2017 Blog Posts

Book Review: On Trails, by Robert Moor

Guest writer, Andrew Goldstein reviews the book "On Trails," by Robert Moor.


The Land Trust's January Nature Night shines a light on trails—their design and construction, and our love of them. To prepare for the talk, our guest writer, Andrew Goldstein, offers his thoughts on a book about trails and nature written by author Robert Moor, titled, On Trails.

by Andrew Goldstein


Guest reviewer, Andrew Goldstein. Photo: Submitted.
Guest reviewer, Andrew Goldstein. Photo: Submitted.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t the book that I thought it would be. But that is no knock on Robert Moor’s “On Trails.” Quite the contrary.

While reading Moor’s book, I found myself contemplating the purpose and nature of essays. This book is really a series of well-crafted essays that may be read alone, but are richer when taken together. A good essay wanders, but does so consciously and thoughtfully, like, perhaps, a good trail. Moor frequently draws us into a specific world—of ants and elephants, hikers and highways—but he does so with the freedom of a walker. Moor’s writing retains enough structure to be coherent and enough playfulness and open air to be enjoyable. On Trails takes advantage of its opportunities to roam, to follow asides and side trails to secret nooks of the human mind, while always returning us—with a mind full of thoughtful analysis, facts, and science—to the matter originally at hand.

What makes Moor’s book successful—as with many successful works of non-fiction—is his blending of cold, hard facts and personalized details. Moor begins the book with his own journey along the Appalachian Trail, which created the idea for this book, then moves on to the scientific world of prehistoric life forms and fossils. Moor reworks elements of timeless themes into a new vision. Part philosophical musing, part scientific inquiry, part travelogue, and part history lesson, we delve into trails both seen and unseen, to gain a broader appreciation for what constitutes a trail. Moor is full of curiosity and he translates his curiosity into a literary forest of ideas that continually reach out to the reader. “To put it as simply as possible,” says Moor, “a path is a way of making sense of the world. There are infinite ways to cross a landscape; the options are overwhelming, and pitfalls abound. The function of a path is to reduce this teeming chaos into an intelligible line.” This is made abundantly clear when Moor strikes out in the Canadian wilderness and quickly loses the trail, his pace slowing to a crawl and his mind second-guessing every decision.

I am first and foremost a reader of novels. If I found the book to be at times dry, it is because I find most such naturalist narratives so. If you like scientific tomes on unexplored aspects of the world, you will like this book. If you like seeking, personal narratives, there are elements of this book that will woo you as well.

Ultimately, the allegory of trails as ways through life is reflected in the book itself. “This book, in its admittedly oblique and winding way, has been a search for the wisdom of trails,” writes Moor. “It is the wisdom required to reach one’s ends while making one’s way across an unknown landscape…” In that sense, it is up to the reader to carry the thread that Moor creates out into the world. We are all on a trail through life, trying to determine the best path. Do we go the way others have, or try to blaze a new trail with possibly greater rewards?

Moor is undoubtedly thorough. He has done his research and it is apparent that he has taken ample time to bring his ideas to maturity. By the end of the book, one is left with the feeling that it had to be like this. Moor begins at the beginning because, as human beings in the world (and in time), we are at the mercy of circumstance. Moor shows that our trail building does not stand alone. Trails intersect, they join, they branch off to form newer, more efficient and more beautiful paths. Ours is a journey that is woven together with the world’s many other trail builders. Moor paints a world where the web is made visible, and thankfully, explained. His is a wisdom we need.

This is Robert Moor’s first book, and bearing that in mind, it is an impressive success. One can only hope to bring a little of Moor’s intelligence, curiosity, and attention to detail on one’s next journey, whether it be on the trail or out in the greater world at large.

Learn more:

Andrew Goldstein volunteers for the Deschutes Land Trust and is an avid user of trails in Central Oregon.

 

Your Life on Trails

Nature Night presenter John Schubert, helps you prepare for your life on trails - and gives you some ideas to help get through the winter of 2017!


by John Schubert

Get outside this winter. Photo: John Schubert.
Get outside this winter. Photo: John Schubert.
At the Tower Theatre on January 31, I'll be speaking about “My Life on Trails,” as part of the Deschutes Land Trust Nature Nights series, but far more important is to use this blustery winter to prepare for your life on trails! In this post I’ll share some websites to help you do just that, as well as suggest some great books and videos to curl up with this winter.

Leave No Trace
With Central Oregon’s population growing so rapidly, it is essential that we learn to have less impact, so that our trails and wild lands remain as pristine as possible. I encourage a quick review of Leave No Trace principles, or LNT, as many refer to it. I am a big fan of Dave Collin’s Clever Hiker website and suggest his lively LNT video. From there you can link to the rest of his insightful videos, including Staying Found, Snake and Cougar Safety, and many others. Though Dave’s focus is on backpacking, most everything he shares is applicable to day hiking.

Another great series of very short videos on best LNT practices is available from Friends of Cedar Mesa, stewards of our newest National Monument, Bears Ears NM in SE Utah!  Though the videos focus on Utah slick rock, the principles apply equally to the Oregon high desert and canyons, such as lower Whychus Creek — as well as our forest and alpine landscapes. Take a look at all the incisive videos, especially “Leave All Artifacts” and “Avoid Building Cairns”. My favorite is about trekking poles! In addition to the damage that the metal tips can do to archeological sites, unless used carefully, they can also kill plants along trail edges and loosen soil, thus causing erosion and trail widening.  Fortunately there is a simple solution!

The Ten Essentials

Another great way to prepare for the upcoming hiking season is to make sure your pack is ready to go with all the essentials for a safe outing. I think of the Ten Essentials as whatever I’d like to have if I unexpectedly have to spend a night out, especially if I or someone in my group (or another hiker I’ve come across) is injured. In my years on the trails, I’ve spent a few unexpected nights out, and was glad for everything I was carrying.

Further, having what we need and knowing how to use it can eliminate the need for many Search and Rescue (SAR) missions, which endanger and consume precious time of the Sheriff’s office and their volunteers.

Finally, taking a Wilderness First Aid class is a fabulous investment of time to make sure you know how to use a first aid kit and gracefully make it through the unexpected.

Winter Viewing
My favorite source on-line for free outdoor videos is the National Film Board of Canada. My favorite filmmakers there are Leanne Allison and her wildlife biologist/adventurer husband Carsten Heurer. My favorite film of theirs is Being Caribou, a fabulous tale of their migration with the Arctic Caribou Herd.

Following the links at the bottom of that film’s home page will lead you far and wide, including to Finding Farley, a wild tale of an epic journey across Canada with their infant child, to meet their hero author Farley Mowat. Then read some of Mowat’s classic nature books!

Planting along Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.
Planting along Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.

Make Plans to Help Steward Central Oregon Lands
Right away, take the Discover Your Forest Survey about the importance to you of Central Oregon National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland! Then, in anticipation of spring and summer’s arrival, leave room in your calendar to join the Land Trust’s inspiring stewardship and volunteer activities: planting restored Whychus Creek meanders, monitoring birds and animals, become a Weed Warrior...

