Park festival celebrates Portland’s avian diversity

At the Sellwood Park Bird Festival, we met Bob Sallinger, holding a swallow plaque painted by his son, Peter.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton
Under the sunny sky, in warm, spring weather, May 13th supplied a perfect setting for the “International Migratory Bird Day” at Oaks Bottom.

“Today, we’re exploring the role we play in protecting migratory birds,” is how Bob Sallinger, Urban Conservation Director, Portland Audubon Society, explained the activities at Sellwood Park, overlooking the Oaks Bottom wetland. “We call it a ‘bird festival’, and hope to make people more aware of the bird diversity we have here in the urban landscape.”

Asked how the event might accomplish this goal, Sallinger told us, “When we get people to take a walk with us, and they see what’s going on, it helps them understand our mission. There is no better way than to have people simply look up! I’ve worked for Audubon for 14 years, and I’ve heard so many people tell me they never really look.

Elizabeth Kramer, Audubon Society educator, spent the day checking in people for the bird walks. She talks with Carole Harmon.

“When we talk them for a walk, even in this urban environment, they are surprised to find we have nesting bald eagles, and blue herons, falcons ‚Äì in fact, more than 209 species just in the metro Portland region.”

Mayor speaks and signs
In addition to the Audubon Society hosted guided tours of Oaks Bottom, the event in Sellwood Park featured a half-dozen craft, activity, and informational booths for adults and kids to enjoy.

Mr. Sagar, Steve Feiner and daughter Rachel, Malina Sagar, and their families say they came to the Bird Festival to see birds, and take the kids for a beautiful walk.

At the US Fish and Wildlife “Conserving Nature” exhibit, Maxwell Schmidt is working on a craft project with the help of his grandmother Kevin Wright.

Emma Rose McMillan has gloves on, protecting her hands as she works at another booth creating crafts.

In mid-afternoon, Mayor Tom Potter came by to be part of the celebration. In an exclusive interview, he told us, “Portland is known for its livability. I believe that birds are an important part of it for all of us.

“Unfortunately, almost a tenth of the 200-some species here are on the endangered list. We must do a better job protecting our wildlife and birds. What this event does is remind people to take a little time, enjoy what you see around you, and take care of our animals and plants.”

At the official ceremony, Portland Mayor Tom Potter signs a “Bird Treaty” certificate, as Miel Corbette, Fish & Wildlife Service, looks on.

Portland cited as a leader in urban conservation
As the ceremony began, Miel Corbette of the Fish & Wildlife Service addressed attendees: “We hold this annual celebration here, because the first ‘Bird Treaty’ was signed here in 2003, dedicating Oaks Bottom as a wild bird refuge. Portland’s forests, wetlands, and river bottoms are home to more than 200 species of birds. The Fish and Wildlife Service launched the Migratory Bird Treaty program in 1999.”

What makes the Rose City unique, Corbette told the gathering, is that Portland is one of only six cities to sign such a treaty, and the only such city west of the Rocky Mountains. “Portland is leading the way in urban conservation.”

Mayor Potter explained the treaty, saying “it’s an agreement among all the city agencies that we work together to protect our migratory birds. We want to assure that they have good nesting areas, and are protected from predatory animals.”

Robera Jortner, Anne Rutherford, and Jan DeWeese make up The Tanagers, performing their song “The Great Pacific Flyway” as part of the official Bird Festival ceremony.

“It’s easy to ‘write off’ urban wildlife habitat,” Sallinger commented to us during the signing ceremony. “But Oaks Bottom is an important place for birds to stop, feed, rest, and have shelter. When endangered species are gone, they’re gone forever. And that’s a very long time.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News ~ Published May 29, 2006

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