Our last Program Meeting was in late February and our last face-to-face Board Meeting was in early March. Since then, we have suspended our normal scheduled activities. I often think about our many volunteers and members who attend these Lane Audubon functions, people I only see at that time. Now months have passed and I feel the loss of normal contacts, hugs, smiles, and bird sightings that we would normally share when we see each other. I hope each of you is doing what you can to stay safe and healthy!
Welcome to LCAS! We are a volunteer organization made up of over 1400 members. Our commitment to help preserve wildlife and habitat diversity throughout the Pacific Northwest involve many activities for all ages. Come to a Program Meeting or a Bird Walk and get to know us!
--Maeve Sowles, audubon(at)laneaudubon.org
Due to the pandemic, we have learned enlightening essential practices to secure our families and ourselves from an infection affecting the human population of the earth. Precautions to ensure protection from disease have become daily rituals, changing our lives dramatically. This situation has also raised awareness of our basic needs for safe food supplies, safe water, and safe spaces for shelter. And it has also shown us the fragility of having safe and productive ways to make a living.
All of these are the same essentials we strive to protect for the birds and wildlife who share the earth with us. Usually humans feel they are above or apart from these necessities, since many of us are buffered from the precarious edge of survival. Unfortunately, this is not true for all people.
Recently we have seen the violent side of human nature on stark display. This is an aspect of our humanity that I cannot fathom. Humans are all related – we share the DNA, the human history, the earth. Each of us has the same biological and daily needs, and together we could recreate a safe earth for all. Why are compassion and empathy such elusive principles?
We need to find the resolve to be better at supplying essential needs for ourselves and each other. We need to stop and learn from our huge ongoing mistakes. Drop the prehistoric sub-brain ego responses, and use our hearts to feel the flow of compassion toward all living things. We can do better together in focusing on our mutual needs.
Can we learn from this stressful time and actually make our lives and communities healthier, more holistic and more productive for everyone? It is time for humans to lift themselves to fulfill their potential for caring, empathy, and compassion. Please, let us use our big brains to imagine this into our new reality and make choices that bring us forward to a better future together. This goal needs to become more than a dream and more than rhetoric. Humans have great capacity for adaptation.
Let’s make it work for the common good of all people and the earth. My deepest wish is that we reach a time of peace and wellness for us all.
As I write this piece in early April, our future activities for the next two months are completely up in the air. We know that in May we will not have a Bird Walk and that cancellation of the Program Meeting is a strong possibility. Theoretically, at this point, June will be planned as the time gets closer and we know our ability to gather safely for community activities.
With the pressures of politics and pandemics over the past few months, I feel the need to de-stress in nature as much as possible. Fortunately, this time of year, that is easy. Temperatures are warming, flowers are blooming, trees are leafing out, and songbirds are singing. In Oregon we have lovely habitat diversity, which gives us more opportunity to enjoy nature’s wonders than in many other areas.
Each morning, I open my upstairs window to breathe in the freshness. I listen and watch to discover what is happening out in the yard. I take in the air, the weather, the temperature –a human barometer.
Plants are reaching for the sun. Birds of every kind are singing their dawn chorus of happy sounds. I look and listen for new arrivals of birds. A sense of excitement and anticipation helps me start my day.
Squirrels are giving chase up, down, and around the trees. Swallows chase each other through the sky. Mourning Doves, chickadees, and Stellar Jays are paired up with their mates. Robins hunt for worms to feed their mates on the nest. Purple Finches sing from the tops of trees. Song Sparrow chicks are already begging for food. The animal world is awake and ready to face a new day.
“Where Have All MY Birds Gone?”
That is the question I hear dozens of times a year while answering the Audubon Phone. Lane County Audubon Society (LCAS) has a phone number people call, seeking answers to all sorts of nature-related questions. We receive calls about injured wildlife, impending nearby “development” that will destroy wildlife habitat, neighborhood cats, feeding birds, bird identification, swifts at Agate Hall, building a bird house, buying bird seed, buying binoculars, and more. But for the past several years some of the most common and desperate calls have been concerning the reduction or even total lack of birds in their yards.
We just learned of the passing of Allen Prigge on December 30th. He was 97 years old. A longtime Eugene-area birder, he had been a member and supporter of Lane County Audubon since the beginning. Starting in 1973, Al managed and maintained more than 300 bluebird boxes in and around Eugene. Many local Western Bluebirds are descendants of birds that nested successfully in Al’s boxes.
I want to express my gratitude for many levels of support Lane County Audubon Society (LCAS) receives from our members and volunteers.
Every November we send our annual donation request to support our education, conservation, and outreach programs. Our members always respond generously to this request, and we are deeply grateful for the continued support of many people. Lane Audubon thanks you, members, for your financial support!
Lane County enjoyed wondrous weather this summer. We had blue skies, moderate temperatures, and small amounts of rain at intervals, keeping the deciduous plants lush and green through August. Now that fall has arrived, we will see the progression of fall colors in the leaves. Fall colors in Oregon are not as famous as those of the northeast, but the stately backdrop of evergreen trees creates a contrast for the yellows and oranges of our deciduous canopy of ash, alder, oak, willow, and big-leaf maple. The understory of vine maple and poison oak adds splashes of reds.
September is the month for Vaux’s Swift migration! These small birds will be gathering in large flocks to roost for the night at the Agate Hall chimney on the UO campus, along with other locations. We will have our “Bon Voyage to the Swifts” gathering on Friday, September 13th, this year. Please come out to join us in watching and marveling at these interesting little birds. Their migration dates begin with sightings as early as late August and continue on into October. You can look for them any evening throughout this time span. Migration depends on the wind and the weather, food availability for the insect-eating swifts, and whether drought or fires are occurring. We never can predict exactly when they will arrive or when they will all move on to the south.
I have a couple of goals for mid-to-late summer this year. One is to get up to the higher mountain elevations to see the montane wildflowers on display July through August. It has been a few years since I made this trek, and I realize it is something I don’t want to miss yet again. I have memories of hiking the trail at Iron Mountain when hillside rock gardens were ablaze with Indian paintbrush interspersed with bright yellow stonecrop. And in the high meadows, enjoying a lush array of blooming flowers that changes weekly as the progression of flax, penstemon, yarrow, saxifrage, lupine, larkspur, beargrass, and others creates a stunning palette of colors. Trails at Mount Hood, Jefferson Park, and the Three Sisters areas can be bountiful with flowers, but also mosquitos.