SE Portland festival celebrates visiting feathered friends

This event is truly “for the birds” – take a look and discover why …

Portland Audubon Society volunteer Virginia Ross shows off Jack, an American kestrel.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Hundreds of avian admirers once again flocked to Sellwood Park on a couple of Saturdays ago to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at a special event.

“Three partners put on the ‘Festival of the Birds’ to bring attention to the migratory birds that pass through here,” said Karen Munday, Urban Wildlife Specialist at the Portland Audubon Society. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Audubon Society, and Portland Parks and Recreation all participate in this event.”

Karen Munday, Urban Wildlife Specialist at Portland Audubon Society, coordinates the festival.

On the intercontinental ‘freeway’ for birds
It’s important to pay attention to migratory birds that pass through Portland, Munday said, “Birds migrate from the northern regions down south, along the Pacific Flyway. Because Portland is a stop along their migratory path, we need to help protect the habitat they use, right here, in our own back yard.”

Visitors to the festival were treated to guided bird walks. On these walks, they learned that 200 different bird species can be found in the greater Portland area. They saw, with the help of their guides, wild bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey, and dozens of species of waterfowl and songbirds that make their homes in Oaks Bottom.

Telling visitors about Hazel, a northern spotted owl, is Audubon’s James Mier.

Meeting feathered friends
Along Sellwood Park’s western walkway, tented stations provided bird-related crafts for kids and information for adults.

“We’re encouraging people to protect urban habitat,” explained Munday. “And, we’re asking them to help make our area more bird-friendly by doing things like planting native plants in their backyards, and keeping cats indoors.”

Youngsters Dakota and Miller Heikes, and Chloe Hemelstrand, get to experience how birds eat.

Along the way, we met Jack. His handler, Virginia Ross, an Audubon Society volunteer, said Jack is an American kestrel, the smallest of the falcon family.

On the arm of another Audubon volunteer, James Mier, we were introduced to Hazel, a northern spotted owl. “She’s about five years old. Her injured wing was damaged; she can’t fly so she’s not releasable.”

Information specialist Nancy Pollot of the US Fish and Wildlife Service helps homeowners learn about the native plants and flowers most favored by migrating birds.

Improving avian habitat
Nancy Pollot, US Fish and Wildlife service, was visiting with those who stopped at her booth, teaching about plants favored by birds.

“This plant is a red osier dogwood,” informed Pollot. “Birds and butterflies love these; and they’re native to Oregon. They grow without much maintenance, and attract wildlife. It flowers in the spring, and by the end of summer, it grows little white berries that the birds like.”

A highlight of the festival was the release a rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk back into the wild, Munday said. “The hawk was set free after nearly three months recovering from an illegal gunshot injury.”

Coloring handbags at the festival are Annecy Crabtree, Mira Henri, and Brandt Henri.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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