I married a birder and figured it was just one of the many advantages of marriage. Should I ever need to know how to identify a bird: Bingo! Instant answer. The other advantage is that I have learned a thing or two about birds – I’m no expert, mind you – but now instead of being oblivious, I find I like looking at birds. I even get a little excited when I see a species for the first time. Now, I tend to notice when the seasonal migrating birds begin to pass through the forested urban refuge that is our backyard.
You can imagine how mortified I was when one of OFRI’s educational TV ads – for which I am responsible – went on the air last fall with a non-native bird shown in one exceedingly brief scene. Maybe a second and a half. Come to find out it wasn’t even a North American species.
Meanwhile, down at the office the phone calls and emails began to roll in with regularity. As is the case with birders in general, all these people were reliably kind about my error, but they were firm that I needed to fix it.
And fix it we did. We replaced the offending woodpecker with a scrappy little native hummingbird.
That’s why I’m writing this column. Last weekend as I read the newspaper, my wife pointed out back and said, “Oh, look, it’s the rufous hummingbird!”
Sure enough, there he was – mostly rusty red with a little green patch on his forehead and the iridescent red-gold throat patch, flying stationary at our hummingbird feeder.
The rufous, she explained, migrates away in the fall and comes back in the spring, whereas the Anna’s hummingbird hangs out in western Oregon all winter.
“That’s interesting,” I said, not letting on about my slip-up with the ad. “We’re featuring a rufous in OFRI’s new educational advertising.”
To which my birder wife replied, “Oh, that’s nice.”
The next time we decide to use a bird in one of our television ads, I’ll check with her first.
Director of Communications
The calendar may still say winter, but the signs in the western Oregon woods say spring is in the air. As sure as daffodils are blooming in the Willamette Valley, the woodland wildflowers are starting to emerge.
Hiking in the western Oregon woods this time of year is especially fun because the plants change from week to week. I took a hike on the last day of February at Hopkins Demonstration Forest near Beaver Creek in Clackamas County. The signs of spring were everywhere.
Catkins on California hazel were greenish yellow and noticeably elongated. A shake of a branch sent forth a shower of bright yellow pollen (not a good thing for us allergy sufferers). Indian plum has been leafing out for weeks and now the white pendulant blossoms are starting to open.
Soon we will see Trillium emerge with its distinctive three basal leaves with a lilly flower composed of three larger white petals and three smaller green sepals. Trilliums are quite common in western Oregon.
Trout lily, aka fawn lily or dog-toothed violet is another spring favorite with a drooping yellow or purple lily flower and leaves that are speckled like a trout or a fawn. Like many species of lily, trout lily has six similar looking petals called tepals. Upon close examination you can usually see that three are petals and three are sepals.
Oregon iris is very beautiful, like wild rose, it is a simpler and more elegant version of its hybridized cousins. Oregon iris can be very small and often hides among the grasses and sedges.
Calypso orchid or fairy slipper is my absolute favorite western Oregon wildflower. It is obviously an orchid with a bottom petal that sticks out like a lower lip. Calypso is unique among wild orchids in that it has only one leaf at the base of the plant and the flower stem rise out of it. If you know where to look, you can see the leaves coming out now, but the flowers won’t be up for a few weeks.
Take pictures of wildflowers, but please don't pick them. Most of the herbaceous (non-woody) wildflowers reproduce by bulbs or rhizomes and these can be damaged by picking the flowers. Wildflowers also last much longer if left for the next hiker to enjoy.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
All photos are from the Native Plant Society of Oregon. From left: Trout lily, Trilium, Oregon iris
My wife and I once owned a 1960 Volvo 544. For a poor, married student couple, it was one sweet ride. Safe, reliable, comfortable. But, of course, it didn’t have any of today’s features. These would be things like air bags, disc brakes, skid control, computers of any kind, passenger side-view mirror, and rear-seat seat belts. Nor did it have the niceties we now enjoy: radio, air conditioning, GPS, back-up camera, etc.
Once our daughters arrived, we realized we needed a bigger vehicle. We bought a 1974 Volvo station wagon. This was MUCH more advanced. Electronic fuel injection, a radio (and cassette player!), air conditioning, working seat belts – but still no air bags.
Today we no longer drive a Volvo, but our one current vehicle – a 2009 Nissan – is like something from the future. I mean, it’s so advanced that if something went wrong, unless it was a flat tire I wouldn’t know where to start looking for the problem (which is why they’re called “idiot” lights).
Here’s my point. The Oregon Forest Practices Act is not the same policy instrument it was when enacted by the Oregon Legislature in 1971. In fact, it’s been revised significantly, legislatively and administratively, more than 30 times over the past four decades. When groups call it “antiquated” or “out-of-date,” they’re blowing more smoke than came out the exhaust pipe of that 1960 Volvo.
In many instances, the Act has been changed with the advice and consent of the forest products industry. In other cases, changes to the Act have occurred at the behest of outside groups, sometimes over the objections of the forest products industry.
Here in Oregon, the citizen board that oversees forest policy is the Board of Forestry. This is a seven-member, volunteer board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Besides appointing the state forester, the board sets and oversees rules regulating state and private forest practices. These rules are adopted in public meetings governed by a democratic process and informed by the most recent scientific findings.
I don’t know what happened to our 1960 Volvo, but I sure wouldn’t want to drive one today as the family car – especially with my four precious grandchildren. Nor would anyone want our forests managed to the best science of 1971. That just doesn't make sense.
For the forest,
We live on 5.6 acres of rural property outside Forest Grove. We also have an 89-acre tract of family forestland in the Coast Range. Since purchasing our rural residence nearly four years ago, we have worked many weekends clearing brush and planting hundreds of Douglas-fir seedlings. Since it’s our home, we’ve also planted more than 100 rhododendrons and ferns, and have established two landscaped areas in the front yard.
We also have a large herd of deer – last count was 13 and growing – so we’ve given much thought to plant selection. All our landscape designs are considered “deer-resistant” by the nurseries that sell the plants and trees, but I laugh when I hear that term, as we’ve found that nothing is “deer-resistant” around our home, unless it includes a very high fence.
Still, we enjoy watching our deer herd, especially in the spring when the spotted fawns make their debut. But we also don’t like them on our property for the damage they do. Our plants cost a lot!
Deer eat everything, including most of our rhododendrons, vine maple, kinnikinnick and hostas, and they absolutely adore munching on our dogwood trees. Unfortunately, trying to scare them off the property doesn’t work, unless we chase them on foot, which I’ve been known to do more than a few times.
During the winter, the bucks come through and aggressively scrape our trees, rubbing their antler velvet, killing the small seedlings, damaging the bark on pine trees and snapping rhododendrons in half.
Last year, we installed a seven-foot fence around two acres of our back yard, saving the trees and landscaping inside from deer damage. And next weekend we’ll plant new seedlings to replace those that didn’t make it.
After several eye-to-eye standoffs with the deer, I think we’ve finally found a way toward peaceful coexistence. In the end, we’ll find a way to live in harmony on our hill.
Business Operations Manager