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Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge gives visitors an opportunity to listen and learn

COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF THE REFUGE - On a quiet day you can hear the calls of birds ranging from geese and ducks to kingfishers, redwing blackbirds and chickadees.

"We can never have enough of nature." — Henry David Thoreau

December is a good month to visit the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. When you walk the trail on the refuge, take time to stop and listen to the many sounds of nature.

Of course, you can't miss hearing the raucous calls of the geese and ducks. But if it is a quiet day and you listen closely, you may hear the whispers of the bushtits as they pass through the trees, the rattle of a kingfisher flying over the water, the sound of the "rusty gate" that people use to describe the call of the red-wing blackbirds and the chickadee's "chick-a-dee-dee-dee."

Nature is full of wonderful and amazing sounds. It is worth the effort and time to learn the sounds and which creatures are making them. The more time you spend outside, the more you learn. When we take time to listen, we move closer to nature and our fellow creatures.

If you have been to the refuge lately, you may have been surprised to see someone wave a greeting from the fee booth, the small building that you pass as you enter the parking lot. The refuge is fee free, so the booth has not been used much. Since the refuge is still operating under Covid-19 safety precautions, the fee booth is being used as a way to provide information to visitors safely. It started as a way to inform visitors of the early seasonal trail closure this year. It went so well that the refuge decided to keep it going, adding more shifts and opening up the opportunity to more volunteers.

As I write this column, the visitor center and Nature's Overlook remain closed. However, the online store is always open. If you need a last-minute gift or something special for a friend or family member, grab a cup of tea or coffee and start browsing.

If you have readers in your family, the store offers more than 200 titles. You will find books about nature, field guides for birds, trees, insects and mammals. The selection also includes books on Oregon geology, stargazing, regional history and ways to get kids outside to learn what nature has to offer. In addition, you will find many books for children for bedtime reading, learning about nature and stuffed animals to accompany the books.

Looking for a stocking stuffer or a party gift? The store has you covered. There are women's fashion scarves in beautiful patterns and colors. Check out the rain jackets and hats to keep you cozy and nature-themed socks with otters, ravens and beavers, to keep your feet warm. And puzzles: three-piece puzzles for 2- to 4-year-olds, round puzzles for a bit of a challenge, 100- to 1,008-piece puzzles for a rainy night in front of the fireplace.

Last, but not least, finger puppets to stimulate the kids' imagination for putting on their own shows after the tree comes down.

All proceeds go to the direct support of the work the Friends of the Refuge do on behalf of the refuge. The online sales are an important means of support during the closure due to COVID-19. Items can be mailed, or you may use our contactless pickup option. And remember, Friends of the Refuge members receive a 10% discount, even online. Check out the merchandise the store has available at www.friendsoftualatinrefuge.org. For questions about any of the merchandise, ordering or pickup and shipping please, call the Online Store at 971-420-5989.

The Chicken Creek restoration project, which began in 2019, is coming to a close. The barriers were removed on Sept. 30 to allow water to flow once again through Chicken Creek on the refuge. When the seasonal trail reopens in spring 2022, visitors will have an opportunity to view the restored creek channel from two new bridges as well as the existing pedestrian bridge located on the year-round trail.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selected Rebecca Gomez Chuck as the new project leader for the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the Pacific Region. She began her new role in October. She spent almost 20 years as the deputy project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge complex, headquartered in Newport and encompassing the entire coast. She replaces Larry Klimek, who retired in August.

Pam Farris is a volunteer for Friends of the Refuge


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