Articles

From Our President: Bluebirds of Happiness

This year we are excited that we have a pair of Western Bluebirds nesting in a nest box on our property southwest of Eugene. This has not always been the case, so we feel very fortunate to have them successfully raising six chicks this year. As I write this in mid-June, these chicks are within a day or two of flying. The pair of adults may even nest again this year if all goes well!

It is quite a treat to see them on a daily basis. They hunt insects in the vegetable garden, come to the water source in the front yard, and make food deliveries to the nest box throughout the day. They vigorously defend their box from any other birds that get too close. One morning the male bluebird chased off a Western Wood-Pewee looking for a perch and forced it to move on to a nearby tree.

Western Bluebirds have population pressures due to habitat loss and competition from other bird species, mainly European Starlings and House Sparrows. These two non-native species nest earlier and take nest cavities that might otherwise be used by bluebirds.

Conservation Column: July-August 2016 The State of North America’s Birds, 2016 Report

In 1916, at the urging of dedicated, concerned citizens, the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds was signed, and twenty years later it was expanded to protect birds throughout North America. This spring, in recognition of the convention’s 100th anniversary, numerous organizations across the continent collaborated to produce the annual State of the Birds report, which focuses on an assessment of all native bird species that live in Mexico, the continental United States, and Canada—birds which, of course, know no borders. Extensive data, some of it from e-bird submissions, were used to determine the conservation status of each species as well as to determine conservation standing of various habitat types. The analysis included trends in population growth and size, extent of breeding and wintering ranges, and an evaluation of the severity of the threats impacting the birds. Although the report is careful to highlight conservation successes, the overall trend is distressing. Of the 1,154 bird species analyzed, a whopping 37% of them are considered to be at high risk of extinction; 49% are species of concern with a moderate risk of extinction, while only 14% are classified as being of low concern.

Conservation Column: May-June 2016 “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul." —Emily Dickinson

Springtime brings birdsong and baby birds and feelings of exuberance. There was uplifting news this month out of Midway Island when it was announced that Wisdom, the world’s oldest Laysan Albatross on record and a symbol of hope for many people, has hatched yet another egg—likely her 40th baby! Her new chick is named Kukini, after the Hawaiian word for messenger.

Volunteers for Restoration Monitoring Wanted

ODFW and the City of Eugene are seeking volunteers to assist with breeding-bird surveys and grassland-bird monitoring on restoration projects south of Fern Ridge Reservoir, specifically along Nielson and Cantrell Roads. Ideal volunteers should have significant bird identification experience, both by sight and call, with grassland birds, waterfowl, and other associated species found in the Willamette Valley. We also want general observations by birders to provide usage information about the sites.

Links to information and maps of the monitoring sites are on the LCAS website: www.laneaudubon.org/node/556.

Surveys will begin in April and continue through June. If you’re interested, please contact Chris Vogel at 541.935.2591 or christopher.m.vogel@state.or.us. Call soon to get on the schedule!

Screening Vent Pipes Saves Wildlife

by Cheron Ferland, Wildlife Biologist, US Forest Service

It was several years ago that I first heard about a particular wildlife conflict—one which I assumed occurred infrequently. I saw a photo of a Saw-whet Owl standing in the bottom of a recreation toilet—yep, down in the nasty slurry. By recreation toilet, I mean the ones that you find in national forest and national park trailheads and campgrounds. Somehow that owl was rescued from the unsavory environment. I have retrieved many distressed raptors in my day, but thankfully have never had to execute that type of retrieval. At the time, my impression of the situation was that it was probably very unusual and unlikely. Then I heard about a Barn Owl showing up in another recreation toilet, and a duck in another. And then I read an article called Bird Death Pipes by California Audubon that documented the deaths of 200 birds that were found in one 6” wide x 10’ tall pipe! LCAS President Maeve Sowles highlighted this very issue in her From Our President column in the April 2012 issue of The Quail. 

So as I thought about it more, I realized that wildlife—not just birds, but also reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals—view hollow pipes as potential nesting sites or sources of refuge. They are often curious or seeking shelter or nest sites, and once they enter an open pipe, it is often impossible for them to get out.

