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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
February 1, 2012     The New Era Paper
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February 1, 2012

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Page 14 ff. Tte, ;- - February 1,2012 Birdwatching o,ffers never-ending challenges I love watching birds, perhaps with the exception of the trillions of robins (Turdus migratorius) flock- ing to my house. On most days I can watch about a dozen or so species in my backyard but when I can add a new species to my life list, that's when the excitement begins. Just the other day I added bird #344 to my life list with a snowy owl (nyctea scandiaca). These owls are Arctic, circumpolar birds but a few will occasionally make their way south into the Lower 48 in winter. Snowy owls rely on ro- dents, mainly lemmings, to sur- vive the cold winters farther north. Lemmings follow a boom-and-bust cycle, which can determine whether the owls are forced to move farther south in search of food. Since there have been many reports of snowy owls in the U.S. OUTBOORS Scott Staa[0000 this year, it would make sense that the population of lemmings has crashed. However, biologists found that the lemming population this year was at an all-time high, allow- ing for a very successful breeding season for all Arctic raptors, includ- ing snowy owls. They determined d 98 WESTERN SIERRA CAMPER Nice & Clean.. even has electric jacks! Call for the list of details. Stock#7966 $9,995 98 CHEVROLET 2500 HD Extended Cab Long Bed Nice older truck with crazy low miles! Stock#7976 $8,995 04 F150 SUPER CAB 4x4 Super clean truck...loaded with all the right options. Call for details Stock#7963 $15,995 3195 S. SANTIAM HWY, LEBANON. OR 97355 I 541-258-2175 I (DLR # 31021 MON-FRI: 8:AM TO 6:PM I SAT: 9:AM TO 6:PM ] SUN: 9:AM TO 5:PM ! BAN DE'E. 8ALES00 FORALL YOUR SPORTINGGOOD NEEDS 610 MAIN STREET i 541.367.5544 l HOURS: MON.- SAT. 9 - 6 I SUN. 10 - 4 5UN SflOH' WEWILL BE ATTENDING THE LEBANON GUN SHOW ON FEB. 4TH & 5TH AT THE LEBANON ELKS LODGE E E A CO D OODI 12PERTRA q!:i!:], ,:,::. UIDIE8 KHIT 5LgVEIi- sl.gg CONVERTIBLE ] ASST. COEORS REG. 4.99 /.5EXq HH flHHg- SlEgg 149 GR. FMJ I FEDERAL XM80C I ,FEDERAL  JJ AMM U NTO  762 x51mm that the population boom caused overcrowding and competition at the typical wintering grounds, pushing inexperienced birds farther south into the Lower 48. Life bird #344 appears to be a juvenile. There have been several mem- orable life birds for me. Earlier this year while out birding near an aspen stand, a great gray owl (strix nebu- losa) flew near me. The great gray is the largest of the owls, standing 24 to 33 inches high. I got to watch both adults do a food exchange, and eventually located the nest with two young. The coast is a great place to search for life birds and I've add- ed many to my list from there. Of course, if you take a trip to Alaska (20 new birds) or Hawaii (12 new birds), you'd be sure to expand your life list. One of my more memorable birds was a Bohemian waxwing (bombycilla garrulous)that I saw in Denali National Park, Alaska several years ago. When I point- ed it out to my wife I believe she laughed, thinking I made the name up (which I have a habit of doing occasionally). Another birder came by and verified my sighting and was extremely happy, since this bird was #500 on his life list. I'd always wanted to get to Texas during a spring migration, and I got to do that last year, add- ing about 30 species to my life list. The most unique bird I saw was a yellow-billed cuckoo (coccyzus americanus), the brightest a ver- milion flycatcher (pyrocephalus ru- binus) and the noisiest were a pair of cactus wrens (campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). One bird I wanted to add to my life list was a scissor-tailed flycatch- er (tyrannus forficatus). Although they are quite common in Texas, we don't have them in the Pacific Northwest. It took a while but I fi- naliy started seeing them sitting on powerlines. Other life birds I saw in Texas were canyon towhees (pipilo Photo by Scott Staats A young snowy owl sits on afencepost after a long trip south. fuscus), white-eyed vireos (vireo griseus) and Chihuahuan ravens (corvus cryptoleucus). Spring and fall migrations are your best bet to see a wide variety of birds and perhaps a few "lifers". To increase your chances of seeing new birds, attend one of the many bird festivals. The 31 st Annual John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival and Art Show will be held from April 12-15 in Burns. Spring migration brings thousands of birds to Harney County and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Birders will see shorebirds, waterfowl, cranes, raptors, wading birds and songbirds: Many of the birds stop to rest and feed in Ore- gon's high desert country before continuing north. There are over a dozen tours during the festival that last from two to nine hours. One of my favorites was the High Listing Tour. Expert guides take birders out in the basin and up into the snow-covered forest to list as many species as possible. Our group saw about 85 species. Highlights included burrowing owls (athene cunicularia), tens of thousands of snow geese (chen caerulescens), sandhill cranes (grus canadensis), barn owl (tyto alba), ferruginous hawk (buteo regalis) and Savannah sparrow (passerculus sandwichensis). Now is the time to consider starting your own bird list. Most birders keep a life list, which is a list of every bird they've seen or heard in their life. After a few years, adding new birds will take a bit lon- ger so you might also want to keep other lists, such as state, county and backyard. Then, each year, you can look at the lists and get an idea of when certain species will be arriv- ing. All you need to get started is a pair of binoculars, a field guide, a See Staats, page 15