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Use of the Wetlands by the public has seemingly increased during these challenging times

ARTWORK COURTESY OF RON HALVORSON
 - The artwork above shows the difference between a midge, which doesn't bite and transmit disease, and a mosquito.

Aaahh. Spring at the Wetlands. A time of rebirth, renewal and . . . flying insects. Yes, the MIDGES are back and there will be many more in the weeks to come. "What is a midge?" you ask? Remember last year when a thick, black cloud of mosquitoes threatened to envelope your entire head? Well, those weren't mosquitoes, they were midges, and it's important to know the difference. Mosquitoes rarely form dense swarms like midges because they're faster. Midges can barely keep up with a fast walk. Most importantly, midges don't have that biting needle (proboscis), don't bite and therefore can't transmit disease. The main problem with midges is people thinking they're mosquitoes, panicking, hyperventilating, and then sucking in a big mouthful of the little creatures.

A neck-banded TRUMPETER SWAN made a rare appearance to the Wetlands in March. Trumpeter Swans – our largest native flying bird – were down to less than 100 birds by the 1930s. Surveys in the 1950s found a couple thousand more in Alaska, and intense conservation since has boosted the population to more than 50,000. Quite a success story! Many are still intensively monitored as is our visitor, O73. She began life at a facility in Wyoming and was released at Summer Lake as a yearling in 2010. Since then she's travelled around including to the Paulina area, Ochoco and Haystack reservoirs, and to a pond near Prineville last fall.

Mid-April through May is a transition time for the BIRDS at the Crooked River Wetlands. Although some will remain all year, such as the Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Blue Heron and Song Sparrow, most of the wintering birds will depart and be replaced with summer residents who will raise their young, including Virginia Rail, Wilson's Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, six swallow species, Marsh Wren, Savannah Sparrow, Yellow-headed Blackbird and many more. Migrants might include Snow Goose, Black-necked Stilt, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Bonaparte's Gull, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Migration is also the best time to find unusual species at the Wetlands so keep a lookout for something unexpected.

Facility improvements carry on as needed. Two new DOG STATIONS have been installed for a total of six. For those who do not have dogs (definitely in the minority at the Wetlands) this is where plastic bags are available and where the full bags can be deposited. The Wetlands Volunteers commend you dog owners for your commitment to keeping the paths clean and Fido on a leash.

You may have noticed that the BATHROOMS have been upgraded as well. Wall art and a few furniture items have been added to give these facilities a certain "ambiance." Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed and before long there will be coat/purse hooks for you to hang your valuables while you do your business. A magazine rack is not in the works, unfortunately.

The 13 KIOSKS were built with plastic "spikes" on top to keep birds from perching and making the expected mess. This worked for the larger birds but the little ones liked to sit on the Plexiglas, unhindered by the spikes. Since there is a one-inch gap between the information boards and the Plexiglas to combat condensation, the birds' frequent deposits found their way between the two, requiring removal of the Plexiglas to clean. Not a good plan. Now, thanks to Crook County High School's ag teacher and FFA advisor Dan McNary, LS Manufacturing, and Wetlands volunteers, each kiosk now has a narrow metal cover over the gap.

The obvious presence of a SCHOOL BUS at the Wetlands may have given some a start. Schools have closed and so there are no field trips, so what's a bus doing here? It turns out the bus is outfitted with Wi-Fi equipment and is one of several "hotspots" available around the county for students to access for "learning from home." It also doubles as a food truck where local students can get "grab-and-go" meals.

Use of the Wetlands by the public has seemingly increased during these challenging times. The resource has become a "go-to" for many seeking an area to exercise and get out into the fresh air, and all appreciate that the facility remains open to the local populace. To keep it so, please remember to maintain your social distancing at all times, which is pretty easy to do here.

Speaking of public use, a VISITOR LOG by the bulletin boards was installed last July. In no way a scientific survey, nonetheless it's interesting to see where people have come from. Naturally, most are from Central Oregon, with a good contingent from the Willamette Valley. However, 20 states are represented scattered from Alaska to Georgia, and there have been international visitors from Australia and South Africa.

Finally, let's give a shout out to JIM VAN VLACK. Jim, who was the very first Wetlands volunteer, hung up his vest earlier this year to pursue other opportunities. Some might remember him as the friendly guy on the adult trike – and later in the electric cart – who always had an interesting nugget of information to share. He was responsible for organizing the volunteers as well as for many of the amenities at the Wetlands. Thank you, Jim. You are missed.

Ron Halvorson is a volunteer at the Crooked River Wetlands Complex. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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