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How to Become a Birder

One of MRT’s basic tenets is to connect people to the land and rivers.  Besides hiking, rafting, fishing, swimming and other outdoor activities that connect us, bird watching is seeing a rise in popularity.  What’s so special for me when I birdwatch is how connected I feel to nature and my environs.  

Belted Kingfisher on Green Island Photo: Kit Larsen

How does one begin birding? 

From a personal perspective, the first thing to do is stop and listen, and I do mean stop in your tracks. If you hear the sound of a bird, try to zero in on its location.  Is it up in a tree nearby or in a bush lower to the ground? In the water? Flying in the sky? The bird’s choice of place to hang out offers insight into its identity. Patience is very important as these creatures are usually very shy and can move very quickly.

Osprey flying. Photo: Kit Larsen

There are numerous how-to resources available online to get started birding. Here are few I like to reference:  

Audubon’s How to Start Birding
Texas Parks and Wildlife Introduction to Birding
Next Avenue’s Birdwatching Primer
Nation Park Service’s Birding for Beginners

You can also join a local bird walk with Lane Audubon Society.

I carry binoculars with a 7 or 8 power.  REI and/or Cabela’s have a range of prices and are a good place to get your hands on a pair. If you’re in Eugene, you should also check out Wild Birds Unlimited on Willamette for advice and a fine selection of binoculars. It takes a bit of practice to coordinate the use of them and find that bird you see up in that tree! My secret is to keep my eyes focused on the subject and bring the binoculars up to my face.  Hopefully, the critter is right there in my scope of vision.  

Identifying Birds

Cedar Waxwing Photo: Kit Larsen

As you sight a bird and want to identify it, notice if there is anything striking about its plumage, e.g., bright red on its head, a black circle around its eye, stripes on its wing or tail – just observe.  Maybe there’s nothing at all that is striking about its plumage, but how about the shape of the head, shoulders or beak? How big is it? What about its flight pattern – steady on or dipping and soaring? Does it make a distinctive chirp or song?

To identify the birds you spy, you absolutely need a reference book or two and perhaps a phone app. For a local reference, check out: Birds of Oregon and Birds of the Pacific Northwest (A Timber Press Field Guide) by John Shewey. Sibley is a more comprehensive guideFree mobile apps include: 

Connecting to the Community 

If you prefer the company of others, join a group and get out in the field with other birders. Join the bird walks with Lane Audubon, Buford Park, the Wildbirds Unlimited Store or Birds of Oregon and General Science (BOGS). Also, keep an eye on MRT’s calendar, as we sometimes host birding walks on our conservation properties.  Groups can help you sustain your birding enthusiasm and offer knowledge and companionship.  Your next best way is backyard feeding. Wildbirds Unlimited is a wonderful resource to get you going on your home feeding stations. 

And if you want to see wild raptors up close and personal, check out Cascade Raptors on Fox Hollow. They have regular visiting hours and opportunities to watch these birds fly in their specialized cages. 

In addition, online forums offer postings of local sightings and discussions: 

American Birding Associationhttp://birding.aba.org/maillist/OR01 

Lanebirds: https://www.freelists.org/list/lanebirds  

And, if you watch birds long enough, you will eventually recognize a bird by its song without ever laying your eyes upon it. Now that is truly connecting!

MRT Bird Walk from May 2019 at Coyote Spencer Wetlands. Photo: Ron Green

(Special thanks to birder extraordinaire, Kit Larsen, for his advice and suggestions for this article.)

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More Birds Sighted on MRT Properties

Lincoln Sparrow at Waite Ranch Photo: Jim Regali
Marbled Murrelet on the coast Photo: Cary Kerst
Bald eagles nesting. Photo: Cary Kerst

Property Purchase Near Blue River Will Fund Scholarships

Thanks to the support of our members, 47 acres are preserved for conservation on the banks of the Blue River

On December 19th, we purchased a property next to the Blue River Park. The purchase was possible thanks to funding from a generous anonymous donor and other McKenzie River Trust supporters and partners.

