July 15, 2012
Bird watching opportunities
in the McKenzie River area
Prime Time to Spot Hummingbirds in Oregon
By Chris Thomas, Oregon News Service
It's hard to believe summer is coming to an end, but the birds know it.
People who band hummingbirds in order to track their migration patterns say the birds already have put on weight for their long journey south - and in Oregon, August and September are the prime time to see them.
Fred Bassett, founder of Hummingbird Research, sometimes invites people to watch the banding process up close, and even lets them hold the birds.
"Now, while we have the bird, I'm going to get some measurements from it. We're going to measure the length of its wing, tail and bill. He weighs 3.1 grams. And that weight, you can stuff nine of those in an envelope and mail him for a first-class stamp."
The leg-band numbers and bird measurements are reported to the National Bird Laboratory. Sometimes, a bird is caught that's already been banded, and they come to the Northwest from as far away as the southeastern United States and Mexico. Even birds just a few weeks old already are migrating.
Hummingbirds survive primarily by eating insects, but the nectar that people put out in feeders gives them a quick energy boost that they appreciate.
Ned Batchelder, who has been banding birds for about a dozen years from Washington state to Utah, advises people not to add food coloring to hummingbird nectar, and says there's even a study under way to see if it's harmful to the birds.
"Nature's nectar is clear. You don't need the red dye. Nature's nectar is sucrose or sugar-water, so by mixing four-to-one, or three-to-one - that's four parts water, one part sugar. Not brown sugar, not honey. That's what, basically, nature's nectar is."
Batchelder says the key to attracting hummingbirds is to keep the nectar in the feeder fresh by changing it every few days. The birds are picky about what they eat and some are territorial, so putting out multiple feeders, either grouped nearby or in different spots, signals to the birds that there's enough for everybody.
Located near milepost 12.5 of Hwy. 126, this 70-acre pond is a storage area for the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s power canal. It has open water habitat, with willow thickets at its eastern edge. Young Douglas-fir grow on the hills to the north of the pond. Other habitats include white oak woodland, orchards and farm fields. Common winter birds include Great Blue Heron, Pied-billed and Western Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded and Common Mergansers, and American Coot. Canvasback and American Wigeon sometimes visit, and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Forster’s Tern and Pacific Loon have also been seen. Common summer birds include Osprey, four species of swallows, Western Wood- Pewee, House Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, Wrentit, Black-headed Grosbeak and Common Yellowthroat.
This route traces portions of three National Scenic Byways - McKenzie Pass - Santiam to the north, Cascade Lakes on the eastern slope, and West Cascades - for some stunning scenery and incredible habitat diversity at nearly 50 prime birding sites. Eleven species of woodpeckers nest between the Santiam and McKenzie Passes, including Lewis’s, White-headed, and Black-backed, plus all three western sapsuckers. Cache Mountain and the Meadow Lake Basin host Blue and Ruffed Grouse and nesting Vaux’s Swift. Waterfalls and river birds abound on the Three Sisters loop with Sahalie and Koosah Falls on the Upper McKenzie River home to American Dipper, Winter Wren, and Harlequin Duck.