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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.

Spring Migration on the Pacific Flyway!

Spring Migration on the Pacific Flyway!

Oregon Wild members braved rain, sleet, snow and wind to view thousands of migratory birds in the Klamath Basin. This kicks off a new phase of Oregon Wild's Klamath campaign. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements. And consider joining us on one of our summer trips!

Springtime in the Klamath Basin brings sunshine...and sleet...and wind...and rain...and snow...aaaaaaand a tiny bit of thunder. But no one attending Oregon Wild’s recent birding trip seemed to mind this atmospheric multiple personality disorder. After all, it’s been a painfully dry winter, so the Basin can use every last drop of water. Besides, we were really there to see the spectacle of birds in full migration mode along the Pacific Flyway.

And it was quite a spectacle. I’ve read the statistic that an estimated 80% of waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway use the Klamath Basin’s refuges along their migratory journey. But I couldn’t put that number into perspective until I witnessed thousands of geese take flight over Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Klamath Geese 2014

It’s really something to watch a dark mass of waterfowl floating calmly on a lake start to churn, and then become a dark mass of squawking and beating wings overhead. Though I found myself desperately hoping my head wouldn't become a target -- and had to remind myself to keep my mouth closed when looking skyward -- it really was an incredible sight.

Rough-legged hawk

Together, we visited four of the Klamath Basin’s National Wildlife Refuges: Upper Klamath Lake, Klamath Marsh, Lower Klamath, and Tule Lake. We spent two days exploring -- with binoculars permanently affixed to our faces -- and two nights trading stories in a warm cabin near Klamath Marsh. During that time, our group of expert (and aspiring) birders identified 79 distinct birds species. (See below for a detailed list.)

Looking at the refuges that weekend, it’s hard to believe that the Klamath Basin once supported 350,000 acres of wetlands. In the last century, commercial agriculture has reduced that habitat to 80,000 acres. Yet, what remains of those wetlands represents some of the most important waterfowl habitat in the United States.

And for that remaining refuge habitat and the wildlife that depends on it, 2014 is shaping up to be a rough year. Governor Kitzhaber declared drought all the way back in February. Last year, drought wasn’t declared until April, and by the end of summer over 12,000 birds at Tule Lake had died of avian botulism and Lower Klamath was completely dry.

LKNWR Spring 2014This year, as April rolled in, snowpack in the Klamath Basin hovered around 30% of average. Tule Lake had already experienced an outbreak of avian cholera. Lower Klamath had only about half the water it normally expects in April -- and some of its major wetlands were already drained to flood fields for next year’s grain crops. Before the end of the summer, Lower Klamath will be completely dry.

Since Oregon Wild’s birding trip, a water agreement was reached between the Klamath Tribes and irrigators in the basin. Governor Kitzhaber and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are lauding this agreement as a solution to the Klamath Basin’s water woes. While the agreement is no small achievement, it does nothing for the National Wildlife Refuges that make up the very heart of the Pacific Flyway. A solution that does not include the refuges is no solution at all.

This year Oregon Wild is working with partners to make sure the US Fish & Wildlife Service prepares and implements a management plan that puts wildlife first. I mean, it’s in their name, for crying out loud. With a rather grim outlook for wildlife and wetlands this year, why are we focusing on preparation of a management document? First, a management plan for the refuges is an embarrassing 18 months overdue. Second, it will initiate a public process that will finally give all of us who care about wildlife a way to participate in and influence what happens on the refuges.    

Klamath trip group 2014

Please stay tuned for more information on our Klamath campaign. We think there are exciting things ahead. Also, I urge you to consider joining us on one of our upcoming trips to the Klamath Basin this summer. And if you do, bring your kids! Or your grandkids! The Klamath Basin is a special place, and visiting its refuges is perhaps the best reminder that its remaining wetland habitat is incredibly precious.