From Our President: Thank You, Herb Wisner

Herb Wisner has volunteered and been on the Board of Lane County Audubon for decades. He maintains his Board position, but two years ago he asked to give up the Program Chair. It took some time to find a new volunteer, and we did the job by committee for the last year. Herb still helps find speakers, and his efforts and methods to find new program material reflect his eclectic interests. I have seen Herb working the crowd at concerts and birthday parties to see if a prospective speaker could fit into the program schedule. His untiring efforts on behalf of Audubon span his lifetime.

Herb’s father and uncle were naturalists and fostered his interest in the study of nature while he was growing up in New York State. Birds were a big passion for Herb. As a young man he worked at the National Audubon Hog Island Nature Camp in Maine. Herb and Ruth came to Eugene in 1966, and Herb was a UO biology lecturer for much of his career.

Conservation Column: Public Lands Belong to Everyone

malheur nwrI write this at the end of January when the volatile situation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is just winding down. I feel sorrow that the illegal actions of the occupiers led to a life lost. I feel optimistic that this land which belongs to the public will once again be available for all to enjoy. I feel grateful that the people of Harney County will be free from the distress caused by the occupation and will again be able to interact with their many supporters as people flock to the refuge this spring. I feel comforted that the skies and waterways around the refuge will soon be filled with the graceful swoop of thousands of migratory birds despite the many (often foolish) activities of us human animals.

I cringed when I heard this fringe group say they were going to “take back” the land for the people, because it turns out that the people already have it. Each year, the refuge is visited and enjoyed by thousands who bring tourist dollars into the area. Management at the refuge is based on a plan resulting from the collaboration of members of the native Paiute tribe, ranchers and other community members, government workers, and scientists, among others. Some of the restoration projects are lauded for their potential to not only improve habitat, but also support the local community.

Conservation Column: Oregon Audubon Council Establishes Goals

The Oregon Audubon Council (OAC) met in Sutherlin, Oregon, on November 7. In attendance were representatives from eight chapters around the state as well as regional representatives of National Audubon. The goals of the OAC meetings are to bring together state chapter members, discuss conservation issues of concern, and determine how we can best help make a difference. Although each chapter focuses on concerns as they come up throughout the year, conference participants identified priority issues that would benefit from a coordinated effort by multiple chapters. We’ve addressed many of these issues previously. The issues and our goals are outlined below. (For more information, please contact dschlenoff@msn.com).

Wetlands issues

  •  Klamath National Wildlife Refuges: Ensure that these important wildlife refuges on the Pacific Flyway receive adequate water in both the short and long term.
  •  Lake Abert (Oregon’s only saltwater lake, an important stopover for migratory birds and part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network): Engage with conservation partners to help determine the reasons the lake dried out and explore opportunities to restore it.

Conservation Column November 2015: Under the Umbrella

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


With the arrival of fall, I’m thinking about raincoats and umbrellas and walking in the rain under the canopy of the verdant Northwest forests. Conservationists too are often thinking about umbrellas. 

They are understandably concerned about getting the most coverage for their efforts. One way to do this is to identify ecosystems in need of protection and then target large regions, so that all the inhabitants of a region are sheltered under the umbrella of the conservation plan. Another strategy is to identify an umbrella species and put in place protections that would benefit not just that threatened species, but also other species that co-occur with it. Given the common but unfortunate short-term approach to economic gain, the political landscape, and the competing uses for land, this umbrella approach can be an efficient strategy for protecting the most species possible with limited resources.

Vaux’s Swift Migration Is Unusual This Year

LCAS hosted two Swift Events this fall, as usual. What was unusual about the events was that we saw virtually NO Vaux’s Swifts. During the first evening, September 11, we saw three swifts fly over the Agate Hall chimney. No swifts have been seen at the chimney since.

Typically the peak of migration is mid-September to early October. This year, there were reports of 1,820 swifts entering the chimney on August 28, and 774 the following week. The firefighters at the adjacent fire station told us that on September 4 they observed thousands filling the sky.

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