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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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Boy Scout builds large public bird blind

A birder looks out at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area from its new bird blind. - CATHY NOWAK photo
Stepping into the avian kingdom at the La Grande Marsh Wildlife Area is now almost as easy as picking up a pair of binoculars.

One of the largest public bird blinds in Northeast Oregon has been built by La Grande Boy Scout John Chadwick for his Eagle project. The bird blind, about five by 12 feet, is 230 yards south of the restroom at the Tule Lake Public Access Area. The blind is one of the only public bird blinds in Union County.

The blind, which looks like a small gazebo, is designed to allow people to view birds without them realizing they are being watched. People have the opportunity to view waterfowl from much closer range than they would at the site without a blind.

“People walking out to the blind will flush the birds but they will come back,’’ because they are familiar with it, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak.

The blind has a lattice screen to prevent birds from seeing movement and openings for people to use cameras, spotting scopes and binoculars.

“It is just beautiful,’’ Nowak said.

John Chadwick
The blind is handicapped accessible and large enough to comfortably hold four people, including someone in a wheelchair.

Some cattails in line of sight of the blind have been removed to improve visibility.

Birds people may see at the blind this time of year include mallards, Canada geese, tundra swans, pintail ducks, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles. Viewers in the spring will also be able to see many additional birds including marsh wrens, rails and American bitterns.

The blind’s location is ideal for bird watching because it is away from traffic, has good habitat and looks out over an area with varying water depth, Nowak said. The variation in depth means the site attracts birds which like shallow areas and others like mallards which prefer deeper water.

The flat gravel trail leading to the blind is about 10 feet wide and was put in earlier by the ODFW.

Mallards are among the birds people visiting the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area’s new blind will see. These mallards were photographed at Ladd Marsh last fall. - CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
People can visit the blind now only on the days the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is open, which presently are the days hunting is allowed. Ladd Marsh will be open for hunting Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Jan. 30-31 before closing for all of February. The Tule Lake Public Access Area, where the blind is, opens March 1 and closes at the end of September. The access area is 1.25 miles north of Highway 203 on Peach Road.

Once the Tule Lake Public Access area opens people will be able to drive to the 230-yard gravel trail leading to the new blind.

Presently people have to walk an extra quarter mile to reach the trail because the gates to the Tule Lake area’s road are closed.

Nowak said that the ODFW could not have built the blind because of its tight budget.

“These are the kind of things we would love to be doing, but we do not have the budget or staff needed,’’ the biologist said.

Chadwick’s sponsors included John Shannon, Jim Nelson, Russell Perry, Bert Frewing, Trey Pettit, Craig Orton, Don Kellogg and Tim Barker.

Miller’s Home Center and Lumber provided materials at a reduced cost. Chadwick was assisted with the construction by 17 people, including family and friends and six members of his troop.

Chadwick, a member of Troop 516 is the son of George and Lisa Chadwick. He is a junior at La Grande High School.



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