Ash Meadows Seasonal Events
This calendar is meant to provide visitors with a general guide to seasonal events on Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, including observation of resident and migratory birds (waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds), native fish, reptiles, plants, and weather patterns.
One or two bald eagles are often seen roosting in large treetops or hunting waterfowl around Crystal Reservoir. Weather is typically sunny, breezy and 50 – 65 degrees F. During wet years, one inch of rain is possible with muddy road conditions.
Bald eagles are occasionally observed until month’s end. Small side-blotched and long-tailed brush lizards can be observed sunning on rocks or along the Crystal Spring boardwalk. Wintering waterfowl are starting to leave.
Spring waterfowl migration is occurring with good numbers at Crystal and Peterson Reservoirs and Lower Crystal Marsh. Warmer 70 degree temperatures are starting cottonwood and willow trees to leaf and bud. Early blooming flowers include blue-eyed grass, milkvetch, and popcorn flower. Resident songbirds such as the Crissal thrasher, verdin, and Bewick’s wren begin early breeding activity. The first Neotropical migratory birds return to breed: Lucy’s warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, and the common yellowthroat.
Ash Meadows Map
Ash Meadows pupfish and speckled dace begin breeding activity; male pupfish take on a bluish color. Leather leaf ash begins to leaf. Numerous flowers blooming include the Ash Meadows sunray, milkvetch, Merriam’s bearpaw poppy, and most cactus species. Some snakes and larger lizards begin emerging from hibernation including the gopher snake, common kingsnake, desert spiny, western whiptail, and zebra-tailed lizards. More songbirds arrive to breed, including the western kingbird, Bullock’s oriole, and the yellow-breasted chat. During April the highest numbers and diversity of migrating shorebirds occurs. Baby cottontail rabbits are commonly observed along the Crystal Spring boardwalk.
Songbird migration typically peaks at mid to late month. Screwbean mesquite, the most common tree on the refuge, waits for the onset of late spring warm weather before it begins to green up. Waterfowl migration has passed with only a few hundred ducks and coots remaining to breed on the refuge. On years with average to above average precipitation, over 100 species of flowers and shrubs are blooming during the month. May is the peak breeding period for Ash Meadows pupfish and speckled dace. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated during the month.
Unusual late eastern migrant birds such as the indigo bunting and American redstart can be observed. Songbird and waterfowl breeding is in full swing. Songbirds are heard singing all morning and a few coot, mallard, and ruddy duck broods appear on the reservoirs and marshes. Lizards are everywhere. Spring flowers are fading as temperatures start to reach into the low 100s. Summer flowers such as the threatened Ash Meadows blazing star begin to bloom.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
This month is the hottest part of the summer with temperatures from 105 to 115 degrees. July is the peak blooming period for the threatened spring-loving centaury plant, the Ash Meadows gumplant, and the ivasia. Breeding birds are busy feeding nestlings and fledged young or starting second or third nests. Early morning and late evening is the best time to observe wildlife.
Fall migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds are starting to move through the refuge. Wildlife observation is generally slow during this month. Spring-loving centaury plant and the Ash Meadows gumplant will continue to flower into late September. Occasional monsoon thunderstorms provide a temporary respite from otherwise continued extreme summer heat.
Waterfowl are returning to winter at the refuge. Fall songbird migration peaks mid-month. Hot weather finally breaks with temperatures dropping into the 90s by mid-month.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Larger lizards begin to hibernate as night time temperatures drop into the 40s. Wintering songbirds return including northern flicker, ruby-crowned kinglet, white-crowned sparrow, and Lincoln’s sparrow. National Wildlife Refuge week is celebrated during the second week of the month.
Night time temperatures are dropping into the 30s. Ash and cottonwood trees are turning yellow and red. All the wintering birds have arrived and are settling in. Snakes and larger lizards have gone into hibernation for the winter. Watch for tarantulas crossing the roads; males are actively seeking females this time of the year. This month is a good time of the year to observe mammals, such as coyotes which are now more active during daylight hours.
The leaves are falling from the trees and below freezing nights are common. Mornings are cool and afternoons pleasant with temperatures in the 60s. This is the start of what little rainy season there is with up to one inch of rain and occasional muddy roads. Bald eagles return during the end of the month. The Ash Meadows Christmas Bird Count takes place toward the end of the month.