In 1986, Fred and Dorothy Behm donated the property to McKenzie School District. The district serves 225 students in Finn Rock, OR. The land was intended for timber harvest, but the school did not have the resources to manage timberland. So they considered a sale for conservation as another option.

The proceeds from the sale of this property will help start a scholarship fund for the McKenzie River Community School. We’re so grateful that our members support community-minded projects like this one as we move into a new decade of growth in our organization.

Aerial view of the recently purchased property, adjacent to Blue River Park on the banks of the Blue River, located on Molalla land.

“We brought in the McKenzie River Trust as a potential broker to help facilitate a sale and conservation easement,” said Lane Tompkins, Superintendent/Principal of McKenzie River Community School. “Although this approach did not take shape, MRT took a more hands-on approach, buying the land to manage directly. We take pride in being a part of MRT investing in our community, our school, and most importantly our students.”

An old logging road makes a scenic trail at the new property acquired from McKenzie School District.

Protection for Blue River

This property is important for conservation in the community. It offers recreation and scenic views. It preserves a conifer forest on the banks of the river. An old logging road makes a trail along the Blue River that will remain public. McKenzie River Trust is partnering with Blue River Parks District to steward the land and keep access open.

McKenzie River Community School is using the funds from selling its property to start a scholarship with Oregon Community Foundation.

In addition, the property is next to the Blue River Parks District park. MRT will host a celebration with supporters like you in the spring to reveal the new property’s name. It also has conservation value for protecting the watershed. Wildlife will also benefit from habitat protection. The newly acquired property is also adjacent to other lands in conservation. The nearby lands include the Blue River conservation easement and Finn Rock Reach, both of which are in MRT’s protection.

A view of the forest on the Blue River conservation easement, next to the community of Blue River.

Executive Director Joe Moll said, “We are fortunate to have generous supporters who are willing to help us acquire this key parcel, with benefits to the students of McKenzie School and the larger community. “

Aerial video footage of the McKenzie School Property

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Patagonia Action Works is Matching Donations Through December 31st

UPDATE! The match has been met! Thank you to everyone who supported this campaign, we received over $84,000 that will be met by Patagonia for local conservation in 2020. Thank you again, we’re so grateful to our supporters for taking advantage of this opportunity.

Photo: Tim Giraudier

Patagonia has generously supported the McKenzie River Trust through grants for our fish habitat restoration work. Now they’re challenging you to give back to the lands and rivers you cherish, too. 


Patagonia will match all donations made to McKenzie River Trust on Patagonia Action Works between Nov. 29 and Dec. 31, up to $10,000 per donation, until they’ve reached a maximum match of $10,000,000.  

Giving Tuesday is December 3rd

Give today and your dollars will be matched!

Give Now

We have a special match challenge for Giving Tuesday! Support our lands and waters this #givingtuesday with a gift to McKenzie River Trust.

Giving Tuesday is a global movement that encourages people to do good. Hundreds of millions of people have come together on this day for the last few years to raise money for causes they care about.

A gift to McKenzie River Trust means investing in work to protect lands and rivers people cherish in Western Oregon. We protect and steward the lands and rivers that support healthy communities. We connect those who are upstream to the lands and rivers affected by their choices. We restore river meanders and floodplain forests where we can. With your support, we work with landowners who share this vision to sustain the special places around us.

We’re celebrating 30 years of local conservation. We’d love your help funding the next 30 years 

Give Now

McKenzie River Trust Celebrates 30 Years

This month marks 30 years of land and river conservation in Western Oregon at McKenzie River Trust. we wanted to mark the occasion with a graphic showcasing some of our accomplishments over the last 30 years. Do you have a memory you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!

Our 30 Year Milestones

1989 Tom Bowerman and Bob Doppelt bring together concerned citizens interested in protecting and preserving the McKenzie River’s pristine quality for future generations.

1999 MRT expands its service area to include all of Lane County and parts of Douglas County with community support. Kurt Hupé joins MRT as the first executive director.

