Along with many other critical environmental problems, water is becoming one of the most crucial and scarce resources we need for life on earth. September is typically the driest time of the year in Oregon, and water supplies had already been very low throughout the state. Having a supply of water in the dry season is critical for people, the garden, and wildlife. It is important to conserve water to stretch the supplies into this hot-dry time of the year. Our property is at 1,000-foot elevation in the SW hills of Eugene, and we are on a well for water. Our growing season starts a little later than in the Willamette Valley, but stretches into October or until the first frost.
Welcome to LCAS! We are a volunteer organization made up of over 1400 members. Our commitment to help preserve wildlife and habitat diversity throughout the Pacific Northwest involve many activities for all ages. Come to a Program Meeting or a Bird Walk and get to know us!
--Maeve Sowles, audubon(at)laneaudubon.org
As with many other groups, Lane Audubon has struggled over the past sixteen months to maintain our educational and outreach activities due to the COVID pandemic. We were not able to visit schools and have special events as in past years. The Audubon in the Schools Program was the primary one that was suspended. We do hope that in the Fall if schools are open and if our volunteers feel safe, we can once again bring that program into classrooms.
Our 2021 Program Meeting season from January to May was successful. That will start up again in September. We made the transition to Zoom Programs in September 2020 and that format has gone well. It is not the same as gathering in person for conversation, laughs and cupcakes, but we have had very good virtual attendance with the bonus of YouTube recordings that folks can watch at their convenience. Dennis Arendt has worked hard to arrange schedules and rearrange speakers using the Zoom technology. He also edits the Zoom recordings and posts them on YouTube. He continues to offer Lane Audubon engaging and interesting programs and speakers. Debbie Schlenoff is our Zoom Program techie and her help has been essential! During our May Program, we had a poll asking whether folks would attend an in-person program in the fall, and the tally was split almost in half! While we hope we can gather again at the Garden Club for Programs in September, we will be in wait-and-see mode. Stay tuned because in September we will have new Programs scheduled, whether via Zoom, in person, or a combination of the two!
Some birding groups have held “Big Sit” events where participants gather in a birdy area and watch for any birds that fly, swim, or hop by in order to count them. A contest or a bird count tally might be included. Of course eBird users can also log in the tally for the specific location.
For less experienced birders, it’s a great way to join with more experienced birders to learn from them and see how the birds are identified and counted.
While it has similarities to the Christmas Bird Count, in this case the counters are stationary, so they can focus on watching the birds that move through an area. Many "Big Sit" counts are done during either spring or fall migrations.
We can thank the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for eBird. Begun in 2002, this birding tool has transformed our abilities to record and share data about the birds we see, anywhere in the world. eBird’s goal is to gather each person’s bird sightings in the form of checklists with location, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation, and education. Birders are able to manage their lists, photos, and audio recordings, access real-time maps of species distribution, and receive alerts that let them know when a species of interest has been seen, all through the eBird platform.
I would like to acknowledge the passing of Barry Lopez, the well-known author who lived along McKenzie River for decades. I began reading his work in the 1970s and continued to buy his books as new ones were released. I still have some of those old books on my shelves, having boxed and moved them with me several times. I have given his books as gifts and feel that his words help open a person’s mind to the possibilities of imagination.
After my mother began losing her vision, I read one of his short stories into a tape recorder, so she could enjoy listening to it. Barry Lopez’ Of Wolves and Men and Arctic Dreams are non-fiction, based on field studies and exploration he was involved with. Both books are a result of his search to understand the interface of nature and humanity, and the interdependence of humanness and the earth’s places where we live and that we cherish.
There are many reasons to love birding. It keeps your mind and senses active. Listening, observing, then trying to decide what bird you are watching are great exercises for the brain. It creates learning challenges for the visual, the sounds, and the memory of birds you know, to come up with a bird’s identification.
There is also a sense of anticipation and excitement in a day of birding. One is always looking for a new or unusual sighting that gives birding the feeling of a treasure hunt. At times there are surprising discoveries! One year on the Eugene Christmas Bird Count, Dave Bontrager identified a rare Falcated Duck on a pond near Coburg. It was a cold, wet, windy day but he persisted in watching this bird riding the whitecaps on the pond, until he was certain of its identity. Way to go Dave!
Bird watching also takes us out of our own headspace and into the world of the birds. Observing their behaviors and feeding strategies, watching them bathe and preen as they interact with each other, delighting in their lovely feathers and songs; all these offer us yet another aspect of the birding adventure.
First, I think I can speak for the entire LCAS membership in expressing our condolences to everyone impacted by the recent wildfires. Our condolences also go out to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone.
LCAS wants to make things a little easier during these trying times by continuing to offer events that we hope redirect your mind and soul to the comforts of nature. We began offering live, virtual program meetings in September and will continue to do so throughout the fall and winter until conditions around the pandemic improve. (See Live on Zoom November Program meeting.)
Our last Program Meeting was in late February and our last face-to-face Board Meeting was in early March. Since then, we have suspended our normal scheduled activities. I often think about our many volunteers and members who attend these Lane Audubon functions, people I only see at that time. Now months have passed and I feel the loss of normal contacts, hugs, smiles, and bird sightings that we would normally share when we see each other. I hope each of you is doing what you can to stay safe and healthy!
Due to the pandemic, we have learned enlightening essential practices to secure our families and ourselves from an infection affecting the human population of the earth. Precautions to ensure protection from disease have become daily rituals, changing our lives dramatically. This situation has also raised awareness of our basic needs for safe food supplies, safe water, and safe spaces for shelter. And it has also shown us the fragility of having safe and productive ways to make a living.
All of these are the same essentials we strive to protect for the birds and wildlife who share the earth with us. Usually humans feel they are above or apart from these necessities, since many of us are buffered from the precarious edge of survival. Unfortunately, this is not true for all people.
Recently we have seen the violent side of human nature on stark display. This is an aspect of our humanity that I cannot fathom. Humans are all related – we share the DNA, the human history, the earth. Each of us has the same biological and daily needs, and together we could recreate a safe earth for all. Why are compassion and empathy such elusive principles?
We need to find the resolve to be better at supplying essential needs for ourselves and each other. We need to stop and learn from our huge ongoing mistakes. Drop the prehistoric sub-brain ego responses, and use our hearts to feel the flow of compassion toward all living things. We can do better together in focusing on our mutual needs.
Can we learn from this stressful time and actually make our lives and communities healthier, more holistic and more productive for everyone? It is time for humans to lift themselves to fulfill their potential for caring, empathy, and compassion. Please, let us use our big brains to imagine this into our new reality and make choices that bring us forward to a better future together. This goal needs to become more than a dream and more than rhetoric. Humans have great capacity for adaptation.
Let’s make it work for the common good of all people and the earth. My deepest wish is that we reach a time of peace and wellness for us all.
As I write this piece in early April, our future activities for the next two months are completely up in the air. We know that in May we will not have a Bird Walk and that cancellation of the Program Meeting is a strong possibility. Theoretically, at this point, June will be planned as the time gets closer and we know our ability to gather safely for community activities.