Two lost birds, plenty of bird habitat

While Waite Ranch awaits restoration, sedge wrens visit

A sedge wren at Waite Ranch. Photo: Roger Robb

MRT’s former board president Roger Robb was conducting a bird count at the Trust’s Waite Ranch property, on the lower Siuslaw River, in December when he saw a little brown wren, one that didn’t look quite like the Pacific or marsh wrens he expected to see in western Oregon. It was a sedge wren, a species normally found only east of the Rockies and only the third sedge wren ever spotted in Oregon.

Word of rare sightings travels quickly in birding circles, and soon birdwatchers were flocking to Waite Ranch hoping for a glimpse of the little wren. The challenge: Waite Ranch is set to undergo major tidal wetland restoration and is not open to the public. And a bird hundreds of miles from home didn’t need more stress.

What happened next is a tale of community and habitat. Eugene birdwatcher and MRT volunteer Alan Contreras called upon his Florence-area birding friends, who started offering guided tours to small groups, giving people a chance to spot the sedge wren—or wrens, after a second one
appeared—without harm. By the end of January, more than 160 people had traveled to Waite Ranch to see the wrens, and more were scheduled.
“What’s incredible,” said lead guide Daniel Farrar, “is that the habitat is not only good enough to attract a sedge wren, but it’s attracted two of them.”

The coastal freshwater marsh at Waite Ranch is an excellent bird habitat.
McKenzie River Trust volunteer Daniel Farrar