2002 ODFW biologists find Oregon chub at the Big Island property. It’s the first time in over 100 years the chub is seen in the McKenzie River watershed.

2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove the Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List — the first fish ever to be delisted due to recovery.

2007-08 The Trust protects more than 400 acres with five landowners in the Tenmile Creek watershed north of Florence.

1991 EWEB collaborates with Tom Bowerman to mitigate the impact of Leaburg Dam. MRT protects its first land, buying the Smith Forest in fee title. George Grier and Cynthia Pappas donate MRT’s first conservation easement on Big Island near Springfield.

2003 The Green family sells the Trust 865 acres where the McKenzie and Willamette rivers meet. Karen Green shares: “Before it is too late, we want this land to be protected for all the special things it has and can offer future generations.” The Green Island purchase ensures 1,300 contiguous acres of land will be protected in one of the most diverse habitats in western Oregon.

2000-01 EWEB kicks off the McKenzie Conservancy Campaign with a $500k grant for McKenzie watershed protection. The Trust raises another $500k from the community to unlock the final $500k, a challenge grant from the EWEB water protection fund first discussed in 1991.

2010 MRT secures protection for 217 acres near Mapleton on the Siuslaw River, 92 acres on Camp Creek Road on the lower McKenzie, and a 56-acre former gravel mine next to Green Island.

2015 MRT works with the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians to conserve 125 acres along Fivemile Creek.

2018 Over 400 people contribute to the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign, raising $4.6 million to repay the bridge loan used to acquire Finn Rock Reach, restore and care for the land, and create a fund for future conservation projects.

1997 MRT secures a 20-acres tract east of Blue River in response to local leaders’ effort to permanently protect hillside. It is the Trust’s first conservation property beyond riparian floodplain habitat.

2015-16 MRT seizes an opportunity to conserve Finn Rock Reach. The McKenzie riverfront property is vital for more than 200,000 people who rely on the McKenzie for their drinking water. The spectacular property includes spawning ground for native Chinook salmon, the popular Finn Rock Boat Landing, and the historic Finn Rock Logging camp.

2013 1,000+ people attend the Living River Celebration on Green Island to commemorate ten years of conservation work.

2005 75 volunteers turn out to plant 3,400 native trees on Green Island.

2001 Forest Care becomes MRT’s first conservation easement outside the McKenzie watershed.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival Comes to Eugene

On November 14, one of the largest environmental films festivals travels to inspire your love of the outdoors. Check out our film line up and don’t forget to get your tickets!

Wild & Scenic Eugene 2019 Program

A New View of the Moon

A short film to kick things off that reminds us of our common humanity and reminds us to look up every once in a while. Watch as Wylie Overstreet takes a telescope around the streets of Los Angeles to give passersby an up-close look at a new view of the moon.

Tenkara Kid

The simple pleasure of a centuries old Japanese fishing technique and how it can bring us together with rivers and their inhabitants. This film hearkens back to the time in our youth when fishing gear was easily carried in one hand.

Carving Landscapes

Atypical for her time, Mary Vaux defies all gender roles, mountain weather, and traditions to spark the first glaciology study in North America. Her perseverance brings her back to the same glacier for five decades.

Our National Parks Belong to Everyone. So Why are They So White?

Only 20 percent of visitors to National Parks are people of color. Learn about the troubling history of public lands and to meet the conservationists of color who are trying to change the parks’ future.

Blue Carbon

Blue carbon is captured and stored by coastal wetlands, helping to mitigate climate change. This film is about mud and the multiple benefits that estuaries provide for us. Shot in the Pacific Northwest.

Chandalar

Portland-based organization called Soul River, our partner through the Willamette River Initiative, who is working to bring veterans and inner city youth together around fly fishing to heal past traumas and build a community of support.

Bring Them Home

Provides important and often neglected indigenous perspective on how to manage our wildlife and natural resources. Tribal voices tell the story of how one tribe is working to bring back the buffalo.

March of the Newts

From right here in the Great Pacific Northwest, follow one of the forest’s funkiest creatures into a gangly gathering of amphibious affection… and learn how you can help protect these sensitive animals from an emerging disease.