Wendell and QuinnBird Species Identified:
For the birders out there, here is a detailed list of the birds we saw during our spring migration trip. As a disclaimer, it is probably prudent to mention that, though I am capable of distinguishing a bird from, say, a deer, I defer to the birding experts (like Wendell Wood, pictured here) on these matters.

  • Loons, Grebes

    • Pied-billed Grebe

    • Horned Grebe

    • Eared Grebe

    • Western Grebe

    • Clark’s Grebe

  • Pelicans, Herons

    • American White Pelican

    • Double-crested Cormorant

    • Great Blue Heron

    • Great Egret

  • Waterfowl

    • Tundra Swan

    • Greater White-fronted Goose

    • Snow Goose

    • Ross’ Goose

    • Canada Goose

    • Wood Duck

    • Green-winged Teal

    • Mallard

    • Northern Pintail

    • Cinnamon Teal

    • Northern Shoveler

    • Gadwall

    • Canvasback

    • Ring-necked Duck

    • Lesser Scaup

    • Common Goldeneye

    • Bufflehead

    • Hood Merganser

    • Common Merganser

    • Ruddy Duck

  • Raptors

    • Turkey Vulture

    • Bald Eagle

    • Northern Harrier

    • Cooper’s Hawk

    • Red-tailed Hawk

    • Rough-legged Hawk

    • American Kestrel

  • Gallinaceous Birds

    • Ring-necked Pheasant

    • California Quail

  • Rails, Cranes

    • American Coot

    • Sandhill Crane

  • Shorebirds

    • Killdeer

    • Black-necked Stilt

    • American Avocet

    • Marbled Godwit

    • Dunlin

    • Short-billed Dowitcher

  • Jaegers, Gulls

    • Ring-billed Gull

  • Doves, Pigeons

    • Rock Pigeon

  • Woodpeckers

    • Downy Woodpecker

    • Northern Flicker

  • Larks, Swallows

    • Tree Swallow

    • Barn Swallow

  • Corvids

    • Steller’s Jay

    • Scrub Jay

    • Clark’s Nutcracker

    • Black-billed Magpie

    • Common Raven

  • Chickadees, Bushtit

    • Black-capped Chickadee

    • Mountain Chickadee

  • Nuthatch, Creeper

    • Red-breasted Nuthatch

    • White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Wrens, Dipper

    • Marsh Wren

  • Kinglets

    • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  • Thrushes

    • Mountain Bluebird

    • American Robin

    • Varied Thrush

  • Starling, Vireos

    • European Starling

  • Warblers

    • Yellow-rumped warbler

  • Sparrows

    • Spotted Towhee

    • Song Sparrow

    • White-throated Sparrow

    • Golden-crowned Sparrow

    • Dark-eyed Junco

  • Blackbirds, Orioles

    • Red-winged Blackbird

    • Yellow-headed Blackbird

  • Finches

    • House Finch

    • Red Crossbill

    • Lesser Goldfinch

  • Weaver Finch

    • House Sparrow

I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in spring

I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in spring

Posted by Marielle Cowdin at Apr 12, 2014 12:00 AM |

Life-long Klamath Basin resident wrote of the loss of the waterfowl he once knew and loved.

By Wendell Wood:

The following is a poem written by life-long Klamath Basin resident John E. “Bud” Harris. The poem, along with stories of Mr. Harris's early life in Lorella (in  Klamath County’s Langell Valley east of Klamath Falls), first appeared in an article titled “Life and times on Cheese Factory Road,” and appeared on Bud Harris’ 80th birthday on April 12, 2004.

While Mr. Harris passed away eight years later in August 2012, conservationists believe he and his poem should be remembered (now 10 years later) on the 90th anniversary of his birth.
I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in the spring

I was born and raised in Langell Valley,

where the ducks used to rally

by the thousands in the valley in the spring.

Read More…

Dark, green Wilderness: Part 1, Cummins Creek

Dark, green Wilderness: Part 1, Cummins Creek

Posted by Chandra LeGue at Apr 08, 2014 11:49 AM |
Filed under: Old Growth Wilderness

The Cummins Creek Wilderness offers a spectacular wilderness experience, minus the views.

