This article comes to us from ShyAnne Woods, member of the Oregon State University Bird Nerds. The Bird Nerds organize weekly or monthly birding trips to view bird species in the Pacific Northwest. Celestron was delighted to provide the Bird Nerds with Celestron sport optics to expand their outreach efforts. We look forward to reading more about their activities!
I have lived in Oregon’s scenic Willamette Valley for 8 years now, and I have to say that my absolute favorite part of living in this neck of the soggy Pacific Northwest is the rampant nature-loving culture of the its inhabitants. Visits to the area’s many wildlife refuges and wildlife centers are a regular pastime for many local nature-lovers. For the last adventure of the academic year, the Oregon State Bird Nerds took a trip 45 miles south of Corvallis to the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area and Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene, Oregon.
Developed for flood control and as an irrigation reservoir, Fern Ridge offers opportunities for sailing, kayaking, swimming, water skiing, picnicking, and general lazing about. Most importantly, it provides ample opportunity for local bird watchers to view wildlife. Arriving at Fern Ridge, we were greeted by Red-winged Blackbirds, ever vocal Marsh Wrens, and noble Cedar Waxings, and without leaving the parking lot, we were able to hear Common Yellowthroats and Black-headed Grosbeaks. We chuckled at the Tree Swallows that swooped and dove over our heads, showing off their aerial acrobatics, and listened to the “winnowing” of a Wilson’s Snipe.
After a brief lunch, the Nerders ventured into the hidden bodies of Kirk Ponds to discover an invasive Bullfrog that allowed us to pass it around—until it decided enough was enough, and thanked it’s handler with a warm, wet surprise.
Following this, we visited the Cascades Raptor Center (CRC), whose mission is to provide for the “rehabilitation and release of orphaned, sick, and injured wildlife, primarily birds of prey (raptors), using the highest standards of medical treatment and care, and the best facilities possible.” When we arrived, we found people young and old oo-ing and awing over the resident birds. The caring and committed staff gave us a tour of the center and the many injured animals to whom they provide refuge and care. They also gave us detailed accounts of the history of each bird they brought out for us to meet. Since education is a major focus of the CRC, many birds that aren’t able to be released due to their compromised physical state are kept for educational purposes. We were able to see 30 of Oregon’s 34 birds of prey, including a Great-Horned Owl and White-tailed Kite.
The love and adoration of the handlers was obvious. The facility was immaculate, and the birds were comfortable in their homes. Little Dark-eyed juncos bounced and flitted about, seemingly teasing some of the caged birds, although most of them were indifferent, stoic, and magical in their superiority. The owls were especially captivating to the Bird Nerds. One new member of the Bird Nerds, however, was especially charmed by a Turkey Vulture named Lethe. He had a definite way with the ladies despite his baldness and rugged exterior. The softness of the owls definitely stole the show, though. As one handler explained, “it's the world's biggest tragedy that you can't just rub them on your face.”
Celestron Contributing Blogger
Photos: White-tailed Kite, Great-horned Owl, Bullfrog, and Turkey Vulture, credit Juliana Masseloux. Bird Nerds Group Picture, credit Jessica Greer.