July is an excellent time to look for breeding birds at higher elevations, like Mountain Bluebirds, Sandhill Cranes, Lazuli Buntings, various Warblers, and even… possibly… Great Gray Owls. On July 6th from 9am to 2pm, Harry Fuller will lead a small bird watching trip in and around the Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake area. For more information about Harry, our world renowned trip leader, see below. Please join us for this safety-first outing; we will spend the morning seeking connection and rejuvenation from the wonder and beauty of our shared birds.
For health and safety reasons we will practice personal distancing and other COVID-19 precautions during this trip. The trip will be limited to six cars and we ask that drivers only transport passengers from within their immediate families and/or “social bubbles.” Please bring hand sanitizer and a mask to wear when social distancing is not possible. We will not bring scopes for sharing during this trip. Thank you for keeping these and other best practices for avoiding the spread of COVID-19 in mind during this trip. To learn more about KBO’s safety-first response to the Coronavisus Pandemic please click here.
Logistics: Each birder is asked to bring their own supplies — a vehicle with a full gas tank, binoculars, a camera, and plenty of water and lunch/snacks. The rendezvous site will be announced soon. This trip is a fundraiser for Klamath Bird Observatory with a suggested donation of $30 per person (checks made payable to Klamath Bird Observatory). To sign up, contact Shannon Rio at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-840-4655.
Harry Fuller has lived in Oregon since 2007. Before retirement he managed TV and Internet newsrooms in San Francisco and London. Harry has written three natural history books, including Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon and Washington, and San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars. In 2019, Oregon State University Press published Edge of Awe, an anthology of essays about the Malheur-Steens country. Fuller contributed the chapter on Common Nighthawks at Malheur.
He has been leading bird trips and teaching birding classes since the 1990s. Currently he leads trips for the Malheur Field Station and the Klamath Bird Observatory and provides private guiding service. He is consulting with KS Wild to protect BLM-managed Great Gray Owl breeding habitat in Jackson County. You can find his birding journal online at atowhee.blog.
Hummingbirds in the West find nectar after some burns, but not all
WESTERN HUMMINGBIRD PARTNERSHIP, BOULDER, CO [June 11, 2020] – From a hummingbird’s point of view, wildfire can be good or bad. Seven hummingbird species are widespread in the western United States and beyond, including the Calliope Hummingbird, the smallest North American species, and the Rufous Hummingbird, which holds the long-distance flight record.
Along their travels to breeding sites in spring and their return trips to wintering sites in fall, hummingbirds are likely to encounter the effects of fire. Fire has always been an important part of the West’s history and has many benefits, including providing habitat for animals that depend on open areas. For a hummingbird, open areas can signal the presence of flowers.
“Wildfires are an important environmental disturbance,” stated Dr. John Alexander, Director of the Klamath Bird Observatory. “The flowering plants that regenerate after fire are a much-needed source of food for both resident and migratory hummingbirds.”
Rufous Hummingbird (c) Jim Livaudais
Some hummingbird species are on the decline, including Rufous Hummingbird, whose populations have declined by over 60% since the 1960s. To help protect these small but mighty travelers, the USDA Forest Service formed the Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) to bring together researchers and conservationists. A focus of the partnership includes learning how changes in wildfire patterns and restoration of burned habitats could influence hummingbird populations. According to Dr. Greg Butcher, the USDA Forest Service Migratory Species Coordinator, national forests can “play a big role in protecting hummingbirds when restoration efforts after logging and fire include the flowering plants that hummingbirds need.”
With support from the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and WHP, Dr. Deborah M. Finch from the Research Station collaborated with Dr. Alexander and his research team at Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon and with Dr. Sarahy Contreras from the University of Guadalajara – CUCSUR to complete a literature review about the effects of wildfire on hummingbird habitat, how restoration actions including prescribed fire affect those habitats, and how hummingbirds respond. Dr. Finch initiated this review because, “there was a necessity to highlight hummingbirds as pollinators whose food source and habitat could be affected positively or negatively by fire and restoration on Forest Service and other lands.” The results detail habitats in nine distinct bird conservation regions from central Mexico to south-central Alaska in a publication titled Effects of Fire and Restoration on Habitats and Populations of Western Hummingbirds.
In many forested and chaparral habitats in the western United States, hummingbirds respond well to both wild and prescribed fire. For example, in Alexander’s home state of Oregon, fire creates openings among the large conifers, allowing for more sunlight and the growth of the nectar producing flowers hummingbirds need. During migration, Rufous Hummingbirds feed on purple larkspur, paintbrush, scarlet gilia, and other flowers in areas that have been burned, helping them to refuel for the continued journey.
While fire can offer new sources of nectar for many species in some habitats, elsewhere it may be a disadvantage. The Sonoran and Mojave Deserts seem unlikely places for hummingbirds, but flowering plants such as Ocotillo and Yucca provide a source of nectar that supports species such as the brilliantly feathered Costa’s Hummingbird. Unlike in the Pacific Northwest, fires were not a frequent natural disturbance in these habitats, and hummingbirds may be faced with both loss of nesting sites and food sources after fire. Researchers found that bird diversity, including hummingbirds, declined after fire for as many as four years in these desert habitats, because of the loss of native vegetation that birds need.
