2020 Eugene Christmas Bird Count

In late September, the National Audubon Society notified all 2,646 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) Coordinators that they would allow CBCs, but only under strict COVID guidelines. These included social distancing, masks, no carpooling except family “pods,” and no live Countdowns. They further recommended no sharing of spotting scopes, binoculars, or bird identification books.

I discussed this with all 27 Team Leaders, and everyone agreed that we could do this. It would really be somewhat easy for us, as we have been doing all of this by following the State of Oregon guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic. Not being able to have our traditional Chili Feed Countdown was going to be the most difficult activity to give up.

So, on Sunday, January 3, 2021, we had the 79th Eugene Christmas Bird Count (ECBC). The weather was really good for an Oregon day in early January and we took advantage of it. One Team Leader commented that she needed to add sun screen to her list of items to take on the Christmas Bird Counts! We had 140 people on the 27 Field Teams, plus another 119 Home Counters. That’s 259 observers, a new record!

Remembering Paul Sherrell

December 26, 1940 to December 9, 2020

Many of you knew Paul Sherrell.  He was a fixture around Eugene birding for many years.  Paul passed away in early December.

Paul grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and completed his education to a Masters Degree in biology at Central Washington University.  He moved to Oregon to teach, mostly at Jefferson Middle School in Eugene.  He became interested in birding in the 1980s.  Upon retiring in 1999 his birding increased, and he began traveling on international birding tours with his friends.

Several of his birding friends have remarked how easy it was to have Paul as a companion.  He was willing to go anywhere and at any time.  When a visitor needed some help finding birds, you could always count on Paul to assist.  He traveled with friends to Costa Rica in 2003, South Africa in 2005, Panama, Kenya and Tanzania in 2007, Ecuador in 2008 and Peru in 2009.  He was lucky, too.  He found a Rustic Bunting in his yard, a Tricolored Heron and a Least Tern at the beach, and, during the Panama trip with his friends, the first ever Crowned Slaty Flycatcher in North America. 

Conservation Column: Cooperation—Some Birds Do It, Can We?


Conserving biodiversity is a big challenge, but there is much we can do. Populations suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation, the wildlife trade, invasive species, and disease. These are exacerbated by climate change, as animals shift range, search for food, and crowd into smaller habitats. And all of these factors work together to stress populations, increase the chances of human encroachment into wildlife habitat, and provide the fuel for the next pandemic.

A concerted effort on the part of people cooperating to enact solutions is long overdue. But is cooperation possible? These are stressful times—the pandemic, the economy, politics, wildfires, and the state of the environment—just to name a few things. During times of stress, it’s easy for people to be less tolerant and less cooperative, for us to withdraw or just not want to bother. But we would do well in these difficult times to draw on the better aspects of human nature, our capacity to be generous, compassionate, and cooperative.

Conservation Column: Logging Is Not the Solution to Wildfires

The wildfires that tore through our communities and devastated natural areas were terrifying. We are so sorry for those who had to flee, for those who lost their homes, for those impacted by the fire and smoke. We are sad, too, for the individual animals that might have been harmed due to the wildfires, but it is comforting to note that nature is resilient and populations are generally not wiped out by fire.

Most of the species found in the western states have evolved with wildfire, and although there may be some exceptions, their populations will recover. Fire allows many seeds to germinate and the growing vegetation will provide a source of habitat and food to numerous animals. The Black-backed Woodpecker, which has been a candidate for the endangered species list, actually thrives in burnt conifer forests, where it gobbles the plentiful wood-boring beetles. Other insects come in and, along with the new growth, provide good sources of food for wildlife. The snags, large dead trees, provide shelter to birds, especially cavity nesters. The snags also help to anchor the soil, shade young conifers from intense sunlight, and provide habitat for many insect-eating bats, birds, and small mammals.

It is essential now to move forward in a way that avoids misconceptions about fire and creates the best possibility for recovery. Several misguided proposals to increase logging are already being discussed. 

What does the science say?

All Tied Up in Knots: Seven Years with Calidris canutus -- LCAS October program

This program is available for viewing now, click here:

In a slide show of her original paintings, Janet Essley explores the fascinating life cycles of these long-distance migrants, the amazing physiology, and the conservation challenges they face. The Red Knot (Calidris canutus), a medium-sized sandpiper, is a regular guest along the Oregon Coast during its spring and fall migrations. Extremists among sandpipers, Red Knots migrate longer distances, breed farther north, display faster beach-probing feeding maneuvers, and ingest harder shelled mollusks than other sandpipers. See Events/October Program Meeting for more details.

Conservation Column: Environmental Protections Necessary For Survival of Our Essential Ecosystems

The health of the natural environment is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is what all of us, non-humans and humans alike, depend on for our very existence. Unfortunately, it has been politicized, resulting in a critical loss of environmental protection over the past few years.

The Overstory: A Novel By Richard Powers -- A Sort-Of Review by Jim Maloney

Last month I finished a couple of books I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to were it not for our ongoing pandemic. The first fiction book I have read in a long time was Richard Powers’ latest monumental novel, The Overstory. As I pondered writing a review, I decided to just include the intro to Alex Preston’s interview with Richard from The Guardian. Then I’d follow up with notes on related material.

“There was something fitting about hearing the news that Richard Powers’ The Overstory had been awarded the (2018) Pulitzer Prize just as Extinction Rebellion activists took to the streets of London. Powers’ richly layered novel engages profoundly with questions of protest and conservation.

Zoom Program Meeting on YouTube Now--Dead Trees: Why We Need Them

Lane County Audubon's first Zoom program meeting was on Tuesday, September 15, at 7:00 pm. You can see the recorded program by clicking on this link:

"Dead Trees: Why We Need Them" with Ken Bevis

Ken is an accomplished natural history educator and wildlife biologist whose entertaining environmental conservation lectures focus primarily on the birds and forests of the Pacific Northwest. His presentation will be about dead trees. Fortunately, he is very humorous and has the ability to make something as seemingly dull as dead trees exciting. He will elaborate on the many creatures that find food and housing there: slugs, bugs, and salamanders for starters. If you have ever wondered how many ways dead trees can be valuable, tune into this program.

Ken Bevis is currently the Stewardship Biologist for the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Small Forest Landowner office. He helps landowners learn how to manage small private forest lands for the benefits to wildlife. For 15 previous years, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service, Yakama Indian Nation, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was one of first biologists to look at the Spotted Owl situation in Washington.