And of course, plan your summer hikes!
Trail Guidebooks: One of my duties as a trails specialist was to help guidebook authors and map makers keep information current for hikers and include Leave No Trace guidance to protect sensitive areas — I still do this in my spare time. William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes/Travel Guide to the Central Oregon Cascades, as well as his guides to other regions of the state, are the very best, by far, for every corner of Oregon. Combined with his Atlas of Oregon Wilderness and a good map, you’ll be set to explore trails from one end of the state to the other. No other guidebook is updated as regularly in consultation with land managers, few other guidebook authors are as concerned about Leave No Trace ethics, and no other author will send you a copy of a book in exchange for sending in corrections.   

Guided Hikes: Of course, Land Trust guided hikes are among the best in Central Oregon. Become a member and you’ll be in the know for all their great hikes and other activities.
Remember, if a hike is full, sign you name to the wait list and mark the day on your calendar. Spots often open up as the hike approaches!

Finally, winter reading!
If you are good to go on your LNT, ten essentials, first aid and summer planning, or just need a relaxing break during a long storm, here are some highlights from my recent reading:

  • On Trails: An Exploration, by Robert Moor. An up and coming writer travels far and wide, literally and figuratively, to explore the deep origins and purpose of trails. 2016. Read a review written by Land Trust volunteer, Andrew Goldstein.

  • Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina. One of America’s most esteemed wildlife biologists talks straight about what we know and are just learning about animal intelligence — focuses on Elephants, Wolves, and Orca — the latter two signature creatures of the Pacific Northwest. Very moving. 2015.

  • Biography of a Place: Passages through a Central Oregon Meadow, by Martin Winch.  Central Oregon historian, Martin Winch, explores our rich history and pre-history through the lens of Camp Polk Meadow, one of the Deschutes Land Trust’s flagship preserves. In the telling, the long history of our trails comes into clear focus. 2006.

  • The Invention of Nature:  Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. A fascinating account of a Prussian naturalist who changed the world of natural history via his far flung explorations and collaborations. Among those irrevocably changed: John Muir, Charles Darwin, and Henry David Thoreau. Von Humboldt was world renowned in the 19th century, but until this book, all but forgotten in America despite his name all over our maps (several Humboldt counties, a mountain range, a river and an ocean current). 2015.

  • New Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon, by Jerold Ramsey. Includes nine essays by a Central Oregon native son, reflecting our our culture and natural world, upon returning after a life away in academia. You’ll never look at our towns, mountains, rivers, canyons or trails the same. Far and away my favorite book about our home. 2003.

 

My Life on Trails with John Schubert

Trails specialist John Schubert presented our January Nature Night, "My life on trails". Enjoy slides from his presentation and find his suggested resources to learn more about trails, Leave No Trace, and more.

Thanks to those of you who came out to our January 31st Nature Night, My life on trails. It was a great presentation full of fascinating information from trails specialist John Schubert.

 Enjoy the slides from John's presentation below. Then, scroll down for links to resources provided by John about trails, trail etiquette, and how to get involved locally.


If you have trouble viewing the slides below, click here.

 


 
Additional resources suggested by John Schubert:

About John Schubert:
John Schubert is a retired trails specialist with the Deschutes National Forest. During his 30 years based in Central Oregon, John designed and supervised construction of many well known local trails including Alder Springs, Tumalo Creek, and upper Whychus Creek. John holds a B.A. from Middlebury College and leads trail building workshops in National Parks and Forest around the country. In his spare time, John, a life-long naturalist, explores the remote corners of Oregon by foot, kayak, ski, and bike, always with books, camera, Irish whistle, and friends to keep him company.

 

Of amphibians and antifreeze

Winter is harsh for a multitude of species -- humans included. How do amphibians cope when temperatures dip below freezing?


Winter at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
Winter at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Photo: Kris Kristovich.

Winter is a harsh season for wild creatures. Temperatures drop, food becomes scarce, and shelter is more difficult to come by. Animals have a variety of ways they can cope--stockpiling food through the fall, burrowing through the snow to take advantage of more stable temperatures below the snowpack, and entering into a deep sleep that is only awakened by the promise of spring.

But what about more aquatic species like frogs? How do they survive the cruel temperatures of winter, when icy waters are unforgiving and freezing air numbs skin in mere seconds? Frogs and toads have a number of strategies for winter survival, but their tactics differ if they are aquatic or terrestrial species.

Pacific tree frog. Photo: Land Trust.
Pacific tree frog. Photo: Land Trust.

Many terrestrial (land-based) frogs live most of their life on land, even during the winter months. Some frogs are excellent diggers and will tunnel their way below the frost line to wait out winter’s chill. Frogs that are not as adept at digging, like the Pacific tree frog, instead seek out deep cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or burrow as deep as they can in leaf litter. These frogs are more susceptible to freezing, but another defense mechanism can help keep them alive through the harshest conditions--antifreeze!

Frogs can actually freeze solid and ice crystals can form in their bodies, under their skin, and in their bladders. Frogs will stop breathing and their hearts will stop beating, making them appear to be dead. But quite the contrary! High concentrations of glucose (sugar) and sugar-alcohols course through their bodies and protect vital organs and individual cells from freezing. Their bodies begin to wake with the warmer temperatures of spring, returning their organs to normal function so they can begin feeding and breeding.

Aquatic species of frogs, like the Oregon spotted frog, take a different approach to winter survival. Contrary to popular belief, many aquatic frogs do not bury themselves in the mud during the winter months. Aquatic frogs require oxygen-rich water, so they can respire through their permeable skin. They often hibernate at the bottom of ponds, lying on top of the mud or partially burying themselves in it. If frogs completely submerged themselves in the mud, they would suffocate. The rising temperatures of spring warm the water slowly, waking these amphibians from their winter slumber.

Want to know more about amphibians, and the Oregon spotted frog? Join us at our February 22nd Nature Night with biologist Jay Bowerman! Registration is open and seats are still available!

Learn more:

 

The Oregon spotted frog with Jay Bowerman

Biologist Jay Bowerman presented our February Nature Night on the Oregon spotted frog. Enjoy the slides from his presentation and other resources to help you learn about the Oregon spotted frog.

Thanks to those of you who came out to our February 22nd Nature Night on the Oregon spotted frog. It was a great presentation full of fascinating information about this little frog and it's habitat presented by biologist Jay Bowerman.

 Enjoy the slides from Jay's presentation below. Then, scroll down for links to resources that will help you learn more about the Oregon spotted frog.


If you have trouble viewing the slides below, click here.

 

 

Additional Resources:
Oregon spotted frog information from US Fish and Wildlife Service
Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia: A Field Identification Guide
How to catch a bullfrog
More information on protecting the species

Jay Bowerman
Jay Bowerman holds a M.S. in biology from University of Oregon where he studied salamander chromosomes. After 20 years as the executive director of the Sunriver Nature Center, Jay has returned to biological research that focuses on amphibian ecology. He is the author of more than twenty journal papers ranging from amphibian deformities to leeches. In recent years Jay has focused on mentoring young scientists while continuing studies of western toads, Oregon spotted frogs, and the impact of introduced species, especially bullfrogs, on native amphibians. In his spare time Jay and his wife Teresa stay involved in a variety of local cultural events such as the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival and the Hoedown for Hunger at Bend's Community Center. Most recently they have been learning to be grandparents.

