Take a Walk on the Wild Side This Thanksgiving

Just for a brief spell, flee the turkeys at your Thanksgiving table and seek some wilder birds this year. Explore a foot trail at a national wildlife refuge, thrill to some seasonal wildlife, and emerge looking less like a butterball yourself.

These short walks or runs offer great bird viewing in late November. Some refuges will just be entering their peak migratory bird season. Join a planned Thanksgiving-theme event or venture out at your convenience.

Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset daily, even on Thanksgiving Day when refuge visitor centers will be closed. Free trail maps are available outside the visitor center or at a refuge entrance kiosk. Add a scenic ride along a refuge Wildlife Drive. For more Refuge System trails, visit http://go.usa.gov/w9O.

Bird Migration Walk — Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Saturday, November 30, 1-2:30 p.m.
See phalaropes and other shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. Meet at west end of Dumbarton Bridge. info and directions: 510-792-0222, ext. 141. No entrance fee. All programs are free.

Turkey Trot — Modoc National Wildlife Refuge
Thursday, November 28, 9 a.m.
5K walk/run. Look for mule deer and eagles. Expect to see lots of waterfowl, including Canada geese, pintails, mallards and shovelers. Event info: (530) 233-3111. No refuge entrance fee. Event fee: $20.

Wild Turkey Trail — Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge
Easy to moderate 1.7- mile trail leads through woods and offers a fine chance of seeing wild turkeys. For more of a challenge, take the connecting 2.2-mile Rocky Bluff Trail. Look for deer, woodpeckers and migratory birds. Entrance fee: $2 per vehicle.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Several short foot trails give you a chance to glimpse wild turkeys, marsh hawks, redtail hawks and waterfowl, including black ducks, mallards, blue- and green-wing teal. You might also see wild turkeys along Wildlife Drive. Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle.

Hillside Trail and Long Meadow Lake Trail — Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
From the Bloomington visitor center, the half-mile Hillside trail connects to the Long Meadow Lake Trail. Follow it around the floodplain wetland. Besides wild turkeys, you might spy coyote, deer, woodpeckers, waterfowl and songbirds. No entrance fee.

Turkey Walk — Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Saturday, November 30, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Walk off that Thanksgiving turkey on an easy stroll along service roads. Meet at the Bluebird Parking Lot, Pleasant Plains Road. Besides wild turkeys (there but rarely spotted), you might see deer, red foxes, bald eagles, great blue herons, hawks, geese and ducks (including mallards, black ducks and pintail). No entrance fee.

Bird Walks — Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Thursdays and Fridays in November, 8-9:30 a.m.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to see swans, snow geese, Canada geese and 500 species of ducks on the refuge’s managed ponds. Join a scheduled bird walk at North Pond. Or explore North Pond, South Pond and New Inlet Pond on your own. No entrance fee.

Chachalaca Trail — Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
The half-mile trail offers a chance to see chachalaca — brown birds with a comical song—and many other wood birds. You could also spy an armadillo or a javelina. Entrance fee: $3.

Wildlife Loop — Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
For a chance to see snow geese, walk or bike the 3.2-mile Wildlife Loop between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day or Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Or reserve a space on a bus tour Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. or 2 p.m., or Sunday 9 a.m. by calling (757) 336-3696. Adults $12; kids $6. The service road will be closed to cars.

Twin Barns Loop Trail — Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
This one-mile trail offers a good chance to see great blue herons, bald eagles, ducks and geese. Entrance fee: $3 per four adults; ge 16 and under free.

Image: Wild turkeys display at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. Trails open on Thanksgiving weekend on many refuges offer the chance to see birds and other wildlife. Credit: Jim Osborn

Story Source: USFWS.