Carpe Diem

In a city full of people trying to catch a break, one lucky man hooks into an unexpected dream that becomes the role of a lifetime, reminding him to seize each new day as a chance to do what he loves.

Tracking Snow

Discover a novel way of studying elusive carnivores – with snow! Join scientists Jessie and Tommy as they re-purpose an old technique in a way that not only revolutionizes how we study threatened species and manage our landscapes, but also highlights the importance of collaboration in conservation.

Protected: A Wild & Scenic River Portrait

Follow river paddler, author, and conservationist Tim Palmer through the enchanting waters of Oregon’s Wild Rivers
Coast, which has the highest concentration of National Wild & Scenic Rivers in the US

Keepers of the Future

In a fertile floodplain, where the great river meets the sea, a peasant movement puts down roots – growing resilience
in the scorched earth of exile and war. But soon these farmers and fishers discover new, global challenges.

Lost in Light

Lost in Light is a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. Shot mostly in California, this piece
shows how the night sky view gets progressively better as you move away from the lights.

Wren Marsh a Key to Conservation on the Coast

Habitat Protected 10 Years Ago Expands with a Strategic Purchase

A view of Wren Marsh, a property MRT recently acquired.

In 2010, we acquired a 210-acre property between Florence and Mapleton known as Waite Ranch. This land is adjacent to Highway 126 and just upstream of Cushman Landing. It’s identified as a conservation priority because of the variety of habitat types that could be restored there. Tidal estuary and marshland are home to an abundance of fish and wildlife.

There are few of these types of habitats left on the Central Oregon Coast.
Nearly 1,000 acres of protected conservation lands surrounds Waite Ranch, which makes it an excellent candidate for restoration work. McKenzie River Trust felt the opportunity was too great to pass up, and we used our success and resources to buy the land and work alongside a variety of partners working to protect and restore coastal habitat.

On September 25th, the Trust acquired Wren Marsh, an 8-acre parcel of land across the Siuslaw River from Waite Ranch that fills one of the last remaining gaps in this conservation complex and significantly benefits restoration efforts. The Waite Ranch Restoration Project will benefit from critical cost savings thanks to this purchase. Because of the acquisition, we can remove powerlines serving Wren Marsh that cross Waite Ranch instead of re-routing them.

A Good Neighbor

MRT Stewardship Manager Jodi Lemmer and Land Owner Dick Fithian

Wren Marsh had been owned by Dick Fithian for nearly 30 years. Dick was deeply knowledgeable about the land and history of Wren Marsh and Waite Ranch, having spent much of his time as a kid visiting the land with members of the Waite family. When MRT bought Waite, Dick was there to lend a hand and an ear as MRT got to know the unique characteristics of land on the Siuslaw River. When Dick decided to sell Wren Marsh, we were grateful he chose us to continue the legacy of stewardship.

Restoring Tidal Swamp Land

The fields of Wren Marsh

The Siuslaw estuary is an idyllic marshy region; filled with the sound of frequent and varied birdsong.
Over the years, development caused estuaries like this to be diked, drained, and converted, eliminating habitat needed for young fish and shellfish to thrive. Studies from the 70’s and early 80’s first showed the important roles that estuaries play for fish. More recent local studies have shown the import role restoration can play in the recovery of our fisheries.
While there has been great success in preserving land in the Siuslaw estuary, areas like Waite Ranch and Wren Marsh remain degraded by blocked fish passage, loss of tidal channels, lack of habitat diversity, and poor water quality during summer months.

The dock at Waite Ranch, the property across the river from Wren Marsh

Approximately 200 acres of tidal estuary habitat are expected to result from planned restoration efforts, along with about 10 miles of tidal channel. This habitat could offer a home and refuge for many sensitive fish and wildlife species, including American bald eagles, shorebirds like the short billed dowitcher, and native fish such as coastal coho, steelhead, and Chinook salmon.

