We recently had to put our 13-year-old dog, Kahu, to sleep. He had been part of our family his whole life and was a source of fun, companionship, love, and loyalty that whole time. My grieving makes me think of the valuable lessons we learn from animals if we are lucky enough to hold them close in our lives.
We spent the first week of June in Eastern Oregon touring Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and some of the surrounding areas. This is the fourth year of drought there, and it was obvious that several key areas were lacking water. Along Highway 205 south of Burns in an area called The Narrows, no water was in sight. Two lakes, Malheur and Harney, intersect there and usually there’s water at least 15 feet deep beside the road. In years past, we have seen pelicans fishing there and both Western and Clark’s Grebes were easily seen from the road. Another location with NO water this year is in the northeast portion of the refuge along Lawen Lane, which runs into Ruh-Red Road. In previous years, we have seen Avocets feeding and Ruddy Ducks swimming happily there.
Last fall, a 25-acre piece of land across the street from us was clear-cut. It had been a second-growth stand of mixed forest for over 50 years. Some of the trees were very old, so we know that in the past the forest had been only selectively cut. The logging was impossible to ignore and painful to watch and hear. Some of our neighbors had tried to buy the land to preserve the forest, but they lost the bid to the logging company.
April showers are on my wish list this year. As I write this in early March, we are in a dry spell and are well below our normal rain and snowfall amounts in western Oregon. I will perform a rain dance if it will help bring us rain. At our property, spring began in February this year. A young satsuma pear tree was in full bloom before the end of February. Pollinators were out looking for flower nectar, but most were left wandering and wondering where their food was during the untimely warm days. Bats were out looking for food earlier than I’ve seen them before too. Many of the spring birds arrived at our property early—Turkey Vultures, Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, and Rufous Hummingbirds.
Audubon in the Schools (AITS) is starting up after a year’s hiatus. We are pleased to have Caryn Stoess as the new Program Coordinator! She is learning the details from program founder and braintrust Kris Kirkeby. Longtime volunteers Kathy Wilson and Bonnie Henderson are returning as instructors, providing valuable continuity to the program. All of these dedicated folks are training new volunteer instructors so they can offer classes this spring. Over the past 10 years, nearly 10,000 students have benefited from AITS, learning drawing and observation skills combined with bird biology. The program uses a teaching collection of bird skins, bones, feathers, and nests, which is permitted and legal under the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Board and our members truly want this program to succeed.
This month, I’d like to pass along some news from the Lane County Audubon Society Board:
Each year at the Lane Audubon volunteer recognition party, as many as 80 attendees crowd the Eugene Garden Club to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. These volunteers deserve much of the credit for Lane Audubon’s long-standing reputation as the area’s most effective grassroots advocate for birds and the protection of their habitats. Every volunteer plays a vital role in making our organization strong.
Can you volunteer time to work toward Lane Audubon’s goals? Volunteers bring the gifts of time, energy, expertise, and commitment to our organization. We’re always eager to welcome new volunteers into the fold. There are opportunities available for anyone with a little time and the inclination to help. We’ll provide the guidance, training, supplies, and anything else you need to get started.
As the new year begins, there are three specific areas that need volunteer assistance:
Like birders everywhere, members of Lane County Audubon Society are a varied lot, especially when it comes to technology use. The proliferation of technologies that make bird-watching easier, more rewarding, and more satisfying corresponds directly to the introduction of new technologies into every aspect of our lives. Depending on how quickly we accept and use these new advances, each of us fits into one of the standard categories for technology adoption—innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards.
An alarming new report by National Audubon Society (NAS) reveals that hundreds of bird species are threatened by global warming. NAS ornithologists spent seven years studying 588 bird species and found that 314 face significant risk in a warming world. Of those, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and a further 188 species face the same fate by 2080, with numerous extinctions possible if global warming is allowed to erase the havens birds currently occupy. To understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them, the NAS ornithologists analyzed more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Understanding those links allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive—and not survive—in the future.
Throughout the summer and fall months, I watch birds use the berry-producing trees and shrubs on our property. The fruit is a magnet for many birds and gives them a wonderful diet supplement during the breeding season and migration. Many bird species have at least a partially frugivorous diet and will eat fruit regularly.