 

9 Facts about black bears

Brush up on your black bear knowledge and check out Bear-a-palooza, a wildlife cam slideshow before our March 22nd Nature Night!


A mother and two cubs. Photo: Land Trust.
A mother and two cubs. Photo: Land Trust.
Our last Nature Night of the season is near, and wildlife biologist Dana Sanchez will be speaking about black bears. Bring yourself up to speed with a few bear facts, and enjoy the wildlife cam slideshow and that we dubbed, Bear-a-palooza.

Start off with these facts (as referenced from www.defenders.org).

  1. Big things come in small packages.
    Black bears are the smallest bear species in North America, and are only found in North America. Males have an average weight of 150-300 lbs. In comparison, a male grizzly bear can weigh 300-850 lbs.

  2. High five!
    Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that help make them great tree climbers.

  3. Black is the new black.
    The fur of eastern black bears is usually all black, but in the west, their fur can be brown, cinnamon, or blond.

  4. Are you going to eat that?
    Black bears eat everything! From berries to nuts, insects to salmon, these bears aren't picky.

  5. Safety in numbers.
    More than 600,000 black bears live in North America and about half of them live in the U.S. They reside in at least 40 states.

  6. 30 is the new 20.
    The average lifespan of a black bear is about 10 years, but they can live to nearly 30 years in the wild.

  7. "But I'm not tired!"
    If there is ample food and the weather is mild in their region, some black bears may not hibernate at all, or they might hibernate for shorter periods of time.

  8. Black bear, party of one.
    Black bears like to be alone, but they will forage with others if there is enough for everyone to eat in one area.

  9. 6 is a crowd.
    Female black bears can have litters of up to 6 cubs, but 2 cubs in a litter is most common. Females will reproduce every second year.

It is exciting to be able to see active wildlife at Land Trust Preserves through the wildlife cam lens. It is a great reminder that the Preserves are sanctuaries for wildlife, and that watching them from afar is the best way to keep them (and you!) safe. Enjoy the Bear-a-palooza slideshow! (Be sure to click "Show Info" in the upper right corner to see captions).

If the slideshow does not appear, click here.

Black Bears with Dana Sanchez

Wildlife biologist Dana Sanchez presented our March Nature Night on black bears. Enjoy the slides from her presentation and other resources to help you learn about living and playing in bear country.


Thanks to those of you who came out to our March 22nd Nature Night, Behind the Scenes With Black Bears. Dana Sanchez gave a great presentation full of fascinating information about black bears and their habitat, and what we can do to avoid human-bear conflict in urban and backcountry areas.

 Enjoy the slides from Dana's presentation below. Then, scroll down for links to resources that will help you learn more about black bears and how to keep them safe.


If you have trouble viewing the slides below, click here.

 


What can you do to keep bears safe and avoid human-bear conflict? (see the resources below for more ideas)

  • Keep pet food indoors. Feed pets in the house, garage or enclosed kennel.
  • Hang bird feeders from a wire at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 to 10 feet from the trunk of tree.
  • Remove fruit that has fallen from trees.
  • Take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home.
  • Keep barbecues clean. Store them in a shed or garage.
  • Store livestock food in a secure place.


Additional Resources:

Books about tracking wildlife:

  • Mammal Tracks & Sign; A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch.
  • Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest; Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and Invertebrates, by David Moskowitz.

 


 

Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez is an Associate Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife and an Extension Wildlife Specialist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. She holds a PhD in natural resources from the University of Idaho and her research focuses on North American mammals from the very small to the very large. Dana also explores the effectiveness of online learning and how to broaden participation in science professions among members of underrepresented groups. Dana has lived in the West most of her life and in her spare time enjoys gardening and training her dog, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Learn more about Central Oregon Wildlife:

Wildlife in Central Oregon

9 facts about black bears

 

 

The Great Basin Spadefoot

Alan St. John shares some interesting facts about the Great Basin spadefoot--a native to our dry sagebrush terrain with a fascinating "tool" at its disposal.

By Alan St. John

Although Central Oregon's high desert doesn't seem like the kind of place where you'd find moisture-loving amphibians, there is in fact one species native to our dry sagebrush country. It's the arid-adapted Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana).  

 
Ranging in size
The "spade" on the rear foot of a Great Basin spadefoot. Photo: Al St. John.
The "spade" on the rear foot of a Great Basin spadefoot. Photo: Al St. John.
from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, this little toad's common name is derived from a dark, sharp-edged nubbin that protrudes from the heel of each rear foot. These "spades" are used to burrow rapidly backward into soil. It manages to survive in parched environments by remaining underground during dry spells--possibly two years or more when extended droughts occur. Occasionally, when folks dig a well or excavate a basement, these dinky amphibians are encountered ten to fifteen feet below the surface, where the deep dampness maintains sufficient metabolic hydration for them to survive.
 
With the arrival of spring and early summer rains, spadefoots emerge to breed in any available shallow water--seasonal rain pools, lake and stream edges, irrigation ditches, stock ponds, and even the warm, muddy water in a cow hoof print. The males quickly attract large aggregations of both sexes with their loud, monotone choruses of "whaaa, whaaa, whaaa." After hatching, the larvae develop rapidly and can transform from aquatic tadpoles to terrestrial adults in as little as two weeks or less. This allows them to be ready for existence on land before their often temporary pools of water have evaporated under the summer sun. 
 
A Great Basin spadefoot emerging from the sand after a rainstrom. Photo: Al St. John.
A Great Basin spadefoot emerging from the sand after a rainstrom. Photo: Al St. John.
The Great Basin Spadefoot inhabits sagebrush steppelands, salt-scrub deserts, and dry juniper-pine associations east of the Cascades. It is primarily active at night, with a diet consisting largely of insects. Indicative of nocturnal behavior, a spadefoot's eyes have vertical pupils, which quickly differentiates them from other Oregon toad species.  
 
The next time you're driving during a spring cloudburst on the high desert, watch the wet pavement ahead. Chances are, you'll see one or more of these hardy toads hopping purposefully across the road. 
 
Other Land Trust blog posts about amphibians:

 

Other blog posts by Alan St. John:
 
A native Oregonian, Alan D. St. John lives in sage-scented juniper woodlands near Bend with his wife, Jan. Al is a freelance interpretive naturalist who uses writing, photography, and drawings to teach about the natural world. Specializing in herpetology, he has worked as a reptile keeper at Portland's zoological park, and conducted extensive reptile and amphibian field surveys for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, the U. S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. Along with authoring the books, Reptiles of the Northwest and Oregon's Dry Side: Exploring East of the Cascade Crest, his work has appeared in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Country, Nature Conservancy, The New York Times, and other periodicals. 

Fun features of Willow Springs Preserve

Get to know the newest Land Trust Preserve: Willow Springs Preserve!

