Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Daniel Rich and Charlene Pursley of the Upward Bound program search for bird nests in the Delbert Hunter Arboretum under the direction of PSWCD staffer Kersey Schuh.
July 31, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- If you've been waiting to dive into that overhaul of your backyard to clear those maddening patches of blackberry bushes on your rural property, now is the time.
Especially if you're a bird lover.
It's one of the periods where you're least likely to disturb songbirds -- unless we're talking willow flycatchers. In that case, wait until the end of August.
"I think most people don't want to have a negative impact on birds," said Jackie Hastings, manager of the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District. "If you were going to prune a bush and you knew this was a time when a bird is likely nesting there, you would consider" an alternative time.
PSWCD is trying to make it easier and will release a user-friendly guidebook this summer that outlines conservation strategies to avoid harming bird habitat while working in yards or large properties.
District technicians and local high school and college volunteers from Upward Bound have been compiling a list of song and other nesting birds common to Polk County, when their primary nesting season is and when to disturb the type of vegetation birds might call home.
Hastings said the concept borrows heavily from material developed by the city of Portland's Environmental Services Department in 2010.
That guide details all native and migratory nesting birds in the region, arrival dates, and early and secondary nesting seasons.
"It's incredible ... but it's aimed at natural resource technicians," said Hastings, noting that PSWCD wants to craft a version for community members.
Human development has taken a major toll on songbirds, with the effect increasing following urbanization in the 1950s, said Ann Kreager, a grassland biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Exact numbers, however, are difficult to come by, she added.
"A lot of historic data is anecdotal evidence from early naturalists," she said.
Birds you'll find in Polk County are fairly ubiquitous across the Willamette Valley. Some can cope. Ground-nesting song sparrows, for example, "have learned to coexist with us," Kreager said.
"Streaked horn larks, Western meadowlarks and vesper sparrows are on the decline," she continued. "This has to do with land use, or conversion of native grassland for growing grass seed or vineyards."
Songbirds are indicators of how healthy a natural system is and "maintaining diversity of all forms is the greatest contribution you can make to a system," Kreager said.
Conservation guides tend to be published by different agencies independent of one another. And not all have the same focus.
"A backyard enthusiast will have very different goals from somebody restoring 200 acres of native grasses," Kreager said.
"I think PSWCD's (guide) will be really helpful," she said.