Eagle Watch celebration set for Feb 24-25

This will be 30-year-old Aquila the golden eagle’s last show before retirement.

The 23rd annual Eagle Watch celebration will return Feb. 24-25 at Portland General Electric Round Butte Overlook Park near Madras. The event will feature activities that explore the natural and cultural significance of the eagles and other raptors that inhabit the Lake Billy Chinook area. The free two-day celebration runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Feb. 24 and 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 25.

“Eagle Watch is a perfect event for the entire family to learn about birds of prey” said event organizer and OPRD Park Ranger Erin Bennett. “Birding is a great hobby that anyone at any age can enjoy. All you need is curiosity.”

Eagle Watch is coordinated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) in conjunction with Portland General Electric (PGE), Crooked River Grassland and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS).

Plenty of activites including bird feeder building.

Festivities will be held in “Eagle Village” at the Round Butte Overlook Park’s visitor center, 10 miles west of Madras. On Saturday, visitors can meet OPRD and PGE mascots, build a bluebird house and view wild eagles. Sunday’s activities include bird feeder building, wild eagle watching and a special tribal drumming and dancing presentation by the Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers. A free hot dog lunch will be served both days, with donations supporting the Madras High School JROTC program.

Without a doubt, Saturday’s highlight will be the last appearance of Aquila, a rehabilitated 30-year-old golden eagle that has delighted Eagle Watch visitors since 2010. After this year, she will assume a comfortable life in retirement from public events. Visitors can meet Aquila during Saturday’s lunch.

Round Butte Overlook Park is home to an estimated 11 pairs of bald eagles, and nine pairs of golden eagles. With migratory eagles joining the resident population in late winter, the area is one of the largest gathering spots for eagles in Oregon.

Admission and parking at Round Butte Overlook Park is free. Attendees can buy souvenirs and take part in a daily silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Oregon Eagle Foundation. Indian Fry bread proceeds will support sending local kids to the rodeo. Only cash and checks will be accepted; no ATM is on site.

For more information about the event, call 541-546-3412.

Get involved with restoration efforts at Willamette Mission

Willamette Riverkeeper volunteers plant native species to help restore the floodplain forest.

Willamette Mission State Park, nestled just north of Salem in the Willamette Valley, is a unique area in the Oregon State Parks network. The park’s 1,329 acres are home to one of the highest quality habitats for diverse wildlife species, such as fish, amphibians and birds. However the park, specifically the floodplain forests that surround the Willamette River, is under threat from invasive plants. Over the past few decades, the forests have been overrun with unwelcome flora.

Willamette Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore the Willamette River, is hoping to stem the invading tide. They’ve been on the ground in Willamette Mission since 2013, fighting to restore 417 acres of vital fish and wildlife habitat. They’ve made progress, but can always use more help. They’re throwing two events in the coming weeks for anyone that wants to come out and get involved:

Rubber Boot Ramble
Saturday Jan. 20, 9:30 a.m. – noon

Join Riverkeeper reps for a family friendly nature walk through the floodplain forest in Willamette Mission State Park. You’ll have opportunities to explore on and off trail, taking in the diverse wildlife that inhabit the river basin. It’s also a great starting point to learn more about the habitat, the challenges it faces and how you can help. To register, visit the event website.

Restoration Work Party
Saturday, Feb. 10, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Want to get your hands dirty? This event is for you. Help Riverkeeper reps and Willamette Mission park staff plant trees and shrubs along the edge of a new floodplain forest. You and your family will also learn about the important role floodplain forests play in the Willamette Valley ecosystem. Tools and work gloves will be provided. To register, visit the event website.

A healthy forest floodplain.

Whale Watching Week returns Dec. 27-31 as whales migrate past Oregon coast

Whale Watching Week on the Oregon Coast

Trained Whale Watching Spoken Here volunteers will be stationed at 24 sites along the Oregon Coast.

While many of us will be enjoying our shiny new gifts during the upcoming holiday week, another group of mammals has an entirely different goal: migration.

Gray whales have been cruising past the Oregon coast for two weeks now, part of their annual trip south to the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja, Mexico. Starting in chilly Alaskan waters, the whales swim over 6,000 miles down the west coast of North America. Experts estimate about 20,000 gray whales join the migration each year.

To celebrate the occasion, Oregon State Parks is holding the annual Whale Watching Week, December 27-31. Each day 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers will be stationed at 24 points along the coast, ready to help visitors with whale watching tips and provide fun facts about the aquatic creatures.

Not sure where to start? Stop by the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, which is the info hub for all things whales. The center boasts excellent views of the surrounding surf, several whale exhibits, and free maps and brochures.

One of the newest exhibits is a high-definition webcam, which will be used to live stream whale activity every day of the event. The man behind the camera, Ranger Luke Parsons, hopes the technology will—among other things—create a larger awareness and compassion for whales and marine life. The live streams will be broadcast on the Oregon State Parks YouTube channel,  http://bit.ly/OregonStateParksYouTube, weather permitting.

“Whales are a special part of the Oregon coast,” said Parsons. “Nearly 20,000 people visit our whale watch sites each winter and are greeted by our excellent volunteers. I hope visitors walk away feeling a little more connected to these animals, along with a greater appreciation of our oceans.”

If you think a day spent spotting gray whales sounds fun, visit whalespoken.wordpress.com for a map of the 24 volunteer-staffed sites. You can also visit oregonstateparks.org for more information about extended stays at one of the coastal state parks.