually don’t think about the Stillwater as a good place to photograph as hunting is allowed 7 days a week during the waterfowl season and it is too hot in the summer. I just needed to get my timing right is all. Today I drove all over this huge refuge and did not see another soul the whole day!
There are several large ponds and lakes dotting the sagebrush plain. The water is the last remnants of ancient Lake Lahontan that covered most of northern Nevada 15,000 years ago. Tundra swans were present as well as ducks and geese. Many bodies of water were dried up, further evidence of our ongoing drought. We started off so promising this fall with good snowfall but January and February have been pretty dry. It is going to be another tough year for wildlife here this summer.
I was disappointed that I did not see any deer, antelope or coyotes but there were plenty of birds. I got the best photos I have ever been able to take of a Meadowlark. They are so skittish but this one stayed put for quite awhile as he sang his spring song. My earliest memory is hearing a Meadowlark like this one when I could not have been more than two out behind our house in the sagebrush. It always takes me back to hear one.
I saw lots of Tundra Swans and sparrows and some herons that were flew off before I could get any pictures. The birds were all very wary no doubt as a result of the recently closed hunting season. I was hoping to see snow geese but they all seemed to have moved on.
I will definitely make more trips out to Stillwater. It was an amazing experience to have it all to myself. I don’t know if I could possibly get that lucky again but I think with 165,000 acres if one or two other people showed up it would not be too crowded would it? 😉