The Land Trust just announced that we have a new Preserve joining the family: Willow Springs Preserve!  We are still in the early days of getting know the Preserve, but wanted to share some cool features of the property so you too can get to know Willow Springs Preserve.

Three cool features of Willow Springs Preserve:

Cottonwood trees like this one abound at Willow Springs Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.
Cottonwood trees like this one abound at Willow Springs Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.

  • Diverse plant communities: Willow Springs Preserve has a diverse and healthy native plant community. The Preserve is home to a cottonwood gallery forest, which forms a corridor of trees along Whychus Creek. Cottonwood gallery forests occur in floodplains where scouring and soil deposition help the cottonwoods grow. Deer, elk, and beaver enjoy the leaves and shoots of cottonwoods, and large birds will nest in them. Cottonwood gallery forests are in decline in the West, making the one at Willow Springs especially important. The cottonwoods share creekside habitat with an abundant and very diverse willow community (hence the Preserve name). These willows light up the creek corridor each winter and spring with their bright yellow and red stems.

    There are also many aspen stands at Willow Springs Preserve that provide benefits to wildlife. Aspen offer nesting and foraging opportunities for songbirds, bats, deer, beaver, and other wildlife. In winter and spring, aspen release snowpack stored in their shady groves into streams and groundwater. Learn more about aspen.

  • Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.
    Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.
    Cool water temperatures: Just upstream from Willow Springs Preserve are two large, cold-water springs that feed into Whychus Creek and greatly benefit the Preserve. These springs, known as McKinney Butte Springs, provide up to 46% of the creek’s flow in this area during the dry summer months. When Whychus Creek flows past McKinney Butte Springs, the water temperature drops from around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 57 degrees Fahrenheit! This cold water influx is beneficial for steelhead and salmon, making Willow Springs Preserve a great place for these fish.

  • Central Oregon human history: The Wa’dihichi’tika, a Northern Paiute group, had a home district that included the Willow Springs area. They gathered roots, seeds, and berries, hunted, and likely fished local rivers and creeks, particularly during the spring salmon run. Individual families would travel from place to place for increased hunting and foraging opportunities during the spring, summer, and fall, before reconvening in winter camps.

    Euro-Americans began moving to the Sisters area in the late 1860s. In 1910, there were several portable lumber mills on Whychus Creek near Willow Springs, originally owned by Joseph P. Duckett and John L. Spoo. John’s son Ed took over his part in the company and in 1918, and a larger, permanent mill was built right next to Willow Springs Preserve. Ed used a truck (one of only two trucks in Central Oregon at that time!) to move logs to the mill rather than a horse-drawn big-wheel. The Duckett and Spoo sawmill was the first permanent, commercial mill in the Sisters area, producing enough lumber during each shift to put siding on 250 Hindman barns. The Hindman barn is located just downstream from Willow Springs Preserve at the Land Trust's Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. (Thanks to Martin Winch's book Biography of a Place!)

Learn More:

 

Ten Facts about Golden Eagles

The Land Trust's Aspen Hollow Preserve has a golden eagle nest that is currently being used to raise an eaglet. Learn more about the nests and courtship behavior of these magnificent birds.

What bird dives at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, soars on afternoon thermals, and generally mates for life? The golden eagle! In honor of the golden eagle couple Petra and Rocky, who have a nest at the Land Trust’s Aspen Hollow Preserve, here are 10 fun facts about this majestic bird’s nests and courtship:

1. Golden eagle nests are on average 5-6 feet wide and 2 feet high, weighing hundreds of pounds.

2. The largest golden eagle nest on record was 20 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide!

3. Nests are made up of sticks and vegetation. This may include conifer boughs, grasses, barks, leaves, mosses, lichen, fur, bones, antlers, and human-made objects (like wire and fence post).

4. Sometimes, golden eagles will bring herbs/aromatics into their nest. It is believed this may keep bugs away.

5. Golden eagles may inhabit the same nest for years, or alternate between different nests.

6. New nest material is added every year.

7. Both parents will incubate the eggs, but it is mostly done by the female.

8. Generally, the adult male delivers most of the food to the nest, while the adult female usually feeds the young.

9. Courtship rituals include circling and shallow dives at each other.

10. Nests are mostly built on cliff edges, although they can also be found in tall Ponderosa Pines and very rarely on electric transmission towers.

 


Learn more:

 

Little Boa of the Northwestern Woods

Broaden your appreciation of the outdoors! Learn more about our native rubber boa--the gentle little boa of the Northwestern woods--from guest blogger and herpetologist, Alan St. John.


by Alan St. John

Boas are the victims of bad press. Public perceptions about these snakes have been shaped by too many old, grade-B safari movies with plots revolving around one frightening jungle menace after another. Many directors seemingly can't resist using the image of an immense snake dropping from a tree to envelope some unfortunate actor in its deadly coils.

Don't automatically believe all snake-related depictions that you see in the movies. It's a lesser-known fact that there are also a number of small boa species. One is native to Central Oregon and most of the surrounding Pacific Northwest region, along with the wooded sections of California. This harmless little snake, which usually does not grow much beyond two feet in length, is called the rubber boa (scientifically known as Charina bottae). The common name is derived from the loose, rubbery quality of its smooth, olive-brown skin.  

While its elastic skin alone would qualify it as unique, the rubber boa has a couple other quirky traits that make it one of the most intriguing of our native reptiles.  

A rubber Boa displaying its blunt tail as a fake head. Photo: Alan St. John.
A rubber Boa displaying its blunt tail as a fake head. Photo: Alan St. John.


One rather odd characteristic of this slow-moving, thick-bodied snake is the bluntly rounded tail that bears a remarkable resemblance to a secondary head. Consequently, the rubber boa is sometimes called the "two-headed snake" or "double-ender." The snake uses this fake head to its advantage when confronted by danger.  Shy and retiring by nature, a rubber boa will not bite to protect itself.  Instead, it simply rolls into a tight ball, hides its head beneath the coils of its body, and then displays the tail as a decoy "head." Occasionally, a rubber boa will even jab about with the tail, simulating a striking movement. In this way a predator is attracted to the more expendable tail, while the actual head is protected from harm. The tip of the tail features a large, solid scale plate that creates a protective hard cap to deflect the bites of attacking animals. Additionally, a bad-smelling musk is emitted to repel enemies.

Because most kinds of boas are tropical, the rubber boa bears the distinction of being the most northerly ranging of all its family. It reaches the limits of its distribution in mid British Columbia, Canada. Although rubber boas occur throughout all but the most arid deserts and damp, shady coastal rain forests of the Northwest, it's very secretive and rarely seen. Most of the daylight span is spent beneath logs and rocks, in rodent tunnels, or burrowing in leaf litter. As evening shadows lengthen or during cloudy mild weather, the little boa creeps from its hiding place to search for food. On warm summer nights it may continue to hunt throughout most of the nocturnal hours. The rubber boa eats a variety of small animals, including such items as lizards, other snakes, insects and nestling birds (it's a good climber), but the primary favored food source is small rodents.  It's particularly fond of young mice that are still in the nest, using its all-purpose blunt tail to fend off attacks by mother mouse.  In typical boa fashion, prey is subdued by constriction. Two or more loops of the snake's body are quickly wrapped tight around the victim, the intense compression causing death from suffocation and heart stoppage.  

