It has been snowing for two days at The Cove with single digit temperatures and as rangers have been plowing and shoveling, wearing several layers of clothing, we are still freezing. As I look around the only living things out here that are up and moving around are birds. There are a lot of different birds at The Cove and only some migrate to warmer climates in the winter. Yesterday I saw Canada Geese, various ducks, Red Tailed Hawks, a Bald Eagle, a crow and numerous American Robins out hunting for food. Have you ever wondered how they cope in the winter? You’ll be amazed at the amazing adaptations birds have to stay warm and survive the frigid temperatures.
When the temperature drops I crave warm, hearty, calorie laden foods. These foods mean packing on the calories, which I’ll have to deal with in the spring, but birds need to increase their caloric intake too. Birds put on fat as both an insulator and energy source: More than 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species. It’s important to remember this can only be done in small amounts since they are a flying animal and still need to be able to take off. As a result, some birds spend the vast majority of their day time hours seeking fatty food sources. They are adapted to find, store, and remember where the food is so they can find it quickly. This makes winter foraging super efficient.
Birds have to work smarter not harder in the winter. One of the most effective strategies for having enough energy from food to stay warm is to not do highly energetic things during the cold season such as defend territories, spend a lot of time singing (although the Geese are constantly honking!), don’t build or maintain nests, don’t produce eggs or have hungry chicks around.
Birds of prey highly detailed knowledge of its home range and patience can mean the difference between life and death. During a short break in severe weather, a Barn Owl can fly directly to the best foraging habitat in any given ground, light and wind conditions. They are more likely to hunt from a fence post than from the air; this saves energy that would be used in flight and reduces heat loss.
Since birds can’t fly over to their closest Patagonia store or order a jacket from L.L. Bean, they have to find other ways to keep warm. Here is a list of some of their other adaptations:
- During the day time they soak in the sun.
- “Feathers are incredibly specialized structures that serve many purposes including, for many species, keeping them warm,” says Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. Larger birds like geese will grow extra feathers. All their feathers help keep them warm, but especially the downy under feathers and act like tiny little North Face down coats. Bird feathers are also covered in oil which makes them waterproof.
- Smaller birds seek out dense foliage or cavities in rocks to avoid the elements and lessen wind-chill.
- Bird feet are covered with scales and have very little cold-damageable tissue in them. They are mostly bone and sinew. This minimizes the likelihood of frostbite. Bird feet are generally grabbing at rest, so it takes very little energy to stay attached to a branch.
- Ducks in Upper Deschutes huddle, bunching together to share warmth, and try to minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers. Some species like certain hawks will forgo a solitary lifestyle and form communal winter roosts.
- Some birds, like Chickadees shiver. Birds shiver by activating opposing muscle groups, creating muscle contractions without all of the jiggling typical when humans shiver. This form of shaking is better at retaining the bird’s heat.
- Many species have the ability to keep warm blood circulating near vital organs while allowing extremities to cool down; some can stand on ice with feet at near-freezing temperatures while keeping their body’s core nice and warm.
What can we do to help birds in the winter?
According to the Audubon Society’s Winter Feeding Tips for Birds: One simple way to help birds when the weather outside is frightful is to hang feeders. To attract a diversity of birds, select different feeder designs and a variety of foods. For ideas on what to get for your home, go to: Audubon Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding for tips. The birds benefit from the backyard buffet, and you’ll have a front-row seat to numerous species flocking to your plants and feeders. USE CAUTION, birds come to rely on this as an easy and unlimited food source. If you aren’t going to take the time and spend the money to keep feeders full, it’s best not to start.
Protect winter nesting sites. Just like humans need a warm place to go, bald eagles need shelter to survive harsh winter weather too. Winter can cause even large birds of prey a great deal of stress. The critical point to remember is that bald eagles are very territorial birds, and most breeding pairs return to the same nest site year after year. They may use the same nest annually for up to 35 years. If their nests are disturbed or destroyed, the pair may never build again. The less human caused disturbance the more likely we will have healthy breeding pairs in the spring.
Another thing we can do is not chase birds that are huddled together in large groups. We all know they will get up and fly away if we run at them. Their ability to survive a potential threat costs them a great deal of life sustaining calories.
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From all of the Ranger staff at The Cove, Jay, Kelli, Steve, Chris and Erin and our indispensable Office Specialist Lori
OPRD’s annual December parking permit sale started Thursday. From Dec. 1-31, visitors and holiday shoppers can buy an annual parking permit for only $25—that’s $5 off the regular price of $30. OPRD parking permits can be purchased online at OPRD store
Also, don’t forget you can get great new gifts for the holidays too!
