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Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge reopens to give patrons a place to unwind

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." -- Rachel Carson

This has been a tumultuous year, with breaking news almost every day leaving us wondering what is coming next.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit us in March and brought almost everything to a standstill, including activities at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center is closed. Environmental education and interpretive programs are suspended for now.COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF THE REFUGE - The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge has reopened after being closed for several months due to the COVID-19 crisis.

However, the annual bird festival, held at the refuge every May, went virtual and featured video clips for children, a series of "ask the expert" questions and educational information on wildlife and the refuge.

The Photo Society is holding its monthly meetings online. Check the Friends of the Refuge website at friendsoftualatinrefuge.org for more information about time and topics.

If you are having one of those days where you need to get away from the news, escape is as close as the refuge. Take a walk or just sit on a bench, breathe deep and soak up the sounds of nature. Listen for the birds twittering, calling and flying through the trees. Continue through the oak savanna, down to the river overlook. Take time to watch the river slowly winding its way east to meet up with the Willamette River. Then continue through the forest to the wetlands observation deck to watch the geese and ducks. The seasonal trail is closed until May 1, but the year-round trail is always open.

November is the month of waterfowl migration. The number of geese and ducks may go from a few hundred to several thousand. It is a thrilling sight to watch and listen to hundreds of geese fly onto the refuge or get stirred up by the eagles. Northern pintails and cackling Canada geese dominate the scene, then the first diving ducks arrive. Buffleheads, ruddy ducks and ring-necked ducks will join the crew.

What can you do besides walk or relax on a bench? Bring a birding book and binoculars and see how many birds you can identify. This is a good way to improve your bird identification skills and no one gets tired of watching birds.

Bring a camera. Birds aren't the only creatures who call the refuge home. Move slowly or sit quietly in one location: quick movements and loud noises scare most wildlife away. Scan the trees and the areas away from the trail. You are likely to see blacktail deer in the trees watching you as you walk. In the early morning you may see coyotes watching you. You may catch a glimpse of a mink, a muskrat, beaver or short-tailed weasel. These and other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish live on the refuge.

Pam Farris is a volunteer for Friends of the Refuge.


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