WHP is promoting habitat restoration to increase the diversity and abundance of native flowers throughout the West to support populations of hummingbirds and other pollinators. Research on hummingbirds and fire, as detailed here, helps inform this vital conservation work.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW, PLEASE CONTACT:
John Alexander, Executive Director, Klamath Bird Observatory, PO Box 758, Ashland, Oregon; Tel- 541-890-7067; eMail- jda@KlamathBird.org
Greg Butcher, Migratory Species Coordinator, US Forest Service, International Programs, 1 Thomas Circle NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005; Tel- 202-617-8259; eMail- Gregory.Butcher@usda.gov
Deborah Finch, Program Manager, Grassland, Shrubland and Deserts, Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 333 Broadway SE, Suite 115 m Albuquerque, NM 87102; Tel- 505-401-0580; eMail- email@example.com
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Working in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds KBO emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators to inform and improve natural resource management. KBO also nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education.
The University of Guadalajara is a public educational institution, the second largest in Mexico. The CUCSUR campus and the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources administer Las Joyas Scientific Station located in a core area of the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve, where the Long-Term Hummingbird Monitoring Station is located in western Mexico Since 1990.
Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of five regional research stations that make up USDA Forest Service Research and Development. Our scientists collaborate with a range of partners to develop and deliver science and innovative technologies focused on informing policy and land-management decisions to improve lives and landscapes. RMRS serves the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, Tribes, academia, non-profit groups and the public.
The Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) was created to address concerns about hummingbird populations, including the Rufous Hummingbird. The partnership is a coalition of researchers, educators, organizations, and agencies in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Learn more about its work at westernhummingbird.org
Join us Wednesday, June 3rd from 6:30-8:00pm for KBO’s first virtual community education program, presented by Shannon Rio via Zoom.
Birds, Beauty, Art, and Nature (What’s in a Name…)
This visual and auditory presentation teaches about local birds while exploring how they got their common and Latin names. For example, why is a Killdeer called a Killdeer and what does its scientific name tell us? Using stories, scientific facts, photography, bird sounds and poetry, this is a fun opportunity to learn about the birds that live all around us. No birding knowledge is necessary, however curiosity and humor are welcome prerequisites for joining this virtual class.
This class is free! To sign up, email Shannon Rio – firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will receive a link and password to the Zoom meeting, along with helpful tips for making the most of your Zoom experience.
We recommend installing Zoom on your computer or mobile device prior to the event. You will also have the option of joining the Zoom meeting through your web browser. Participants are encouraged to use a camera and microphone, but they are not required to participate.
While we miss being in the field with all of our partners, this year KBO is honoring our long-standing WMBD connections in this new virtual way. Here, our staff share highlights from our work to meet Partners in Flight and North American Bird Conservation Initiative conservation priorities. Please, have a safe and healthy World Migratory Bird Day.
Thursday, January 23, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m Grape Street Bar and Grill, 31 South Grape Street, Medford
Come discover a glimpse of the natural history of our region. The focus will be Wings—critters that fly, pollinate, and twirl in the air. Topics include Bats with Wildlife Biologist Tony Kerwin; Dragonflies with local Naturalist and Dragonfly Expert Norm Barrett; Vesper Sparrows with Klamath Bird Observatory’s Research Biologist, Dr. Sarah Rockwell; and Bumble Bees with Naturalist and Southern Oregon Land Conservancy’s Stewardship Director, Kristi Mergenthaler.
Arrive early to secure a seat and to order food or drinks. This is an all-ages free community event.
Attention Oregon birders, I am pleased to announce a great community science opportunity in Oregon! Klamath Bird Observatory is partnering with Intermountain Bird Observatory to carry out the Western Asio Flammeus Landscape Study (WAfLS). This community science project, now spanning eight western states, is designed to gather information to better evaluate the population status of the Short-eared Owl. Traditional survey data have indicated that Short-eared Owl populations have declined by more than 60% in the last 40 years. The Oregon Conservation Strategy has identified the Short-eared Owl as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the National Audubon Society Climate Initiative has identified the species as Climate Endangered. This survey is a critical step to filling information gaps for this species in Oregon. Results will directly influence high-value conservation actions by state and federal agencies. We are looking to recruit a set of dedicated volunteers to help complete this state-wide survey.
Volunteers will enjoy rural Oregon at twilight while completing two road-based surveys during late winter and early spring. The surveys consist of driving on secondary roads, stopping at 8 to 11 points to complete a five-minute survey. At each point volunteers will record detections of Short-eared Owl as well as some brief habitat information. The entire survey is completed within 90 minutes. Training material will be provided and no experience is necessary to volunteer. Participants will need to follow field and data entry protocols, have use of a vehicle, smartphone or GPS device, and be able to identify a Short-eared Owl.
