Creamer’s Field cleared for incoming birds

Published: Apr. 8, 2023 at 2:11 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Creamer’s Field Wildlife Refuge has recently cleared the snow from their field in preparation for the return of migratory birds to Fairbanks.

A tradition carried over from the dairy farm days, Creamer’s Field Wildlife Refuge would plow snow from parts of their field in anticipation of the many species of birds that fly north to Fairbanks every summer.

The recent snow clearing was completed by volunteers from local airports who “have a cooperative agreement with the airports,” said Mark Ross, a biologist and educator at the refuge. This cooperative effort helps both the refuge and the airport as they work to steer the flocks away from incoming air traffic.

Another part of this process is putting down grains for the birds. This too stems from a tradition of the Creamers family putting down “waste grain,” for the birds Ross said. “The grain on the fields also helps pull the birds away from the fields of the airports.” Nowadays, the refuge uses crimped barley instead of waste grain. “In other words, it won’t germinate. It’s just put out specifically as feed for the birds,” Ross said.

However, the accessibility of the grain is dependent on how soon the birds arrive. This year it is estimated the first flocks of migratory birds will show up near the end of April. “Traditionally, Canadian Geese are the first arrivals. But, in recent years, Trumpeter Swans,” have been first at the fields, said Ross. The last birds arrive in early June.

While the first migratory birds are still a few weeks away, there are a handful of Mallard Ducks that stay in Fairbanks year round. It’s possible they may visit the fields before the migratory birds.

One dilemma facing the incoming birds and the Mallards is the quantity and quality of the snow pack at the refuge. Ross described the snow as glacier like. He also said it is more likely than not, the field and the rest of the refuge will be flooded for a short while, if not at the very least, rather muddy.

Creamer’s Field is where a thriving dairy farm named Creamer’s Dairy once existed in Fairbanks in the early 1900′s. Creamers, the owners of the land and dairy operated the business until 1966, when they put the business up for sale.

In 1968 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game took over management of the land and in 1979 Creamers Field became a state migratory waterfowl and wildlife refuge.

The Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is 2,200 acres in size and contains boreal forests, seasonal wetland and open fields. There are over 100 different species migrating birds and waterfowl that pass through the area every spring cause of the large open fields and grain.

It is an excellent place to visit and watch Canadian Geese, Trumpeter Swans, Cranes and other wildlife right in Fairbanks. You can watch from your vehicle or explore along easily accessed nature trails.

Just listen for the honking of the geese and you will know it is time to check out Creamer’s Field. A few birds will arrive at first and then more and more flocks will arrive.