Like all other boa species, rubber boas are "live-bearing" (viviparous). One to eight young are born in the late summer or early autumn. Baby rubber boas are about seven inches in length and have a pleasing pinkish-tan hue. In fact, these dinky infant boas can sometimes initially be mistaken for a similarly colored earthworm.

Hiking in Deschutes Land Trust Preserves and just about anywhere else in the Bend area offers a possible encounter with a rubber boa. It inhabits not only the pine forested slopes of the Cascades (especially the borders of meadows where there are rotting logs for cover), but also eastward into the semi-arid juniper woodlands. Although not truly a desert reptile, rubber boas have been found in crevices at Fort Rock amid the sweeping sagelands.  

Learning about this interesting and often overlooked animal can add a broader dimension to one's appreciation of the outdoors. Should you chance upon a rubber boa during your next jaunt along a trail, slow down for a close look and make a new acquaintance. Being slow-moving and non-flighty, probably no other snake is easier to get to know than our gentle little boa of the Northwestern woods.


Other Land Trust blog posts by Alan St. John:

 

About Alan St. John

A native Oregonian, Alan D. St. John lives in sage-scented juniper woodlands near Bend with his wife, Jan. Al is a freelance interpretive naturalist who uses writing, photography, and drawings to teach about the natural world. Specializing in herpetology, he has worked as a reptile keeper at Portland's zoological park, and conducted extensive reptile and amphibian field surveys for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, the U. S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. Along with authoring the books, Reptiles of the Northwest and Oregon's Dry Side: Exploring East of the Cascade Crest, his work has appeared in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Country, Nature Conservancy, The New York Times, and other periodicals.

 

Bats of Central Oregon

Summer is prime time to view bats out and about in Central Oregon. So grab your chair, set up at dusk, and to see what's flying! Ecologist Tom Rodhouse leads the way...


Summer is prime time to view bats out and about in Central Oregon!
So grab your chair, set up at dusk, and to see what's flying. Our native bats eat insects--several hundred a night--so head to some place where the insects fly. Lakes can be a hot spot since bats will drink and hunt for insects there. But, your local street corner or your front porch will also do since the street/porch lights will attract insects. Then, be patient and quiet. You'll often hear the chirping of a bat before you'll see it. When you do see one, you'll need some background on our local species. We are here to help!

We asked National Park Service ecologist, Tom Rodhouse, for some local species to watch for and here is his list:

  1. Spotted bat (Euderma maculatum). The spotted bat is a favorite because it has huge pink ears and three large white spots on its back against a black background. Rarely seen or captured by biologists during surveys, the spotted bat is a desert dweller that roosts only in really large cliffs along desert canyons and open forest meadows, and flies high, chasing down large moths. It can be heard during its foraging bouts at night by its tell-tale chirping or clicking calls that are audible to the unaided human ear--unique among Oregon's bats. Learn more about spotted bats.

    Spotted Bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Spotted Bat. Photo: Michael Durham.


  2. Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus). The pallid bat is one of central Oregon's largest bats and specializes on capturing crickets, scorpions, and centipedes. It has huge ears like the spotted bat but is otherwise distinctive because its fur is a yellow tawny color. Pallid bats are also desert specialists and are very social, forming large maternity colonies in the desert canyon cliff walls. Learn more about pallid bats.

    Pallid bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Pallid bat. Photo: Michael Durham.


  3. Canyon bat (Parastrellus hesperus). The canyon bat, formerly called the western pipistrelle, is the smallest bat north of Mexico. It too is a desert dweller that comes out early in the evening so it is frequently seen flitting about chasing small flies and mosquitoes in, of course, desert canyons. It can sometimes be seen during the day along the lower Deschutes and John Day rivers sneaking out of its cliff crevice roost for a quick drink. Learn more about canyon bats.

    Canyon bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Canyon bat. Photo: Michael Durham.


  4. Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus). The hoary bat is the largest bat in Oregon and is migratory, arriving the region in spring and departing in fall, rather than staying to hibernate. The hoary bat is a very strong, fast flying bat that sometimes can be seen chasing other bats (although not to eat them, it too is an insect eater). Hoary bats are unique because they roost in the foliage of cottonwoods and other deciduous trees. They are not desert specialists but do frequent desert canyons as well as the west-side forests of Oregon. Learn more about hoary bats.

    Hoary bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Hoary bat. Photo: Michael Durham.


  5. Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). The little brown bat has been considered America's most widespread and common bat. However, in recent years this perception has been forcibly changed as little brown bat populations in eastern North America have been decimated by the bat disease white-nose syndrome. So far, little brown bats in Oregon appear not to have been infected by the disease although it has spread in to Washington so it may only be a matter of time. Little brown bats are one of several plain brown bats with indistinct markings that live in Central Oregon. Little brown bats are commensal with humans, meaning that they will share our residences, sometimes roosting in attics, or hanging out under porch eaves while resting in between foraging bouts. Learn more about little brown bats.

    Little brown bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Little brown bat. Photo: Michael Durham.


Learn more about:

 

Sense of Place

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. But what, you ask, is sense of place?


by Sarah Mowry

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. But what, you ask, is sense of place?

The simple words themselves suggest understanding where you live. On the surface that may mean understanding your local geography—where are you on the map? But the concept of sense of place is deeper than that. It’s more than the map. It’s what is under the map, who lives on the map—human and wild, what human and natural history influenced the map, and the future the map holds.

The Dictionary of Human Geography defines sense of place as “the attitudes and feelings that individuals and groups hold vis a` vis the geographical areas in which they live. It further commonly suggests intimate, personal and emotional relationships between self and place” (Gregory, Johnston, Pratt, Watts & Whatmore, 2009, p. 676).  

It is the intimate and personal connections that drive sense of place. It means truly inhabitating the place where we live. Digging deep to understand the natural and cultural history of a place and then committing to making that place better. It means stepping out of the busyness of our daily lives to truly connect to our neighbors, the earth, and our local community.

Dig in and get to know your place! Photo: Jay Mather.
Dig in and get to know your place! Photo: Jay Mather.

In our modern, fast-paced era, we are becoming less and less connected to place. We move more often to new communities. We stay inside, and we “connect” via online communities. We are beginning to lose our sense of place, and our communities—and the earth—are suffering for it.

So how do we re-invigorate our sense of place? The first step is to understand sense of place and how it applies to our home in Central Oregon. That’s why the Land Trust invited author John Elder to speak for our September Nature Night. John has a great deal of experience teaching and talking about sense of place. His presentation will focus on place and affiliation and offer a vision of nature and culture, citizenship and stewardship. We hope you’ll join us to learn more!

