On the Refuge: Plenty of activity as summer begins
It's nearly June and we're about half way through the year. Fortunately, the year is looking much brighter than last year at this time. It's a good month to come to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to see what's happening in nature or just have a "nature break."
If you walk or sit quietly and listen to the sounds around you, you may spot a nest with baby birds calling for food. Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, cinnamon teal and, occasionally, hooded mergansers may be seen with their youngsters this month. Wildflowers are still blooming. Look for bleeding heart and red columbine in the woods and Scouler's popcorn flower in white masses in the meadows. Watch for butterflies and dragonflies, especially on warm days.
The seasonal trail is open. However, construction on the Chicken Creek restoration project continues so there may be some trail closures this summer. You can find the latest information and updates about trail conditions on the the Friends' website at https://friendsoftualatinrefuge.org/.
There is an exciting new addition to the refuge. Purple martin nest boxes have been installed in the middle of the wetland and are visible from the viewing platform with a scope or binoculars. Purple martins are the largest swallows in North America and were once commonplace. However, this is no longer the case. Their decline is due to competition with invasive European starlings and changing forestry practices, which have both led to the loss of nesting cavity habitat. The western subspecies is listed as "critically sensitive" in Oregon. Conservation actions are required to keep the bird from being put on the Endangered Species List.
Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge have had success in attracting the Purple Martins to manmade nesting structures. The hope is that our refuge will become their newest home.
In case you're wondering, the 12 nest boxes are on three separate poles in a pulley system which allows the refuge to take them down, clean and store them each year. If the birds do make an appearance this year, we would expect to start seeing them near the beginning of June. Check out the boxes the next time you visit the refuge.
The popular Puddle Stompers programs for children up to 5 years old will be held again virtually in June. The program schedule was not available when this column was written so be sure to check the Friends website for information on dates and topics. You can also find past programs posted on the Friends website under "educational resources." These virtual programs include animal facts, sing-along songs, crafts and an outdoor walk or activity.
Nature's Overlook, the Friends retail store, remains closed but much of the store's inventory is available for purchase online, with curbside pickup on Saturday mornings or by reservation if you need a different pickup time. If you're looking for a gift for Father's Day, graduation or another occasion, please check out our merchandise at https://bit.ly/2V116zP. You'll find everything from jewelry, socks, games, puzzles to field guides, journals, and logo clothing.
Pam Farris is a member of Friends of the Refuge
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