Whitfield Wildlife Area celebrates migration


Looking for something unique to do with the mom or moms in your life this Mother's Day? How about learning a new skill or honing an old one?

Looking for something unique to do with the mom or moms in your life this Mother's Day? How about learning a new skill or honing an old one?

The Friends of Whitfield at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation invite you to join them Saturday, May 12, for the International Migratory Bird Day Celebration, which is also to be celebrated in communities around the world.

Beginning at 7 a.m. for the migratory bird count, where birders new and experienced will get the chance to view a diverse collection of birds in the bosque, the celebration will continue until 4 p.m.

Included in the festivities that celebrate birds and the important migratory paths they travel each year will be a family activity tent with arts and crafts, speakers, a silent auction with one-of-a-kind artwork from local artists as well as other items, a nature walk ending with tai chi at the Owl Tree and food vendors, including Roxy's Bistro on Wheels.

There will also be live animals on site, including owls, prairie dogs and Dusty the roadrunner, educational displays and free material.

"People are having various celebrations all over the world," said Linda Heinze, celebration coordinator for Friends of Whitfield.

She said that one of the reasons they put on the event at Whitfield is to educate people about birds and migration and bring awareness to birds and to the importance of protecting them and their migratory paths.

She said that many people are not aware that it is illegal in the United States to interfere with or harm birds while they are migrating, but in other parts of the world these feathered creatures are not as lucky.

Ted Hodoba, the program director at Whitfield and another member of the Friends of Whitfield, says there are many threats to birds all the time, especially while they are migrating. He said pesticides have very dangerous coincidences to birds, citing an innocent where "tens of thousands" of Swainson hawks — an open plains hawk from Argentina — died during their migration after eating grasshoppers that had been poisoned with pesticides.

"I think we need to draw people's attention to how beautiful birds are and how they need humans to help preserve their habitat," said Heinze.

Because migrations happen at different times of the year for different birds, says Heinze and Hodoba, there is always something different to see at Whitfield, which is located along one of the flyways, or "highways for birds," as Heinze calls it.

"The river plays a key part because it provides water and food," says Hodoba.

Some of the birds people can expect to see there at different times of the year include Swainson hawks, owls, vibrant hummingbirds, ducks and shorebirds, ibises, flocks of egrets, different types of colorful tanagers and even pelicans.

Heinze said birding can be a great social activity and a fun reason to get outside and be in nature, whether its your backyard or the conservation area.

She said she began birding after moving to Oregon as a way to meet new people. She and Hodoba said there will be birdwatchers at all levels of experience and that people need not feel intimidated to jump right in even if they've never bird watched before.

The only thing they said people should worry about doing is having fun. And if anyone is planning to come to the 7 a.m. bird count, they might want to bring the best binoculars they have and a notebook to take notes on the birds and their behavior.

Admission to the event is $1 per person and .50 cents for students. Proceeds benefit the Friends of Whitfield Community Education Fund.

For information or to volunteer, contact Heinze at whitfieldvolunteers@gmail.com or at 565-1441.

-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.