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Warming temperatures, growing vegetation, abundance of water will attract migratory birds

PHOTO COURTESY OF RON HALVORSON
 - City Wetlands Technician Jason Wood conducts some burning, which is a proven management tool for wetland and other plant communities.

Welcome to the second installment of Tule Talk. Today was cold, snowy and rainy, which means that spring has arrived. And with spring, things will start to pop at the Wetlands.

Obvious will be the change in our avian friends. Most BIRDS left in the fall and winter when the ponds froze or dried up and as food became very scarce. That process will reverse itself now as warming temperatures, growing vegetation and an abundance of water will attract resident and migratory birds alike. Many will come to have their offspring in this cornucopia of food.

Lots of WATERFOWL will come in soon, such as the dabbling ducks like Northern Shovelers, AmericanWigeon and Green-winged Teal. Diving ducks including Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Ducks and Bufflehead will also increase in number. The surrounding fields will exchange wintering Rough-legged Hawks for summering Swainson's Hawks. 

The Marsh Wrens, Mountain Bluebirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds should arrive by the end of March, followed by Osprey and a smattering of shorebirds by April. Virginia Rails and Sora will both return in the next month as well. The big change will be in the sky with swarms of Tree, Violet-green, Barn and Cliff Swallows coming to feed at the midge banquet that occurs every April-June. (Midges are here now. More about them next time). Did you know that 176 different species of birds have been documented at the Wetlands to date? Get out there and see if you can find some more.

Speaking of TREE SWALLOWS, if you spend any time at all at the Wetlands you can't help but notice the bird houses, technically known as nest boxes, scattered along the fences and near the river. Constructed by students at Crook County Middle School with support from the city, these boxes have been monitored by the Prineville Bird Club to see how many were used by Tree Swallows. Occupancy nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019, with less than a quarter being used the first year to about half the second. What will this year bring?

And while we're talking about birds, the number of CANADA GEESE continues to increase as the season progresses. Some people like geese; some don't. Regardless, the geese love to leave calling cards on the paths which can get downright nasty, especially once the young are hatched. You will see city employees out there with a sweeper to deal with this problem. Also, the volunteers have committed to manually clean up after these critters, just to be sure. Yes, we are the poop patrol people in the electric cart.

The ELECTRIC CART is great. Not only does it allow the volunteers to get around the Wetlands quickly and to carry needed tools and supplies, it's used by city staff for various tours and other functions. It's also available to anyone for a volunteer-guided tour. If you've always wanted to see the wetlands – and get an interpretive tour to boot – use the contact below and you'll be scheduled. A cart tour is also good for visiting family and friends or for those who can't quite make it around the facility on their own.

IT WASN'T A WILDFIRE that burned vegetation around some of the ponds. Instead, it was the city's wetlands technician Jason Wood. Someone thought it would be a good idea to give him a propane torch. Actually, burning is a proven management tool for wetland and other plant communities and early spring can be the perfect and safe time to do it. Fire removes the built-up dead material (standing litter), rejuvenates the perennial grasses, adds nutrients to the soil, and since it's a cool-season burn, no herbaceous plants are harmed. Woody plants, though, can be killed by burning which is good in this instance. Trees and shrubs are not wanted along ponds 1-8, since woody roots can penetrate the ponds' bentonite clay lining. Removal of this dead material also allows for more efficient weed management the following spring and summer. New green growth is already appearing.

Once again, Wetlands VOLUNTEERS ARE SEEKING SOMEONE who is especially gifted in and has a passion for outdoor education and outreach, both for adults and kids. If interested, reply to the contact below and we'll get back to you.

Ron Halvorson is a volunteer at the Crooked River Wetland 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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