Named after the abundance of camas
lilies dotting the meadow blue through the long days of June, Lily Glen offers
a fine sight that comes alive in the summer. This May-July, my field partner
and I spent our days here with the purpose of locating and monitoring the nests
of a local population of Oregon Vesper Sparrows. Our goal was to collect data
on nest success for a range-wide study attempting to determine causes of
declines in this at-risk subspecies unique to the Pacific Northwest. Tracking
these birds took more patience than I had ever imagined, and we made slow
progress finding the nests one by one. And I swear, the Vesper Sparrow is a particularly
fickle little bird who is unsurpassed in misleading humans in the whereabouts
of their nests!
Each day would start before dawn with
a quick breakfast and lots of coffee to keep us attentive during the cold, slow
mornings. The meadow was broken up into four general sections that Jen (the
other field technician), sometimes Sarah (KBO staff biologist), and I would
rotate through, following leads from previous attempts. Male Vesper Sparrows
were quite consistent in their behavior, singing in their territory all morning
and foraging on the ground with their female companion. Females were also
fairly consistent in their behavior, which mostly consisted of foraging with or
without their male companions, and hiding from us, nowhere to be found. We
would crouch, sit, lay down, stand, roll, and crawl to try to keep the birds
visible in the dense grass while remaining far enough away for them to go about
Most nests this year were found by
food carries to the nestlings. Both the male and female assist with this duty
once the eggs have hatched, and the nestlings grow rapidly until they leave the
nest around ten days later. A handful of nests were found by following a female
who was observed carrying nesting material repeatedly to a general location.
This method, although common with other birds when locating nests, was
particularly difficult with our Vespers as they like to land on the ground some
meters away from the nest and then walk or run the remaining distance
undetected through thick grass. Additionally, we had a few “luck” finds, in
which a nest was found by unintentionally flushing a female off the nest while
walking through the meadow.
The most rewarding part of this job
was after weeks of following the progress of a nest from creation to egg laying
to hatching to fledging, seeing a little family of Vesper Sparrows exploring
new lengths of the meadow together, learning the ropes of being a bird in the
free world. Really, when it comes down to it, being a nest searcher means
simply not giving up. There were many days when I, the least experienced of the
field crew, after a half hour or so of attentively watching a female would give
up and think “she’s not doing anything but eating.” Yet as Sarah would always
remind me, you just need to be patient and wait for the birds to give you a
Our Vesper Sparrows have now all migrated south
to spend the winter across pasture lands full of seeds and ground spared by
snow. I know that we are all excited to see their return to Lily Glen next
spring – and with the identifying color bands applied to dozens of individuals
over the past two seasons, it will be a pleasure to see which birds return for
another spring in the mountain meadows outside of Ashland.
Editor’s note: The Oregon Vesper Sparrow population is estimated to be <3,000 individuals. Along with researchers in the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys, OR, and the Puget Lowlands, WA, we are studying their nest success, survival rates, and habitat associations. Our goal is to find out how to target conservation actions to halt and reverse their population decline. The 2019 field season was supported by the Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Charlotte Martin, and the Management Studies Support Program for National Conservation Lands.
For a second year, the Rogue Valley Messenger has included Klamath Bird Observatory in their annual Give Guide — a listing of local nonprofits, each of which is doing important work to make the world of southern Oregon a better place. The Give Guide includes basic information about 17 different groups that the Messenger is encouraging our community to learn more about and give to!
KBO has also been invited to the Messenger’s annual Giving Tuesday event tonight (Tuesday, December 3) from 5 to 8 pm, at ScienceWorks in Ashland. As part of a larger national Giving Tuesday trend, this in-person meet, greet, and give event in the only one of its kind in southern Oregon. Come join us and our colleagues from other local non-profits to celebrate in-person the good work we are all doing.
TALK: BIRDING THE KLAMATH BASIN Thursday, November 14th 6:00pm – 7:30pm at Lincoln School, 320 Beach Street, Ashland, Oregon 97520
Using photography and history of the land and the birds, visit one of the most amazing Wildlife Refuges here in our backyard via a powerpoint presentation. The Lower Klamath Lake part of this refuge was established in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt. This is the first refuge protected specifically for migratory birds. This presentation is an invitation to visit the Refuge and will give information on how to get there and what glory you might expect to see. Refuge brochures will be available.
KLAMATH WILDLIFE REFUGE FIELD TRIP WITH RANGER STEVE ROOKER AND SHANNON RIO
Two separate days have been selected to have a 3 hour tour from a Fish and Wildlife guide. He will take us in his 9 person van to see the beauty and learn info about wetlands.
Dates will be Wednesday November 20th or Wednesday November 27th from 9:30am – 5:00pm. It takes 2 hours to safely drive to the Tule Lake Headquarters where the tour starts at 9:30am and ends at 12:30pm. After the tour, we will bird some of the Refuge til 3:00pm and then arrive home around 5:00pm. Bring a Lunch!
FEE FOR THE LECTURE IS OPTIONAL DONATION TO KBO. FEE FOR THE OUTING IS $30. CONTACT SHANNON RIO AT email@example.com TO ATTEND EITHER OR BOTH.