McKenzie River Trust on the Oregon Coast

A puprle martin rests at Waite Ranch on the Siuslaw. Photo: Jim Regali

The success of our conservation work in the McKenzie River watershed brought McKenzie River Trust to lend a hand to other vital watersheds. Our first project on the central coast was in 2007 and we continue to protect more land in the region.

The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, the Siuslaw Watershed Council, and a network of government agencies are our partners in conservation in this region. Together, our knowledge, technical expertise, and flexibility expands the capability to preserve coastal lands and waters.

A no-interest loan to the Trust from local donors made this purchase possible. We are very grateful for the support of our members. We can expand our mission to help people protect and care for the lands and rivers they cherish in Western Oregon.

How You Can Help

We are looking for more strategic partners in connecting coastal community members to our lands and our work. Please encourage anyone you know to join. Next year, we will see more volunteer and tour opportunities to help connect our members to this vital estuary.

McKenzie River Trust 30th Anniversary Celebration

Celebrate with us as we commemorate 30 years of conservation work in Western Oregon. Connect with other supporters, staff, and volunteers. Enjoy appetizers, and of course, birthday cake!

Valley River Inn
McKenzie Ballroom
5:30-8:30

Space is limited for this event, so it is very important that you send in your RSVP by November 8! Please RSVP now by clicking here.

This event is a casual celebration. Feel free to drop in any time and say hello. We will have photo booths and a couple of ways to connect with others and share your memories.

Freshwater Mussels in our Rivers

Emilie Blevins from the Xerces Society talking to McKenzier River Trust volunteers about freshwater mussel traits and habitats.

On Friday, August 2nd, MRT staff and volunteers met at our Finn Rock Reach property to learn about freshwater mussels. We were lucky to host Emilie Blevins of the Xerces Society. She gave a talk about the importance of mussels to watershed environments and showed volunteers what to look for during a survey.

Emilie provided the group with a guide to freshwater mussels and brought some examples of mussel shells found in Oregon. The western pearlshell is the species we were most likely to find in our Finn Rock Reach survey. The Xerces society focuses on conserving invertebrate habitats.

Emilie showing the volunteers what to look for while surveying for mussels.

The Importance of Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels provide food for a variety of wildlife. In addition, they are beneficial to water quality, processing nutrients, and supporting habitats. They filter tiny suspended materials such as algae, bacteria, and zooplankton that bottom dwelling animals can feed on. 

One mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water a day. They can also live to be over 100 years old! Due to their age, they also retain essential minerals. Mussels may improve habitat quality and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates (Known as “benthos”) like caddisflies, dragon & damsel flies, and crayfish. Mussel movements stir oxygen and nutrients into the sediment and water, similar to how earthworms in your garden help your soil. Further, mussel shells provide a surface for algae and animals (such as sponges and insect larvae) to attach.

Mussels played an important role for humans historically. Native populations ate mussels in seasons when food was scarce and used shells for tool parts. Mussels were also exploited commercial for the button industry in the 19th century and later to cultivate freshwater pearls. 

Conservation of Mussels

There are nearly 300 species of mussels documented in the United States. Thirty five species have gone extinct over the last century. The Endangered Species Act lists 25% of mussel species. States across the country list 75% of mussel species as threatened or endanged. 

Support has grown for mussel conservation in recent years, as scientists and conservationists are learning the strong correlation between healthy mussel beds and healthy salmon runs.

In Oregon, the Umatilla and Warm Springs Native American tribes are conducting research and working to conserve mussel populations. Other organizations like the Willamette Riverkeeper and the Xerces Society also conduct mussel research. McKenzie River Trust hopes to find or restore mussel beds in our properties along the McKenzie River at Finn Rock Reach and beyond. 

Mussel Surveying

People are welcome to search for mussels and report any findings with photos to the McKenzie River Trust. Be sure not to remove the mussels from their habitat or harm them in the process of your discovery. 

Volunteers all geared up to search McKenzie River shores for mussels

Emilie taught the Friends of Finn Rock group to look for mussels in shallow, slow moving waters. A glass bucket or aqua viewing tube helps to see under the water. For advanced swimmers, snorkeling is also an option for surveying mussels. While our group didn’t find any mussels in this survey, the life we found was exciting. They noted seeing Chinook salmon hatchlings, caddisflies, a lamprey, and crayfish.