Staff at The Cove Palisades State Park are thankful for working in a beautiful place and all of our wonderful park visitors. Happy Thanksgiving!
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) invites the public to visit state parks for free on Nov. 25. For the second successive year, the department will wave day-use parking fees at the 26 state parks the charge them.
“We invite you to join a new tradition: Green Friday,” said OPRD Director Lisa Sumption. “Why not skip the mall, and instead come out to play with your family and friends at your favorite state park?”
11/25/16 – To Celebrate, The Cove Palisades State Park – Join Ranger Erin Bennett for a hike on the Crooked River Wetlands Trail at 9:00 am. Meet at the Crooked River campground check-in booth. Hike is approximately a quarter mile, on flat surfaces and is ADA accessible. FREE
Parking is free year-round at almost all state parks; the waiver applies to the 26 parks that charge $5 daily for parking. The waiver applies from open to close on Nov. 25, except at Shore Acres State Park, where it expires at 3 p.m. for the Holiday Lights event that runs Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. A list of parks that require day-use parking permits is at http://bit.ly/OregonStateParksParking.
Visit the Oregon State Parks website for directions to each park: www.oregonstateparks.org.
Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26, 2016
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Start a new Thanksgiving tradition: Take family and friends fishing for free on Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26. It’s a free fishing weekend in Oregon and no licenses, tags or endorsements will be required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in the state.
Trout Update: Lake Billy Chinook to Benham Falls: rainbow trout, brown trout. Open for trout all year. Fishing restricted to artificial flies and lures. No size or limits on brown trout and no harvest of bull trout.
Starting November 17, 2016, state park campers can make reservations for campsites, yurts, and cabins to enjoy the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. The normal advance campsite reservation window opens nine months before the first night of a visitor’s stay, but a temporary change to the reservation system will affect people who want to make a 14-night reservation, the maximum allowed in Oregon’s State Park system.
The state park system accepts reservations nine months in advance, but it would normally be possible to get a reservation for Aug. 21 by booking the maximum 14-night stay on November 7, 2016. Given the expected high demand for sites around the eclipse, and to prevent overbooking that could interfere with other visitors’ summer vacation plans, state parks along and near the eclipse path will not accept reservations for Aug. 17-21, 2017 until November 17, 2016. This is ten days after OPRD’s standard rolling nine month reservation window would normally allow a camper to make a long reservation.
On Nov. 17, 2016, the normal rolling nine month window will resume for all sites that accept reservations at parks along and near the eclipse path.
“We made this change to accommodate all visitors, both those planning for the eclipse and those who are planning an unrelated camping trip,” said Chris Havel, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson. “We encourage eclipse campers to extend their stay with us for a day or more before and after the eclipse to reduce the congestion on the roads.”
The Nov. 17 reservation opening date applies to the following campgrounds inside the path of totality–Devil’s Lake, Beverly Beach, South Beach, Silver Falls, Detroit Lake, The Cove Palisades, and Farewell Bend.
Campgrounds that are up to 30 miles outside the path of totality are also affected by the temporary change to reservation rules: Beachside, Cape Lookout, Washburne (yurts only), Honeyman, Nehalem Bay, Stub Stewart, Champoeg, Milo McIver, Ainsworth, Memaloose, Viento, Deschutes River, Tumalo, LaPine, Prineville Reservoir, Lake Owyhee and Wallowa Lake.
OPRD is making plans to temporarily convert first-come, first-served state park campgrounds to reservation-only for the eclipse, so additional campsites will be made available at a later date.
“We are also working on ways to open more state park areas to camping for the event,” Havel said. “We want to make sure people can make solid plans well in advance to avoid congestion.”
Customers can make reservations for any stay that includes Aug. 17-21 beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 17 at oregonstateparks.org.
Campgrounds run by the US Forest Service will start taking reservations six months in advance, in February 2017.
The eclipse will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2017. The 60-mile wide path of totality–when the moon completely blocks the sun–will last for about two minutes starting at 10:15 a.m. on the coast between Newport and Lincoln City. The path of totality then sweeps through the state and on to Idaho, then runs across the United States toward South Carolina. For more information about the eclipse, visit http://bit.ly/OregonStateParks2017Eclipse.
One of my favorite Central Oregon animals is the porcupine, which happens to be the second largest rodent in North America (third in the world, after capybara and beaver); but it is not the animal that first comes to mind when I think of Halloween. North American porcupines eat plants and favor any number of herbaceous delicacies. Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search. Considered a nocturnal, generalist herbivore, porcupines consume tree bark, leaves, conifer needles, buds from conifers and deciduous trees, wildflowers, fruit, nuts, rose hips, and ground vegetation. They’ve been known to chew on axe handles and tires for salt. So I guess squash shouldn’t be a surprise.
