At one time, the Northern Spotted Owl was found in old-growth forests throughout the Pacific Northwest. Heavy logging and other developments over the last 190 years have reduced spotted owl habitat by 60%. As a result, owl numbers have declined by 40%–60% in the last 10 years, leaving an estimated 2,000 pairs in existence today.
It’s 6:00 a.m. and still dark when we arrive at the Millican lek, just east of Bend. Even in the predawn darkness of this early May morning, we can hear the “thump-gurgle, thump-gurgle” of the male Greater Sage-Grouse as they try to impress the females. The elaborate courtship display goes on for an hour and a half until the birds finally settle down in the full light of day, and it will continue every morning for another month as the sage-grouse work out their relationships.
This fascinating ritual is becoming increasingly rare in Oregon and across the West as development, livestock grazing, wildfire, and other environmental impacts reduce sage-grouse habitat.
Imagine: You watch a friend get into a heated argument with someone. Afterward, you think your friend must be feeling bad, so you spend some time consoling him in the hope of making him feel better. Scenarios like this probably seem commonplace to you, and you are likely not surprised that such behavior occurs. But many people are astonished to learn that a goose or monkey might display similar behavior. It was long thought that people were the only animals that could understand the minds of others and respond as if they knew what others were thinking or feeling, a trait often dubbed empathy. Scientists have devised studies to demonstrate this ability in nonhuman animals and have shown that we are not the only ones that display empathy. Many of these studies featured our closest relatives, chimpanzees and other primates, but researchers have found intriguing evidence that birds have this ability as well.
The O&C lands consist of 2.8 million acres of public land in western Oregon. Originally given to the Oregon & California (O&C) Railroad Company in 1866, they were put into the public trust under federal management in 1937. Even after years of timber harvesting, these lands represent some of the best mature and old growth forest in the western United States. Counties with O&C lands received money when the forests were logged, and they came to rely on these funds. In 2000, the struggling counties began receiving federal funds, which continued each year to give them time to develop better economic models. Unfortunately, they did not do so, and the counties are now in crisis...
The refuges in the lower Klamath Basin are a key stop on the Pacific Flyway. Drought and water diversion for irrigation has led to a crisis for tens of thousands of shorebirds that migrate through the lower Klamath. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is practically dry and the birds pack into Tule Lake. As the birds crowd into this very small area, they contract avian botulism. So far volunteers have picked up 4,500 dead birds and refuge biologists estimate that twice that number have been killed this year by the outbreak. Continue reading to find out how you can take action...
Dave Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Horned Lark is one of the most widespread bird species in North America. So how did it become a candidate for the endangered species list? The Horned Lark comprises 21 subspecies, including three or four that breed in Oregon. One subspecies, the Streaked Horned Lark, is found only in the southern Willamette Valley (where 900–1,300 individuals breed) and in isolated sites in Washington State and on the lower Columbia River. Its historical range extends from southern British Columbia through the Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys.
This summer saw the release of the fourth State of the Birds report, a collaborative effort on the part of federal and state wildlife agencies, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and several other organizations. The status of bird populations is widely considered one of the best indicators for the health of ecosystems. The 2013 report focuses on the distribution of bird populations and conservation opportunities on private lands.
Lane County Audubon Society has joined more than 100 conservation and scientific organizations in signing a letter to the Obama administration requesting greater protection for the Marbled Murrelet, a federally threatened seabird (click here to see the article on the Marbled Murrelet).
Photo: Cary Kerst
Article: Dave Stone
Want to see a Marbled Murrelet? Here’s how:
Head for the Oregon coast.
Find a clearing in the old-growth forest, 10-35 miles from the ocean.
Show up an hour before dawn.
Look up 50-200 feet in the air.
Listen for its distinctive, high-pitched “keer keer keer” call.
Watch very carefully for a chunky, robin-sized bird moving fast toward the ocean.
That’s it! Did you see it?
If you did, count yourself lucky. This bird’s no dummy. Because crows, ravens, and even Steller’s Jays prey on the bird, the eggs, and the chicks, the Marbled Murrelet likes to keep a low profile. Also, there aren’t a lot of them left in Oregon.