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.
As most of you know, the chimney of Agate Hall on the University of Oregon campus is an ecologically significant migratory stopover for tens of thousands of Vaux’s Swifts during the spring and fall months. During last year’s fall migration, over 45,000 birds were counted entering the chimney. The number is not a total of the birds that might have used it, because counts were done only weekly and sporadically. (If we had volunteers to do daily counts, the numbers would be far higher.) Agate Hall is included on the Vaux’s Happening website as one of the most active Vaux’s Swift roost sites. (See www.vauxhappening.org/Vauxs_Happening_Home.html for more information.)