I’m back in Oregon for now, and last weekend I went to the Audubon Society of Portland‘s annual wildlife care center open house, which I also attended in 2014. Since 2014, Hazel the spotted owl passed away, sadly, but most of their other education birds were out to say hello, including my personal favorites, Ruby the turkey vulture and Aristophanes the common raven.
The Wildlife Care Center is the oldest and busiest wildlife rehabilitation facility in Oregon, taking in about 3,000 orphaned or injured native animals a year. The annual open house and auction provide much of their operating funds. If you’d like to bid on some great wildlife-related items and experiences and support their efforts, the 2017 Call of the Wild Auction runs online until March 6.
I wrote a little about the Water Resources Education Center in my last post, so I’ll continue on about the actual amphibian monitoring training. We started the day at the Water Resources Education Center with an overview of common amphibian species in the area and how to identify their egg masses, given by Peter Ritson, the environmental scientist who coordinates the Southwest Washington Amphibian Monitoring Project (SWAMP). SWAMP is a volunteer citizen science project that aims to encourage protection of native amphibians and their habitat by collecting data crucial for conservation decisions, as well as engaging citizens in science and wildlife protection and educating people about the importance of wetlands in the region.
Ritson brought a couple Long-toed Salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum), a common Pacific Northwest species which can live in a variety of habitats, hibernating during the cold winter months.
Although it’s not always possible to see in the field, one of the characteristic features of their egg masses is a “double” layer of jelly (actually triple, which you can see better in this photo on Wikipedia).
After the classroom training, we headed out to the field to a small wetlands near Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. Those with waders (or more dedicated than I am) worked their way down a drainage ditch, while the rest of us tried to avoid being stabbed by blackberries or falling in from the banks.
Most of the egg masses we saw belonged to Long-toed Salamanders or to the Pacific Tree Frog or Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla).
It takes some practice to spot egg masses, especially since healthy egg masses tend to be below the surface of the water. This one—a Long-toed Salamander egg mass—wasn’t doing so well, possibly due to weather damage.
Normally SWAMP discourages handling egg masses or removing them from the water, but this one was probably not viable.
Pacific Tree Frog egg masses look quite different.
While we didn’t see any frogs, we could hear them!
A couple weeks ago I went to an amphibian egg monitoring training at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Washington. While I won’t be participating in the program, which is centered in Clark County, Washington, I thought it would be nice to learn some more about the amphibians of the Pacific Northwest.
We started the day with a couple slideshows and a look at some captive salamanders, before heading out to a local wetlands to look for egg masses in the wild. The Water Resources Education Center was one of my favorite places as a kid, but I hadn’t been back in years.
It’s an outdoor and informal education organization run by the City of Vancouver, right on the edge of the Columbia River and associated wetlands. The mission, as you might expect, is focused on water resources, particular the abundant wetland and river habitats of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a great place to learn about issues facing water resources in the region, as well as to see some of the native fish and amphibians you might not find in the wild.
Near the entrance is an area with a number of tanks and terraria, including salmon eggs and recently hatched alevins like the one above, as well as a bunch of native amphibians like this Pacific Tree Frog or Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla). We didn’t see any of these in the field, but we certainly heard them!
I find Western Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) and toads in general strangely charming:
Hanging above is a striking yet disturbing Salmon Lifecycle sculpture by local artists Maggie Rudy and Patty Maly, depicting the life cycle of the salmon in trash—such as that which ends up the oceans, negatively affecting salmon and other animals.
Moving towards the other exhibits, you pass a large fishtank, which usually has White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) and other fish. Later on, some of the salmon may move to that tank temporarily before release, although they can be aggressive. White sturgeons are the largest freshwater fish in North America, at their largest reaching up to 1,799 pounds (816 kilograms) and 20 feet (6.1 meters) and living over 100 years. In addition to overfishing, dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers threaten sturgeon populations by reducing spawning habitat and blocking passage to and from the ocean.
I didn’t have time to poke around the main exhibit area, but I think it’s more focused on kid-friendly interactive activities and watershed education.
On Sunday I went to the Audubon Society of Portland‘s Wildlife Care Center open house with my mother and a friend. I volunteered briefly there in high school, and also spent a lot of time on the trails as a kid, but going back after 10 years of living in a prairie/montane environment was a bit surreal. The trees are so big! There are ferns! So much moss! Everything is green and wet!
For the open house, they had all of their education birds out with volunteers, a great opportunity to see all of them and learn their stories. Many education birds end up at organizations either because they were illegally taken from the wild as pets and imprinted on humans or because they were injured permanently, often by cars. However, some, like their Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) Finnegan, were removed from the wild by scientists due to congenital problems that would prevent survival (in his case a deformed foot).
Hazel, a Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina, is a gorgeous bird, but her coloration is due to vitiligo, a progressive loss of feather pigment with each molt. In the wild, it would harm her survival chances, but due to injuries (probably from automobile impact) she is unable to fly.
But my favorite of their birds is probably Aristophanes, a Common Raven (Corvus corax).
They also had volunteers giving behind the scenes tours of the Wildlife Care Center itself, starting with the kitchen…
…where they prepare food for rescued birds and occasionally small mammals and reptiles.
They have a small hospital where they can perform surgery and other medical treatments, with cages for recuperation. Some animals may remain there for other a year, depending on their injuries.
Some patients are literal flight risks:
They also have a (very tiny) lab for running blood tests and examining fecal samples. They’re hoping in the future to build a larger facility.
Most of the enclosures for the education birds are outside. This one is for Aristophanes, the raven.
After the tour, we took a short hike down across Balch Creek…
…and around one of the loop trails, where we saw a lot of Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), which is actually in the cypress family rather than a true cedar…
…and also a lot of Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza), a common species that tends to grow on the trunks of deciduous trees.
The feeders outside the window in the nature center are a great place to observe and photograph common local songbirds, such as the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)…