When many people think of wilderness, they think of wide vistas stretching as far as the eye can see. We have some amazing examples of protected Wilderness areas like this in Oregon - from the Eagle Cap, to the Strawberry Mountains, to Diamond Peak and the Three Sisters. And while I do love a good viewpoint, my favorite and best Wilderness experiences in Oregon have been in places where you can't see much more than a few hundred yards through the dense greenery and old-growth tree trunks: Places like Opal Creek, the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness, and the Cummins Creek Wilderness.

I first visited the Cummins Creek area a few months after moving to Oregon, in the fall of 1999. It was here that I first encountered banana slugs (!!!!) and a small herd of elk grazing in vegetation so thick we scared each other at close range. I was smitten.

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One Bullet Kills an Entire Pack

One Bullet Kills an Entire Pack

Posted by Rob Klavins at Apr 02, 2014 10:30 AM |
Filed under: Wolves

Guest author Rick Lamplugh explains the stories behind the numbers of wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies.

We met Rick Lamplugh and his wife on the 2013 Wolf Rendezvous. He has become a regular contributor to Oregon Wild and is the author of the new, bestselling book In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter's Immersion in Wild Yellowstone.

By Rick Lamplugh

The results of legal wolf hunts are presented to the public as palatable statistics. Officials tell us, for example, that in the 2012-2013 hunts outside Yellowstone National Park twelve park wolves were killed. Six were collared wolves that--when alive--provided valuable research data. One of those collared wolves was the famous alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack, dubbed "06" by wolf watchers.

Such statistics don't begin to tell the whole story of the impact of one bullet on the delicate social structure of a pack, an arrangement much like that of an extended human family. Here's what happened--and is still happening--to the remains of the once unified Lamar Canyon pack, wolves that my wife Mary and I observed many times during our first two winters living and volunteering at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the heart of their territory. 

Read More…

Keeping the Wild

Keeping the Wild

Posted by Rob Klavins at Mar 27, 2014 01:25 PM |
Filed under: Wildlife Wolves

We’re about to lose track of the world’s most famous wolf. That may be ok.

By whatever name he’s known, the story of Journey (OR-7) has captured imaginations around the world. It’s but a chapter in the broader story of wolf recovery. And like that bigger story, the end is uncertain. As a number of news outlets have recently noted, the battery that has powered the collar that made Journey famous just outlived its life expectancy.

Any day now, the battery that has sent signals to a satellite and back down to earth will fail; leaving a collared wolf - unconcerned with his name or what people think of him - to continue on with his day-to-day life.

Read More…

Sea Butterflies?

Sea Butterflies?

Posted by Rob Klavins at Mar 20, 2014 04:40 PM |
Filed under: Wildlife Oregon Coast

Wendell Wood shares a discovery from the coast!

By Wendell Wood:

Yes, Virginia, there really is a sea butterfly!

Prior to getting a digital camera, I took film pictures of the slipper-like "pseudoconchs” (organisms with internal gelatinous skeletons covered with tubercles), that was later identified to me as a type of odd pelagic snail called a “Sea Butterfly” Corolla spectabilis.  The photos of these skeletons from 2003 or 2004, look overall, like clear, but very firm jelly, which I first found about a decade ago, washed up on the beach at Tolowa Dunes State Park (in N. Calif).

Many years ago, I recall Carol Ralph of Arcata, CA telling me that a skin diver had reported to her, seeing something "flying" underwater, that looked like a butterfly.  No way to ever know for sure, but perhaps this is what that diver saw?  Like most animals, the skeleton looks quite a bit different from the live, underwater, "flying form"--and, again, that I've never seen, except on a website.

I have never seen these on any beach again, until just recently this month, while my wife Kathy and I were walking along Lone Ranch Beach at Samuel H. Boardman State Park (in S. Ore), and surprisingly, once again, rediscovered them washed up on the beach!

