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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work
  • Burrowing Owl
    Spotted Bat in Cave by student Sarah Spencer was one of the paintings entered in the Conservation Habitat Stamp Contest.
    Newsletter Archives

April 2012

Spring 2012: Art and wildlife meet in a new Habitat Conservation Stamp, biologists hope a new study will shed light on the movements of burrowing owls and the ancient ritual of spring migration delights wildlife viewers.


Tracking and mapping burrowing owls in northeast Oregon
Burrowing owl presentation slated for May 9 in Portland
Five reasons to buy a Habitat Conservation Stamp
North Bend artist wins Habitat Conservation Stamp Art Contest
Take a road trip into the heart of spring migration
One Small Thing

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Tracking and mapping burrowing owls in northeast Oregon 

Burrowing Owl
Dan Somers, Oregon State University intern, with a burrowing owl captured in a burrow trap.

Most days this spring, Dan Somers can be found driving along some of the more remote roads in the Powder River basin, stopping every half mile to play the call of a burrowing owl and noting every answering call. It is part of a two-year study to determine distribution of the tiny, long-legged burrowing owls that breed and nest in the basin’s grasslands and dry, open areas.

Burrowing owl distribution is of interest to biologists because the species is disappearing from the west. Once common in its range, today the bird is listed as endangered in Canada, threatened in Mexico, and endangered, threatened, or as a species of concern in most states it inhabits. In Oregon, it is classified as a state sensitive species. A number of factors are believed to limit its population—loss of native grasslands, vehicle collisions and disturbance during nesting season among them, but much more needs to be known to address the population decline.

The study Somers, an Oregon State University graduate student, is working on will map distribution, migratory routes and winter range of the Powder River basin owls. Distribution will be determined by calling and visual sighting, but the migration piece of the study requires trapping up to 20 adult owls and fitting them with small geolocator devices that record the birds’ movements.

“The devices don’t send data, they just record it,” says Brian Ratliff, ODFWbiologist. “We are going to have to find the birds again next year and trap them to recover the devices and download the data.”

Isn’t that a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack? Ratliff doesn’t think so.

“The owls tend to return to the same nesting areas each year,” he says. “It’s a little more complicated with these birds because they live in underground burrows built by badgers or squirrels and sometimes a burrow will collapse, so the owls will move. But, I think we should be able to recapture about 50 percent of them.”

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing owls are the only North American owls that live underground.

By the end of 2013, Somers and Ratliff expect to have a map of burrowing owl breeding and nesting locations and population density estimates. The distribution information will help land managers focus habitat conservation and management and inform decisions on the siting and impacts of energy projects and management of public lands.

The project is funded by a Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant through the federal State Wildlife Grants program. Geolocators were purchased with a grant from Oregon Wildlife (the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation).

Burrowing Owl presentation slated for May 9 in Portland

Nick Myatt, ODFW Wildlife biologist, will discuss the burrowing owl, its life history, factors influencing its decline in Oregon and across the west as well as current research investigating the migration of burrowing owls. The free presentation is sponsored by Oregon Wildlife and will be held on Wednesday, May 9 at 6 p.m. at the Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center of the Ecotrust Building in Portland’s Pearl District, 721 NW Ninth Avenue, Portland. Registration is required. Register online at the Foundation’s website.

Five reasons to buy a Habitat Conservation Stamp

While all of Oregon’s fish and wildlife depend on healthy habitats, there is inadequate funding for restoration projects. To help, the 2011 Oregon State Legislature authorized a Habitat Conservation Stamp. It allows Oregonians to contribute to the conservation of the state’s native species and their habitats through the purchase of a collector stamp.

Western Meadowlark

Here are five good reasons to buy one:

  1. Healthy habitats benefit fish, wildlife and people

  2. Amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and fish all benefit from habitat conservation

  3. Fish and wildlife are big business in Oregon – fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing contribute $2.5 billion a year to the state’s economy

  4. 1.7 million Oregonians enjoy wildlife viewing

  5. Conserving the state’s natural resources for future generations is the right thing to do. In the words of eight-year-old Madisen, “Habitats are animal’s homes, and they have to have like water and like good food and plants.”

The collector stamp sells for $40 a year and includes a free ODFW Wildlife Area Parking Pass worth $22. Revenue will be used for restoration of native habitats.

The 2012 Habitat Conservation Stamp features a western meadowlark in grasslands. Buy a stamp on ODFW’s website and where fishing and hunting licenses are sold. Information on the economics of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing in Oregon is on ODFW’s website.

Sarah Stack
Forester Sara Stack’s painting won top prize in the Conservation Habitat Stamp Art Contest.

North Bend artist wins habitat conservation stamp art contest

Sara Stack of North Bend, Oregon won the first Habitat Conservation Stamp Art Contest with her watercolor of a western meadowlark. Stack, a forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry, enjoys hunting, hiking, kayaking, fishing and working on art projects. Her painting was selected by a panel of five judges from 78 qualifying entries, each of which featured an Oregon Conservation Strategy species in a native habitat.

Photographs of all the submissions are on ODFW’s website.
KGW TV coverage of the art contest and habitat stamp is on Travel Oregon’s website.

Take a road trip into the heart of spring migration

Just off Interstate 84, five miles south of La Grande, the road runs into Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area and a slice of another world—one dominated by the sound of bird song and wetland breezes. Closed much of the year to protect nesting and migrating birds, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 18 – 20, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Area opens up 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.

Scheduled during the height of spring migration and nesting in the Grande Ronde Valley, the annual Ladd Marsh Birdathon is free and open to all. On Saturday, experienced birders will staff several birding stations offering assistance finding and identifying birds. For more information.

One small thing

Many of us think about water conservation as spring gives way to summer, but an article in Clean Water Service’s newsletter points out that we probably use a lot more water than we are aware of. Visit National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative website to see what it takes to produce many common goods.


On the Ground newsletter archives


The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a voluntary, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.


Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021

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