You can also read up on sense of place with the following seminal works of environmental literature:

  • Carson, Rachel. The Sense of Wonder
  • Elder, John. Reading the Mountains of Home
  • Leopold, Aldo.  A Sand County Almanac 
  • Muir, John. The Mountains of California
  • Nabhan, Gary Paul & Trimble, Stephen. The Geography of Childhood
  • Orr, David.  Earth in Mind and Ecological Literacy
  • Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony
  • Snyder, Gary. The Practice of the Wild
  • Sobel, David. Place-Based Education
  • Stafford, Kim. Having Everything Right
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Other Writings
  • Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge
  • Wilson, Edward O. Biophilia and The Diversity of Life

     

Common Questions about Wildfires in Central Oregon

This summer's wildfires have greatly impacted Central Oregon. Learn more about these wildfires from NW Incident Management Team 8 Operations Chief and Deschutes Land Trust board member Rod Bonacker.

An interview with NW Incident Management Team 8 Operations Chief and Deschutes Land Trust board member, Rod Bonacker

Questions by Jana Hemphill, Deschutes Land Trust Outreach Manager


When a fire burns in a place that has already recently burned, does it usually burn better or worse?

It depends on how the first fire burned. Factors to consider include: how long ago the first fire burned, what it burned, and what has grown back.

The Milli Fire from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
The Milli Fire from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
If a new wildfire occurs in an area where a recent fire occurred, or where fuel treatment has occurred to remove small trees and brush, then the premise is that the fire behavior will be reduced because fuel loading has been reduced. However, if it has been many years since the fire burned and there are large dead fuels like snags and logs left, or the vegetation has returned with small trees and shrubs, then it is in a more flammable state. Fires in old fire scars may burn in a lower profile closer to the ground as they consume downed wood. Logs burning and smoldering on the ground for days can cause more soil damage than a quick-moving crown fire in the tops of trees. 

 

Are there names for different patterns that fires have? 

No, although oftentimes you will hear reference to "Mosaic" burns, which simply means there is a complicated pattern of live and dead trees or you might hear a fire referred to as “Stand Replacement,” which means the majority of the trees in the area have been killed.


Can you explain fire containment lines? Are they generally successful? What enables/helps a fire to jump the containment line?

Fire containment lines may be natural such as rivers or rocky slopes or existing barriers such as roads, or they may be constructed by hand (handline) or by machine. Occasionally, we can create a temporary containment line with water or fire retardant.

Containment lines are meant to stop the spread of the fire in the direction it is going, but they are not always successful. The lines may not be wide enough for the existing fire behavior and spot fires are commonly a problem because embers can be carried by wind as far as one mile away, creating new fires.

 

Once a fire has been established, what are the top factors/forces that keep it burning?

Fires need fuel (trees, shrubs, grasses). They need oxygen in the form of wind and they need heat in the form of temperature and reduced humidity. All of these things contribute to fire spread. Topography can also be a factor as fires tend to move fast upslope.

 

Regarding the Whitewater fire: how does a lightning strike smolder in a tree for almost a month?!?

Well, the Whitewater fire ignition was detected quickly, shortly after the lightning storm passed through. See Inciweb for detailed fire information, maps and photos from the Teams on site: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5420/.

But it’s true that fires can smolder for long periods of time if they get into the right environment, which is typically the base of the tree. Lightning can travel down to the tree roots underground and smolder as long as it has some oxygen getting to it to maintain the fire. Then warmer weather, wind, and decreasing humidity can bring it to life.

 

Are fire lookout towers still used by the Forest Service in Oregon? What other methods of detecting fire are used?

They are not as common as they once were, but there are still many active lookouts in Oregon. Black Butte in Sisters is one of the most prominent, but in Central Oregon we also have lookouts at Lava Butte, Round Mountain, East Butte, Walker Mountain, Odell Butte, Hinkle Butte (right above Camp Polk), and Wolf Mountain, plus several other places.

Fires are also commonly detected by fixed wing airplane patrols and occasionally by citizens who see smoke and call it in. Another method that is getting more prominence is the use of fixed cameras and remote detection systems where cameras are placed on high spots, and then transmit to a central viewing room where electronic equipment senses changes in the viewing picture and triggers an alarm for a human to come look at them to see if it is a bird or an airplane or, in fact, is smoke.

 

Is there anything else you can tell us about wildfires that people have been wondering about lately?

People often ask why so many fires are allowed to go on unstaffed and unchecked for so long. The answer is that the sheer number of wildfires and the timing can overwhelm the available forces. Priorities have to be set based on property and lives at risk versus resources at risk, and then suppression resources are assigned to the fires that have the highest priority, leaving many other fires unstaffed. 

People also often say we need more air tankers and helicopters to put the fires out. Air tankers or helicopters with water and fire retardant cannot put fires out acting alone. Retardant is just that­­--it retards the spread of the fire for a short time. To stop a fire, it still requires somehow breaking the continuity of fuels, be it fire lines made by people or machines. Fires will burn until either a massive weather change or until they are physically dug up and extinguished with water by people. Airtankers and helicopters can give you more time, but used alone, they do not put out fires.

 

Thank you for your insight, Rod! 

Cultivating Your Sense of Place

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. How can you cultivate your sense of place in Central Oregon?


by Jana Hemphill

As Land Trust Outreach Director Sarah Mowry mentioned in a recent blog post, “It is the intimate and personal connections that drive sense of place.” Do you feel that you have a sense of place in Central Oregon? Whether the answer is yes or no, how can we develop or expand our sense of place?

Understand Natural and Cultural History
The first way to cultivate your sense of place in Central Oregon is to understand the natural and cultural history of a place. Luckily for us, there’s a wealth of resources for Central Oregon’s natural and cultural history. These resources include visiting the Deschutes Historical Museum, reading Martin Winch’s Biography of a Place, and learning more about the Santiam Wagon Road and Camp Polk Meadow Preserve’s history. The Land Trust also offers history walks, with a couple of good ones coming up in October!

Connect to Neighbors
You’ll also want to connect to neighbors, the earth, and the local community. Do you know your neighbors? If not, go introduce yourself! I know it can be daunting for those of us who are shy, but it can be quick. If you already know some of your neighbors, think about planning a block party to get together and celebrate your neighborhood.

Connect to the Earth
Connecting to the earth is something that Central Oregonians are pretty good at doing! Join the Land Trust on one of our Hikes + Walks this season—our fall colors hikes are a great way to tap into the rhythms of nature in Central Oregon. There are a myriad of ways to connect to the earth here—explore our National Forests, National Monuments, Land Trust Preserves, State Parks, mountain biking trails, and the Deschutes River. Observe the changing of the seasons and what this means in our area—what are the first plants to show their fall colors? What flowers hold on the longest? What does the forest smell like in the cool fall versus the warm summer?

Connect to the Local Community
The Central Oregon community is an incredible group of people. Connect with them by attending local events and supporting local businesses. Ask others what they consider “quintessential Bend” activities. Ideas include going to a performance at the Tower Theatre, tubing the Deschutes River (maybe put this on your list for next summer!), attending the Sisters Folk Festival, buying your veggies at the Bend Farmer’s Market, getting a milkshake at Prineville's Tastee Treet, snowshoeing to the Virginia Meissner Shelter, and visiting Bend’s many breweries. A great way to learn about local businesses is the Instagram account @localizebend.