Read More…

The loss of a hero

The loss of a hero

Posted by Chandra LeGue at Feb 10, 2014 10:07 AM |

Brief statement on the untimely passing of Oregon Wild staffer, and wildlands hero, Tim Lillebo, and information about his memorial.

Statement from Oregon Wild Executive Director Sean Stevens:

The Oregon Wild family is deeply saddened by the news that our friend and colleague Tim Lillebo has passed. Our thoughts are with Tim's wife Karen and his family and friends in this difficult time. Tim will be remembered for so many things – his charm; his passion for rafting, hiking and hunting; and the ever-present crushed felt hat and cigar hanging from his mouth. 

For those that knew and loved Tim in his personal life he will be mourned as a loving husband and friend. For those at Oregon Wild, we will remember a hero who inspired us all and gave so much to protect Oregon's wild places. We often joked that Tim could never retire, because, there would simply be no wTim Lillebo at Glazeay to replace him. It is true – Tim Lillebo was one of a kind and we will miss him dearly.

For those who would like to pay tribute to and celebrate Tim's life, a memorial gathering and celebration will take place at Aspen Hall in Shevlin Park in Bend, on Sunday, February 23 from noon to 4pm. 

Tim's family has indicated that gifts in Tim's honor can be given to Oregon Wild.

Memories and tributes about Tim can be left at this site, set up by friends and family.




Posted by Rob Klavins at Jan 31, 2014 12:00 AM |
Filed under: Wolves

An artist from Oregon's wolf country finds inspiration

By Andrew Myers

I grew up in LaGrande, Oregon located in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon. I currently live in Corvallis, Oregon where I am an artist and teach drawing at Oregon State University.

Wild places and wild creatures have always been a big influence and inspiration for my artwork. My current series called Where-Wolf is inspired by the story of OR7, the gray wolf from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon. He traveled across the state to southwest Oregon and northern California in search of a mate with which to start a new pack. 

Read More…

Living With Clearcuts and the Future of O&C Lands

Living With Clearcuts and the Future of O&C Lands

Organic farmer Angela Wartes-Kahl lives and works in Lobster Valley in the Oregon Coast Range, and is no stranger to clearcuts and industrial forestry.

By Angela Wartes-Kahl

I live on a 17-acre farm in Lobster Valley, near Alsea in Benton County. Our property lies along Lobster Creek, a tributary of the Alsea River and a haven for fly fisherman and angling enthusiasts. Our farm borders the Siuslaw National Forest and some private land, including a Christmas tree farm, and the O&C lands in our area are located about a mile up the Lobster Creek drainage.

I am no stranger to clearcuts. In fact, in our rural setting, we live with clearcuts. They are our neighbors, so much so that whenever I have leave the area I have to steel myself to contend with landslides and fallen trees. Our soils are steep and saturated in the Coast Range, with 110 inches of rain a year (compared to Portland, which only receives about 40 inches of rain per year), and landslides are common. These slides often block roads and cut power lines, so beginning with the first fall storm of the year we make it a point to carry a chainsaw in the trunk to increase our chances of leaving the valley.

Read More…

Let Sen. Wyden Know O&C Legislation Falls Short at Upcoming Town Halls

Let Sen. Wyden Know O&C Legislation Falls Short at Upcoming Town Halls

Sen. Wyden is in the midst of another round of town hall meetings, giving you a chance to let the senator know in person you oppose his plan for more clearcuts and fewer protections for wildlife on the O&C lands.

Senator Ron Wyden is hosting another round of town hall meetings this month, offering you a great opportunity to let the senator know, in person, you oppose his plan for more clearcuts and fewer protections for wildlife on our public O&C lands and backyard forests.

We've listed the next four town hall meetings on Senator Wyden's schedule in Springfield, Oregon City, Astoria and Scappoose, along with sample questions you can ask or share with your friends or family if you have an opportunity to ask Senator Wyden a question. We've included additional background information on Senator Wyden's O&C proposal below.

Read More…

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