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Bird watchers end up listening.

Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

A symphony of melodious trills could be heard Saturday on Delta Ponds amid the roar of freeway traffic nearby.

Twenty volunteers braved the weather to learn how to monitor and record bird populations for a restoration and recreation project at Delta Ponds.

Bird watching might be a misnomer among veteran ornithologists, said Dan Heyerly of Eugene. "Three-quarters of the time you're not going to see the bird, but you'll certainly hear it," Heyerly said.

The distinctive warbling of certain species is music to the ears of birders.

"A Swanson's thrush has an upward spiraling, flutelike sound that has an ethereal quality," said Dave Irons, volunteer coordinator of the Eugene Stream Team's Delta Ponds project.

Other distinctive songbirds include chickadees, Bewick's wrens and red-winged blackbirds.

"A person with a musical background would be well suited for this," said Rick Ahrens of Eugene.

By recruiting experienced birders, the Stream Team hopes to develop a corps of volunteers who can carry out survey work at Delta Ponds for several years. The job involves two-person teams recording bird calls and sightings at pre-designated sites and routes. One member will observe the birds while the other records the entry into a log.

Based on the information, city natural resources staff will assess bird populations in the natural area, develop species lists, and build a database to evaluate the effect of restoration projects on bird populations, Irons said.

The $7.1 million project involves a partnership with the city of Eugene, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several local Rotary clubs, Oregon State Parks and other state and local agencies, businesses and organizations. The bird census begins April 1 and runs through May 31, Irons said.

The volunteers traveled the 1.5 mile path along the eastern side of the pond armed with high-powered binoculars.

"You have to have a little bit of a cardio workout here," Irons said as he led the volunteers on a brisk walk.

For Heyerly, the thrill of birding comes from spotting non-native species, he said. Originally an angler and a hiker, he soon became a bird aficionado on his outings, he said.

"I'd be out fishing and end up watching the birds. Pretty soon I left the fishing pole at home. The nice thing about birding is you never get skunked," Heyerly said.
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Title Annotation:Environment; Stream Team volunteers learn that monitoring Delta Ponds' avian population is just as much audio as it is visual
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 27, 2005
Words:389
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