McKenzie River Trust Board Member Bev Hollander shared her thoughts on connection during a time of social-distancing.

Connecting

One way to look at the COVID-19, known as coronavirus, is to see how connected we are world-wide. Yet the irony of things right now is while in the midst of this pandemic, the best advice to protect yourself is to practice “social distancing.” I agree with this advice – it is logical, sound and reassuring – and also believe it will flatten the curve in order to slow down the spread of this virus and prevent a serious breakdown of our health care system. 

Contemplating how to stay connected while we work to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Photo credit: Tim Giraudier

I still think about how connected we all are and wonder how best to maintain that connection while basically quarantining myself. For me, the best and most effective thing I can do is connect with the land. McKenzie River Trust uses that phrase often, it is woven into our work. It’s the title of our events calendar and what we hope to offer towards that connection for you. Right now we are reflecting on the connections we have built in the last 30 years, and how we might support them at a time of distancing and slowing down.

You certainly can remain connected to friends and family via technology.

Some additional ideas for you: Connect (or re-connect) with the earth.  Spend time outdoors in nature. If you go hiking with others, make sure to avoid direct contact with each other. Speaking as a retired RN, breathing the clean moist air outside to help boost your immune system. Spend 20 minutes or so, when the sun shines, and bathe your bare skin in it – face and hands at a minimum.  Vitamin D production is enhanced which also helps your immune system. In addition, being outdoors can help you relax and reduce stress. Too much stress really compromises your immune system.

Finding sunshine is a healthy way to reduce stress while limiting your contact with other people.

Reduce your time listening or reading about the news. I sure get stressed and anxious when I learn too much.  And then separating fact from fiction is a challenge. I suggest getting your corona virus info from the CDC, WHO and local government. 

Turn on some music and Dance!  Meditate and connect with your Self. Binge watch your favorite show.  Exercise. Do jigsaw puzzles. Play cards or some board games. Eat well and also rest well. Laugh a lot.  Reach out to someone to whom you haven’t connected in a while. All of the above will assist you in maintaining strong immunity as well as providing pleasure.

Stay Connected. You can stay connected to us on social media and through email. Reach out, let us know how we can help. 

One of MRT’s basic tenets is to connect people to the land and rivers.  Besides hiking, rafting, fishing, swimming and other outdoor activities that connect us, bird watching is seeing a rise in popularity.  What’s so special for me when I birdwatch is how connected I feel to nature and my environs.  

Belted Kingfisher on Green Island Photo: Kit Larsen

How does one begin birding? 

From a personal perspective, the first thing to do is stop and listen, and I do mean stop in your tracks. If you hear the sound of a bird, try to zero in on its location.  Is it up in a tree nearby or in a bush lower to the ground? In the water? Flying in the sky? The bird’s choice of place to hang out offers insight into its identity. Patience is very important as these creatures are usually very shy and can move very quickly.

Osprey flying. Photo: Kit Larsen

There are numerous how-to resources available online to get started birding. Here are few I like to reference:  

Audubon’s How to Start Birding
Texas Parks and Wildlife Introduction to Birding
Next Avenue’s Birdwatching Primer
Nation Park Service’s Birding for Beginners

You can also join a local bird walk with Lane Audubon Society.

I carry binoculars with a 7 or 8 power.  REI and/or Cabela’s have a range of prices and are a good place to get your hands on a pair. If you’re in Eugene, you should also check out Wild Birds Unlimited on Willamette for advice and a fine selection of binoculars. It takes a bit of practice to coordinate the use of them and find that bird you see up in that tree! My secret is to keep my eyes focused on the subject and bring the binoculars up to my face.  Hopefully, the critter is right there in my scope of vision.  

Identifying Birds

Cedar Waxwing Photo: Kit Larsen

   As you sight a bird and want to identify it, notice if there is anything striking           about its plumage, e.g., bright red on its head, a black circle around its eye,             stripes on its wing or tail – just observe.  Maybe there’s nothing at all that is           striking about its plumage, but how about the shape of the head, shoulders or       beak? How big is it? What about its flight pattern – steady on or dipping and           soaring? Does it make a distinctive chirp or song?

   To identify the birds you spy, you absolutely need a reference book or two and     perhaps a phone app. For a local reference, check out: Birds of Oregon                     and  Birds of the Pacific Northwest (A Timber Press Field Guide) by John                     Shewey. Sibley is a more comprehensive guideFree mobile apps include: 

Connecting to the Community 

If you prefer the company of others, join a group and get out in the field with other birders. Join the bird walks with Lane Audubon, Buford Park, the Wildbirds Unlimited Store or Birds of Oregon and General Science (BOGS). Also, keep an eye on MRT’s calendar, as we sometimes host birding walks on our conservation properties.  Groups can help you sustain your birding enthusiasm and offer knowledge and companionship.  Your next best way is backyard feeding. Wildbirds Unlimited is a wonderful resource to get you going on your home feeding stations. 

And if you want to see wild raptors up close and personal, check out Cascade Raptors on Fox Hollow. They have regular visiting hours and opportunities to watch these birds fly in their specialized cages. 

In addition, online forums offer postings of local sightings and discussions: 

American Birding Associationhttp://birding.aba.org/maillist/OR01 

Lanebirds: https://www.freelists.org/list/lanebirds  

And, if you watch birds long enough, you will eventually recognize a bird by its song without ever laying your eyes upon it. Now that is truly connecting!

MRT Bird Walk from May 2019 at Coyote Spencer Wetlands. Photo: Ron Green

(Special thanks to birder extraordinaire, Kit Larsen, for his advice and suggestions for this article.)

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More Birds Sighted on MRT Properties

Lincoln Sparrow at Waite Ranch Photo: Jim Regali

Marbled Murrelet on the coast Photo: Cary Kerst

Bald eagles nesting. Photo: Cary Kerst