Would you like to participate in future community science surveys and projects? Sign up for our volunteer team today!

Native Oaks Ridge Protected!

326 acres protected for conservation in the Row River Drainage

Photos by Matt McRae

The tangled branches of a gnarled Oregon white oak glisten as the sun makes its way out from behind a cloud. Landowners Linda and Doug Carnine look out at this 326-acre expanse of oak savanna, oak woodland, upland prairie and conifer forest above the Row River. They watch spring unfold on the land they have stewarded for nearly two decades with a sense of contentment and excitement.

This spring has a slightly different feel to it, however. This year the Carnines are watching the wildflowers bloom and the trees come to life on a landscape that has been protected forever through a conservation easement with the McKenzie River Trust.

The Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided funding for the protection of this property through a competitive process within the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program.  The Willamette Wildlife Habitat Agreement, which created the funding program that funded the acquisition, was signed in October of 2010 between BPA and the state of Oregon.  This 15-year agreement provides stable funding for wildlife habitat acquisitions for more than 26,000 acres in the Willamette Valley to offset the impacts of federal dams on the Willamette River and its tributaries, as required by the Northwest Power Act. The landowners, Doug and Linda Carnine, also donated a portion of the easement value.

The Legacy of Stewardship Continues

The significance of this land is rich with a history of stewardship. Linda and Doug point out that the conservation on this land didn’t start with them.

This land is in the area of the Village of Chief Halo Tish of the Yoncalla Kalapuya Tribe. The oak savannas were used by Native Americans for harvest of important foods such as acorns and camas. The name Native Oaks Ridge honors that history.

The Carnines will continue to work with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon on managing the property.

Holistic Land Management

For years, the Carnines have enhanced this land for native plants and wildlife, encouraging a variety of habitats on land once primarily managed for timber.

Starting with the forest, they began restoring the diversity of trees. “A lot of slashpiles from timber harvests were left behind leading to a blackberry jungle,” says Linda of what the property looked like when they first bought it.

“We eradicated most of these with heavy machinery. Then we were able to replant western red cedar, valley pine and incense cedar.”

Grant funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped with forest management like pruning and thinning. “We wanted to include a special forest management area that offers an alternative to monoculture Douglas fir forests,” says Doug. “Species and age diversity of the trees contributes to overall forest health and provides high quality habitat for wildlife.”

The wildlife has taken notice. Between the bird activity and the bear, deer, elk, cougar, bobcat, coyote and fox signs, Native Oaks Ridge provides a home to a host of animals.

Forest management in the conservation easement ensures that the property will continue to be managed holistically. It encourages restoration of oak and prairie habitats, while allowing the landowner to thin for timber.

Restoring oak and prairie habitat

“Today, less than 2 percent of prairie and oak habitats in the Willamette Valley remain. As a result, many plants and animals dependent on these shrinking habitats are threatened or in decline,” says Amanda Gilbert, Executive Director of the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council who is a partner in restoration of this property.

One of the Carnines’ major goals for expanding wildlife habitat on the property sparked a 10-year partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Partners Program: to bring the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly to the prairie.

The Carnines worked with the Partners Program to do a controlled burn on a part of the prairie and seed the area with golden paintbrush, a host plant for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly.

Last summer there were 170 golden paintbrush plants counted in the prairie, making this one of the healthiest populations in south-central Oregon.

“Restoring this oak habitat will add complexity back to the landscape, which in turn will support a greater number of plant and animal species and increase landscape resiliency in the face of climate change,” says Gilbert.

“This property is an importance piece of the whole landscape. The watershed is more than just the rivers in it. What goes on in the uplands affects the rivers below,” says Joe Moll, Executive Director of McKenzie River Trust. The Row River, which feeds into the Coast Fork Willamette River, is currently the drinking water source for the City of Cottage Grove.