Next week, plan to view some of the beautiful pictures showcasing Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge during Wildlife Refuge Week.
"This is a week to highlight national wildlife refuges," Tamarac Park Ranger Kelly Blackledge said. "And we chose to do that through our photography contest."
In a record number of entries, over 150 photos show the photographers' perspective of the refuge.
Those photos will all be on display in the Washington Square Mall next week, Oct. 11-17, and not only are people encouraged to come see them, they also have the opportunity to vote on their favorite for the People's Choice Award.
"It was really successful this year," Blackledge said of the photo contest.
There are five categories to the photo contest -- wildlife (50 entries), plant life (35 entries), scenic (25 entries), nature's abstract (32 entries) and recreation (15 entries) -- and an already-chosen team will go around and pick the best of each category and a grand prize winner.
"With the use of digital cameras, we're starting to see more and more. It's easier to capture images nowadays," she said as a possible explanation of this year's high number of entries. "People rarely come to the refuge without a camera."
Fifty people entered the contest, those of all ages. Eleven were age 12 and under, and 12 were ages 13 to 17.
On Saturday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m., the winners will be announced in the mall. The contest is conducted in partnership with Tamarac's non-profit Friends Group, Tamarac Interpretive Association.
Each category will have first, second and third place, along with honorable mention. The youth photos were judged separately than adult's entries.
"For the first year we also have a 'People's Choice,' selected by ballot from those attending the Tamarac Fall Festival on October 2 and during the week at the Washington Mall during National Wildlife Refuge week," photo contest committee chairman Denis Mudderman said.
Besides the successful photo contest, there are other events planned throughout the week.
Circle of bird-watchers
The kick-off to the week will be The Big Sit on Sunday, Oct. 10, at the visitors center.
People are encouraged to come to the refuge beginning at 9 a.m., and spend some time sitting in a circle with others, spotting birds.
"It's an annual event, but this is the first year we've done it at Tamarac," Blackledge said. "You have up to 24 hours to document birds. You can stay for a few minutes or stay all day."
The non-competitive event will have people sitting in a 17-foot circle, watching with binoculars and documenting what birds are spotted on the refuge.
Bring a lawn chair and snack for your time in the circle.
"It's an international event. Anybody can participate. You can set up your own circle at home if you want," she said with a laugh. "But we're looking for people to join The Big Sit at Tamarac."
Duck art, movies, hiking
Also part of the celebration week is the Junior Duck Stamp contest, which is artwork by youth throughout the state. The submissions have been judged, and the winners will be on display in the mall as well.
Both Sundays there will be movies -- as there is every week at Tamarac. "Arctic Bear" will be playing Oct. 10, and "Whitetails in America" is on Oct. 17. Both start at 2 p.m. in the visitors center.
Although technically the day before the celebration week begins, on Saturday, Oct. 9, Tamarac is offering an autumn hike in partnership with the Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the North Country Scenic Trail.
It begins at 9 a.m. and is about two miles in length. Meet at the Pine Lake ski parking lot, located off of Becker County Highway 29.
"This is a hike on the future route of the North Country Trail," Blackledge said.
Get out and enjoy it
Besides all of the events happening, just getting out and enjoying the area refuges is what the week is all about. There are three stations in Becker County that are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System -- Tamarac, Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge and the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District.
To volunteer at the refuges, check out the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge at www.tamaracfriends.org or the Friends of Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District at www.friendsofdlwildlife.org.
National Wildlife Refuges across the country will be holding events for National Wildlife Refuge Week. There is at least one wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour's drive of most major cities. For more information about National Wildlife Refuges, to go: www.fws.gov/refuges.