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With the many people seeking a healthy escape from the COVID situation, it seems like now is the time for project work

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY RON HALVORSON - Volunteers work on an an osprey nest project at the Crooked River Wetlands Complex. The project is one of several that have been completed leading into the summer. The hope is people will take some time to venture out to the local facility to enjoy the time outdoors and take a look at the work that has been completed.

It's been a busy few weeks at the Crooked River Wetlands Complex. Along with the many people seeking a healthy escape from the COVID situation, it seems like now is the time for project work.

For example, with schools physically closed through the end of the school year, teachers had to get creative. On April 24, armed with three MALLARD "HEN HOUSES" donated by Delta Waterfowl (The Duck Hunter's Organization), Barnes Butte Elementary teachers videoed a lesson about Mallards and wetlands. City employees installed two of these nest structures within easy view from the pavilion, and another near Pond 10's observation pier. It's unlikely these nests will be used this season, but next year, who knows. They are a proven and cost-effective way to increase duck production.

Less than a week later, a group of Boy Scouts from Bend Troop 90 and city employees installed seven OSPREY NEST PLATFORMS as an Eagle Scout project. After consultation with an enthusiastic Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife biologist, the Eagle Scout candidate – assisted by supervising adults and his scouting compatriots – constructed the platforms at home and then attached them to recycled power poles (donated by Pacific Power) on site. Once everything was put together, city employees lifted and plunked each pole into its new home. Again, it's probably a little late for Osprey use this year but just wait for next.

Speaking of BIRDS, June and July are the "family" months in Central Oregon's bird world. The southern migrants have all arrived and everyone is busy building nests, laying eggs and raising chicks. At the Crooked River Wetlands, already baby Canada Geese and Mallards can be seen swimming in large "creches" consisting of many families of half grown chicks. Soon, American Coot chicks and Killdeer chicks will hatch and the population of the ponds will multiply. Start looking for baby swallows sticking their heads out of the nest boxes. Baby production will peak in July with young blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Northern Harriers and Savannah Sparrows all leaving their nests and joining in on the banquet that the Wetlands have to offer.

Ten new BENCHES have been installed around ponds 4 and 8. Similar to those along the Ochoco Creek path, they're placed strategically to make it so people don't have to walk very far before finding a resting spot. This meets the need of anyone who might be less mobile than they'd like and are a great way to encourage outdoor exercise. The project was supported by Crook County on the Move, the Rotary Club, and funded by an anonymous donor.

Have you ever heard of "plant blindness?" It's a thing. People go about their lives and notice everything around them, except for the plants – odd, since our very lives depend on them.

Well, remove your blinders and take a gander at the POLLLINATOR GARDEN (by Kiosk G) which was developed to provide a nectar source for native pollinators such as butterflies, bees , wasps and even hummingbirds.

The garden is also a registered MONARCH WAYSTATION – there are 166 in Oregon and more than 27,000 worldwide – which is a place where Monarch butterflies can find the resources "necessary to produce successive generations and sustain their migration." Among the attractive native wildflowers planted here is native milkweed, the main plant required by Monarchs on which to deposit their eggs. To date, no Monarchs have been sighted at the garden but as the plants mature, well, we're hopeful.

For more information look on both sides of the kiosk, and now is a good time to visit since many of the species are flowering, including yarrow, globemallow and Oregon sunshine. Look at the plants in the "coffin box" along the path, and if you're adventuresome, walk down the hill where there are more plants including shrubs. Most are labeled to help hone your identification skills.

This wraps up another edition of Tule Talk. Get out there and enjoy the summer!


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