Make Central Oregon a Better Place
Having a true sense of place means being committed to making that place better. Share in the responsibility of creating a better Central Oregon. You can volunteer with the Land Trust, or other organizations in the area. You can also get involved politically—voting, contacting your representatives, or running for office. Or start even smaller, and bring joy and kindness to Central Oregon through the Bend Joy Project.

Learn more about Sense of Place
Join the Land Trust for our September Nature Night with author John Elder: Coming Home to Central Oregon. John is sure to give you more ideas on how you can cultivate your own sense of place in Central Oregon.

 

Learn more:

Coming Home to Central Oregon

On September 28th, the Land Trust hosted a Nature Night talk with scholar John Elder about sense of place and affiliation. Read a recap from the event and find a list of books John referenced or recommended.


On September 28th, the Land Trust hosted a Nature Night talk with scholar and writer John Elder. John spoke about sense of place--a phrase often used to describe the ways in which a given landscape's geology, climate, forest history, indigenous culture, and patterns of settlement can all influence the experience of living there.

Referencing writers from Jarold Ramsey to William Wordsworth, John wove a story about how we can truly affiliate with a place. Affiliation is "a more active and conscious process of claiming a place as one's own." It means you make the place you live a part of your family. You connect on a personal, emotional level and have an ethical obligation to make your place better. 

John finished his talk with a reading from Gary Snyder's Turtle Island. A simple message for how we go forward:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

 

John Elder's suggested readings:

  • George W. Aguilar, Sr., When the River Ran Wild! Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation, University of Washington Press, 2005

  • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Knopf, 1927

  • Jarold Ramsey, New Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon, Oregon State University Press, 2003

  • Leslie Marmon Silko, "Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination," pdf from The Norton Book of Nature Writing

  • Gary Snyder, Turtle Island, New Directions, 1974

  • Martin Winch, Biography of a Place: Passages through a Central Oregon Meadow, Deschutes County Historical Society, 2006

 

About John Elder

John Elder taught English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont for almost four decades. He continues to teach at the Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and to give frequent talks about environmental topics and nature writing. John holds a PhD in English from Yale University and has received many honors and awards for his teaching and writing. John is also a widely published author with a host of essays and books. Three of his recent books—Reading the Mountains of Home, The Frog Run, and Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa—combine landscape description and discussions of literature with memoir. In 2016 he published a "musical memoir" about immersion in Irish music called Picking Up the Flute. He is also co-editor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing. John, with his wife Rita and the families of their two sons, helps to run a maple-syrup operation in the hills of Starksboro, Vermont.

 

Learn more:

 

 

Wonderful Western larch

When I moved here years ago, I loved the woods, collecting pine cones like an addict and inhaling the earthy smells, but I had no idea what trees I was seeing or smelling.

by Kelly Madden


When I moved here years ago, I loved the woods, collecting pine cones like an addict and inhaling the earthy smells, but I had no idea what trees I was seeing or smelling. The first time I walked into Shevlin Park in the late fall, I saw these gorgeous tall, soft trees that were clearly some type of pine, but the poor stand was dead and ALL the needles were falling off. I thought the trees had some horrible tree disease. Then, I found out it was a Western larch.

A lone larch at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.
A lone larch at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.
Western larch or Larix occidentalis is one of a handful of deciduous conifers that sheds its needles each fall and grows new ones in the spring. The Shevlin Park trees weren’t dead, they were just doing what all deciduous trees do in the fall…getting ready for winter, just like us!

The Western larch grows between 2,000 and 7,000 feet. It likes cool, moist sites with lots of sunshine. The Western larch is fast growing and very tall and straight. They can grow up to 180 feet and have what my friend Kirin calls a “cute cone”—small, narrow and shaped like a nutmeg. It is indeed cute.

A fully grown Western larch will only have limbs on the upper third of the tree. The needles, which feel soft and look feathery, are narrow and flat and are from one to two inches long. They grow from little wood nubs in clusters and turn that brilliant yellow each fall. Come spring they sprout vibrant green clusters that cheerfully herald a new season.

Western larch do not make extensive forests on their own, but rather grown in mixed conifer forests with ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, grand fir, hemlock, an others. They are shade intolerant and once they get going, can grow up to three feet a year. They live a long time, up to 500 years.  

Western larches need frequent disturbance. This means they respond well after fire, wind, or soil movement. The bark, as the tree ages, becomes deeply furrowed and turns a reddish brown making it strong, thick and fire-resistant. The Western larch is also a great tree for wildlife. Bald eagles, goshawks and other raptors like the tall straight trees. As dead standing trees, larch snags are great for owls and woodpeckers and the seeds are valuable food for birds and squirrels. Native Americans chewed the resin as a candy and used the tree’s needles and bark to cure colds and arthritis. Today, the same ingredients are used as an emulsifier in ink and paint.

If you have a chance to get down to Camp Sherman, on the Land Trust’s Metolius Preserve, the Western larches are immediately obvious and lovely and currently at their peak. Hurry out there as they won’t last long!

Learn more:


Sources:

  1. OSU. Oregon Master Naturalist Class, “Forest Ecology” by  Stephen Fitzgerald, Oct. 20, 2012.
  2. Oregon Department of Forestry pamphlet; “Forests for Oregon”, fall 2007.
  3. PSU. Oregon Encyclopedia- Oregon History and Culture 2009.

 

El Niño vs. La Niña in Central Oregon

La Niña is back—what does that mean for our winter in Central Oregon?

By Fiona Noonan

If you’re an outdoorsperson of any kind, hearing “El Niño” or “La Niña” probably elicits a feeling within you, for better or worse. In a bizarre popularization of an otherwise technical meteorological term, it seems that anyone with a vested interest in winter weather has an opinion on El Niño and La Niña, but what are these two phenomena in the first place, and what do they mean for this winter in Central Oregon?

On November 9, 2017, the National Weather Service predicted a 65-75% chance of a “weak La Niña” for winter 2017-2018. This prediction follows a relatively short 2016-2017 La Niña and a 2015-2016 El Niño that was one of the strongest in history.

To understand either El Niño or La Niña—Spanish for “the little boy” and “the little girl,” respectively—you first have to take a dive into the oceanic system known as El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.

ENSO is constant, and you can think of it as warm water sloshing back and forth—or oscillating—very slowly across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño and La Niña are just specific ENSO scenarios that can determine which direction the water sloshes in a given year.

  • In a normal year (image below), easterly trade winds (winds that blow from east to west) carry warm air from the Americas toward Asia. This piles up warm water on the west side of the Pacific, which allows cold, deep water to rise to the ocean’s surface along the coasts of South, Central, and North America. This is known as upwelling, and the cold water brings with it important nutrients that contribute to coastal ecosystem and fisheries health, particularly in South America.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

 

  • In an El Niño year (think the winter before last), the normal ENSO pattern reverses as pressure changes in the western Pacific and surface sea temperatures increase at least 0.5ºC above a normal year (see image below). These changes weaken trade winds and allow more warm water to stay near the Americas. The warmer than average temperatures devastate fish populations in Peru and Ecuador, create big surf all along the coast, and lead to increased precipitation (and incredible skiing) in California’s Sierra Nevada range.

