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Experts aren't just wingin' it at various avian-related events.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Bird is the outdoor word of the day because, well, because this column has several avian items to crow about.

Crows, incidentally, are considered fair game in Oregon. These big raucous black birds are the only "game bird" for which there is absolutely no limit on the number that a hunter can take - probably because crows are considered more nuisance than game.

Crow season is open statewide Oct. 1-Jan. 31. I must say, however, that in more than 15 years of writing about hunting, I've yet to encounter a single crow hunter. Blackbird pie must be out of fashion.

In any event, crows appear to have another problem, which we know about only because of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

A child of the Internet, the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Audubon Society.

Six years ago, those organizations began inviting people to help assemble a nationwide "snapshot" of bird populations one late-winter weekend each year.

Participants were asked to keep track of the birds they saw on any or all of the designated count days, then log their sightings into the "BirdSource" database via the Web.

The idea was that data about where various species are seen - and in what numbers - would help biologists monitor the health of bird populations.

Last year, nearly 50,000 "citizen scientists" submitted GBBC checklists. All told, they tallied 4,204,058 birds of 573 species.

When compared to previous GBBC counts, the data documented regional declines in the population of American crows that may be related to the West Nile virus.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, crows are particularly vulnerable to the virus. They were reported in far fewer numbers in Illinois and Ohio, where West Nile virus has had a strong presence.

"This decrease may or may not be related to West Nile, but the situation is certainly something we need to pay attention to," said John Fitzpatrick, the lab's director.

So GBBC officials are hoping for greater participation in the 2004 count, which runs Friday through Monday.

Anyone with an interest in birds is asked to count the numbers and kinds they see. Downloadable bird lists for Oregon and instructions are available at www.birdsource.org.

This weekend also marks a pair of big events for bird lovers in the Klamath Falls area.

The Klamath Basin Audubon Society will be holding its 25th Annual Bald Eagle Conference on Friday through Sunday at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. For details, see: www.eaglecon.org.

In addition, the Klamath Wingwatchers, a nonprofit birding organization, is putting on a benefit concert for the proposed "Klamath Basin Birding Trail."

The new self-guided nature auto tour in Southern Oregon and Northern California will link more than 40 birding sites along 300 miles of roads in the Klamath Basin. Details are available at www.klamathbirdingtrails.com

The concert, featuring Joe Craven and Kate Price, will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Ross Ragland Theatre in Klamath Falls. Ticket details are at: www.rrtheater.org.

Finally, one of the most bird-friendly areas in Lane County is the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. The area is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it's arguable whether the place would run without the efforts of a flock of tough old retirees who regularly volunteer their labor and skills.

So here's a feather for the caps of the Fern Ridge "Volunteer Tuesday Crew." Volunteers donated nearly 5,000 hours of labor to the wildlife area during 2003. A dozen men, including 82-year-old Sam Sears, each put in more than 200 hours doing dirty work for the birds.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 12, 2004
Words:633
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