April 19, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore.—Come to the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area in La Grande May 18 through 20 to enjoy an exceptional birdwatching and wildlife viewing experience. The weekend-long Birdathon occurs during the height of spring bird migration and nesting time in the Grande Ronde Valley and gives visitors a chance to readily see species they may never have seen.
The event is free and open to all. On Saturday, experienced birders will staff several stations offering assistance finding and identifying birds. Closed much of the year to protect nesting and migrating birds, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Area opens its paths and viewpoints to novice and experienced birders to enjoy the more than 200 species of birds that live or migrate through the area.
Cathy Nowak, ODFW Wildlife biologist, says visitors will be able to see large numbers of American avocet and black-necked stilts. “We should also see flocks of red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, maybe even a tricolored blackbird.”
Sandhill cranes will be nesting, and a number of chicks should be on the ground during the Birdathon weekend. Spotting scopes will be available on Saturday at prime sandhill crane viewing spots.
A variety of waterfowl will be visible in the area’s marshes including ruddy duck, cinnamon and blue-winged teal and northern shoveler. Raptors of interest include Swainson's hawks and short-eared owls. Ladd Marsh is also the place to see secretive marsh birds—American bittern, Virginia rail and sora are often heard and seen during May.
Friday, May 18
The weekend kicks off with a keynote address and advance registration at the Blue Mountain Conference Center, 404 12th Street, La Grande. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Karen Antell and Cindy Frick will perform Karen’s original songs about birds and birding at 7 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. Eugene author Noah Stryker will speak about the three months he spent in Antarctica researching and photographing Adélie Penguins. Strycker’s experiences on the coldest, windiest, driest, least populated, highest and most remote continent are recounted in his new book, Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica.
The wildlife area will be open all day on Saturday and Sunday from 4:45 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. to those with Birdathon passports. Participants can register and receive their passports at the Friday evening activities, on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Tule Lake Public Access Area.
- Kids’ Activities, which include building and decorating birdhouses to take home, decorating “Bag It for Birds” canvas totes and participating in the Junior Birder and Advanced Junior Birder programs and crafts, will take place from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Blue Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center staff will bring its educational raptors for a presentation on birds of prey. Directors Lynn and Bob Tompkins will talk about the birds and offer a close-up look at owls, eagles, falcons and hawks.
- Lunch will be available for purchase on Saturday.
- Field trips, led by local birders will be available Sunday. Interested individuals are encouraged to pre-register as they fill fast and spaces are limited. There is a $10 fee to participate in field trips. Available spots can be reserved at the Friday evening activities and on Saturday. Information about the field trips and the registration form can be downloaded from ODFW’s website.
The Birdathon is one of several Valley-wide events included in the Grande Ronde Valley SpringFest event that coincides with International Migratory Bird Day and pays homage to everything spring. Join the celebration and delight in art, music, nature, industry and food and wine.
Directions to Ladd Marsh Birdathon
From Interstate 84, take Exit 265, then south on Highway 203 approximately 5 1/2 miles to Peach Road. At the south end of the railroad overpass, turn north (left) onto Peach Road (gravel road) and continue approximately 1.3 miles to the Tule Lake Public Access Area entrance. The parking area and registration site are a short ¼ mile from the entrance gate.
For more information, visit the ODFW website, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/education/outdoor_skills/workshops/ladd_marsh_birdathon.asp
Find high-resolution photos on ODFW’s Flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/odfw/sets/