    As for Oregon, El Niño usually brings warmer than average temperatures across the state, and particularly in the Cascades. While this isn’t a death sentence for ski season, it’s usually an indicator of less-than-desirable snowfall.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

 

  • La Niña events, by contrast, basically enhance all of the components of ENSO. Easterly trade winds become even stronger, leading to increased upwelling along the Americas and an average sea surface temperature drop of at least 0.5ºC. While it’s too early to know exactly how La Niña will impact Oregon this year, La Niña generally does increase the chances of heavy storms and precipitation, particularly in the Cascades.

    Remember last winter in Bend? Yeah, that was La Niña.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


So, whether you’re hoping for snowpack to support spring stream flows and fish health, or you just want to make sure that the Bachelor season pass you bought in September will ultimately pay off, La Niña could bring much to be thankful for this winter.


Learn More:

 

Winter isn’t coming

Learn how climate change will impact snow in the Cascades.


by Fiona Noonan

On November 18, Mt. Bachelor had its earliest opening day since 2006, much to the excitement of thousands of Central Oregonians who got in some rare pre-Thanksgiving frontcountry turns. Then, just a few days later, a storm rolled in, carrying with it the promise of extensive, Cascades-blanketing precipitation.

There was only one problem: it was the wrong type of storm for snow sports, and rain was the only kind of blanket draping the Cascades.

In one fell swoop, the rain wiped out roughly half of the snow that had built up on Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters. Even from Bend you could tell that the peaks had reverted back to their autumnal state of exposed rock. At lower elevations, the runoff that resulted from the rain-on-snow event created torrents in the streams and rivers that flow from the Cascades.

Winter, it seemed, had come and gone in a flash flood, getting off to a false start that may become an increasingly common phenomenon in the years to come. In fact, as the impacts of climate change continue to unfold across the planet, the Cascades may offer a window into a future with less snow, more rain, and warmer temperatures.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, did she just say more rain? I thought climate change was going to create a drought-ridden desert apocalypse surrounded by mile-high oceans!”

Before you let yourself sink too deeply into that particular doom-and-gloom scenario, though, there are a couple of Central Oregon-specific climate change predictions to know about.

Most climate change models—mathematical characterizations of atmospheric, terrestrial, and oceanic interactions—predict that temperatures will increase in the Pacific Northwest, but these models to not fully agree on how precipitation will change. Where models do mostly agree is that climate change will cause snowfall to decline in the Cascades and throughout the rest of Oregon.

More rain, less snow is in our future. Photo: Tim Cotter.
More rain, less snow is in our future. Photo: Tim Cotter.
More Rain, Less Snow
There are a couple of possible reasons for this. The first is intuitive: as a rule of thumb, warmer temperatures mean less snow. Therefore, more precipitation will fall as rain at high elevations, reducing snowpack causing melting. Compounding this is a meteorological phenomenon called atmospheric rivers, which carry masses of warm tropical water to the Pacific Northwest and result in storm events that often lead to flooding and other extreme outcomes. Without the cold temperatures needed for snow, atmospheric rivers lead to large rain or rain-on-snow events in the Cascades that will occur more frequently and in greater magnitude with climate change.



Changing Winds, Less Rain
The second reason for a future with snow-free winters takes us much deeper into the climate science weeds: some research suggests that mountain ranges like the Cascades will actually receive less precipitation overall, in part due to decreased wind speed. So how does wind have anything to do with how water falls out of the sky?

In general, westerly winds—which blow from west to east over the Pacific Ocean—push air toward the Cascades. As the air rises it cools rapidly, causing water vapor to condense and release precipitation that normally falls as snow during the colder winter months. Climate change, it turns out, has been decreasing the speed of winds, which rely on temperature gradients to form. Since northern latitudes heat up more quickly than equatorial latitudes, the temperature differences that normally generate wind in the Pacific Northwest are getting much smaller. With less wind, fewer storms make it up into the Cascades, meaning there is less mountain precipitation overall.

Beyond the Cascades
The effects of decreased snowpack don’t stop on the slopes, though. Our rivers depend on snowmelt for summer streamflows and cool temperatures that support fish and other species. Central Oregon’s water storage systems also rely on snowmelt and streamflow timing to properly fill reservoirs, enable agricultural irrigation, and provide adequate drinking water to cities and towns.

The sad reality is that many of these precipitation changes are already visible throughout the Cascades, and by the 2080s Oregon will likely be rain-dominant.

However, don’t lose all hope for mountain snow just yet. The worst of these trends are still to come, so acting now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve mountain ecosystems can help keep our ski season intact longer.


Learn more:

 

Butterflies of Summer

A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are a few to watch for this summer.


A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are a few to watch for this summer:

Dark wood nymph, Cercyonis oetus: This smaller species (<1.75”) displays yellow-ringed eyespots on it’s wing, a bright contrast to its often blackish or dark brown color. Look for this species in July in the grasses. It is a common sight in sagebrush meadows, east-side canyons, and mountain meadows and marshes. They enjoy the nectar of mock orange, mint, alfalfa, rabbitbrush, yarrow, buckwheat and others.

 

 



Anna’s blue, Lycaeides anna ricei (<1.25”): There are numerous different species of little blue butterflies (often referred to simply as “blues”) flitting about our Preserves in the spring and summer. To tell them apart, catch a glimpse of the undersides of their wings. Females display brownish-copper backs, while males are defined by their cool, grainy blue color. “Blues” often gather on damp soil (a behavior called “puddling”) to sip on salts and minerals.

 




Pale tiger swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon: Look for this larger (>3”) butterfly starting mid-April in open woodlands like the Metolius Preserve. Their large black and white stripes and tail spots of reddish-orange can help you identify them. Adults nectar on penstemon, phlox, chokecherry and others, and can often be see in open areas as well as along streams and in canyons.

 

 

 


Pine white, Neophasia menapia: A rather elusive and small (<2”) butterfly, the pine white loves middle elevation forests. In the late summer months, look for these milky white insects in the morning or evening, drinking the nectar of yarrow, pearly everlasting, daisies and thistles. Mid-day, they’re often seen flitting about in the treetops, where they lay their eggs on pine and fir needles so their caterpillar offspring can feed on fresh spring growth.

 

 


Great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele (<3”): Though not as common at Land Trust Preserves, this fritillary is the largest of the species and most distinctive. It’s always exciting to catch a glimpse of one soaring along the creek or cruising the forest margins and meadows in July. With most fritillaries, it’s difficult to distinguish between males and females, but the “great spangleds” make it easy, with males in our region displaying a fiery orange back and females a lovely dark chocolate.

 


You can find these and other butterflies at your Land Trust Preserves! Want to learn more? Join us for a guided butterfly walk!

 

http://www.deschuteslandtrust.org/news/blog/2017-blog-posts/pygmy-short-horned-lizard

The link address is: explore/pygmy-short-horned-lizard