This summer I was preparing for a porcupine program and found a YouTube video you have to see! Meet “Teddy Bear” the porcupine – Teddy Bear was orphaned and taken to animal shelter called Zooniversity in Dallas. He now travels to schools teaching people about porcupines – and winning their hearts with his cuteness! As zookeeper Allison Blankenship asks questions, Teddy’s little squeaks seem to answer her back.
- Porcupines live up to 20 years old. They are the second oldest living rodent in the world. (following Naked Mole Rats)
- They do not hibernate, they are active all year.
- Like monkeys they are divided into old world and new world species. Old World porcupines are much larger than New World porcupines with quills up to a foot long. In Africa, they are thought to bring good luck and are worn as ornaments by many tribes.
- North American porcupines have approximately 30,000 quills on their bodies.
- They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened.
- Porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
- North American porcupines do not eat and sleep in the same tree.
- Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree. They are the only mammal that can produce their own antibiotic.
- If you want to see one up close, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
It’s more than just “don’t feed the wild carnivores.” But, uh, don’t feed wild carnivores.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram always seem to be full of photos of people’s outdoor adventures. But not everyone who likes spending time in the wild really knows what they’re doing out there — and according to a study published this week in Scientific Reports, that’s why humans are increasingly being attacked by wild animals.
A group of researchers from Europe and Canada analyzed data on 697 documented attacks on humans by large carnivores, including bears, cougars and coyotes, in North America, Russia and two countries in Europe.
They found that nearly half of all the observed attacks, which occurred between 1955 and 2014, involved risky behaviors on the part of the human victim.
The most common of those risky behaviors? Leaving a child unattended in the wilderness.
The researchers also found that as populations of large carnivores recover in developed countries (a result of successful conservation efforts), the number of “bold individuals” engaging in outdoor activities has also increased.
The data suggests that most people who explore the outdoors have no idea just how dangerous these habitats really are, according to the researchers.
For evidence, look no further than Lake Tahoe, California, or Water Canyon Park in Colorado, where officials have had to issue official warnings because too many people were trying to take selfies with wild bears.
“A lot of what people do is based on a total lack of knowledge about what is dangerous and what isn’t,” Stephen Herrero, a researcher from the University of Calgary who was involved in the study, told the Canadian Broadcasting Company this week.
“Half of the attacks could have probably been avoided if people had done some pretty simple things,” he went on.
But what exactly constitutes “risk-enhancing behavior”? The definition is more broad than you might think, and includes things you’ve probably done at least once in your life.
These were the five most common behaviors people were engaged in at the time of an animal attack, according to the study:
- Parents (or adults) leaving children unattended
- Walking a dog without a leash
- Hunting or searching for a wounded animal
- Engaging in outdoor activities at night or before dawn
- Approaching a female carnivore with its young
Other risky actions include feeding a wild carnivore and encountering a carnivore that has been fed by humans in the past and therefore approaches humans in search of an easy meal.
The researchers note that while these types of attacks on humans are extremely rare, they tend to have dire consequences for both the human and the animal — especially when media reports sensationalize individual attacks and make them seem more common than they really are.
In 2014, for example, Australia began a controversial cull on sharks — including great white sharks, considered a threatened species — in response to seven fatal shark attacks in three years, despite a number of experts arguing that such a response would not reduce the already low risk of attack.
The study’s authors echo this sentiment, adding that this type of reaction hurts conservation efforts for these carnivores.
“When attacks occur,” the researchers wrote, “large carnivores are frequently killed and negative attitudes toward large carnivores harden.”
If we’re all going to be the great adventurers we portray on social media, then we have to learn how to live safely alongside these wild animals, the researchers urge.
Before going on a hike or a camping trip, or entering a national park or any area that carnivores call home, make sure to follow all safety rules posted by federal wildlife agencies.
And please, leave wild animals — especially carnivores — alone.
At The Cove Palisades State Park, we do not have bears or wolves in the park; however we do have other carnivores like cougar, various omnivores and even some bolder herbivores, such as mule deer that think they should eat Doritos. Cougars dislike a lot of noise and activity. They will not walk into camp and beg for food but the others will not hesitate to search out and greedily inhale human handouts. If you feel the need to hand feed a wild animal remember that they can bite or carry disease. That cute little forest creature that you were dying to have a selfie with only moments before, can become a despised varmint instantaneously. Feeding wildlife can have devastating, even if unintentional, consequences to either animal and/or human.
While wildlife encounters are typically very safe at The Cove; practice not feeding any wildlife. There is plenty of natural food for them in the park already.
Thanks for doing your part to keep The Cove’s animals wild!