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The Observer paper 04/29/16

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Your feathered friends

A female western bluebird delivers a morsel to waiting young inside a birdhouse. Birds have a super-charged metabolism and can consume an incredible number of insect pests in the course of raising a summer brood. Along with maintaining healthy riparian areas, where birds thrive, landowners would do well by attracting birds through the use of artificial nestboxes. Photos/JIM WARD
Much like a cornfield lured baseball players in the movie, “Field of Dreams,’’ a birdhouse can be quite attractive to several species of birds.  But, unlike the movie, there really isn’t much magic involved — just a few scrap boards and some simple tools.

 In general, there’s really two types of birdhouses — the one that resembles a miniature version of a Hilton hotel with multiple compartments and a designer paint job. The other is a no-frills type which is basically a square box with a small entrance hole poked in one side. In truth, birds prefer the more simpler model. The more rustic the better.

 Not all birds are attracted to birdhouses. In fact, most species either build a grass or twig nest on a limb, like robins, blackbirds and jays, or nest on the ground like quail, meadowlarks and killdeer. Those species that use birdhouses are referred to as cavity-nesters. It’s really a trick we humans play.

Traps and Pets

JOSEPH — On Feb. 24, Sharon Nall of Joseph was fined and sentenced to 40 hours of community service. Her crime is described as a “wildlife violation,’’ which she admits she committed on Dec. 18 as she and her husband, Larry, and their black Labrador retriever enjoyed a day of skiing on Hurricane Creek Road about two miles from Joseph.

Their dog ran off the snow-bound road to explore in the trees and underbrush and was caught in a leg-hold trap intended for wild furbearing animals, probably a bobcat.

Sharon and Larry were able to free their dog from the trap and he was not seriously injured. Sharon said she was very frightened and angry about the incident and felt impelled to speak to whomever had set the trap and sprayed scent around the site to attract animals to it. She removed the trap and disturbed the site, thereby violating the law.

Straight shooter shares arrow-flinging expertise with local archers

Bernie Pellerite, left, talks with Norm Paullus of La Grande Sunday while conducting an archery course. The Observer/DICK MASON
Listen up, archers.

Turn up your music, urge your children to annoy you and make an outrageous bet with your spouse.

A recipe for chaos?


And a recipe for archery tournament success...

People-friendly Mountain Chickadees like to hang around upside down

Mountain Chickaee. Photo E.H. Van Blaricom
JOSEPH — My bird of the month is the friendly little chickadee.

There are three subspecies of chickadees that are common in Oregon. The most numerous is the black-capped and the least common is the chestnut-backed chickadee. But in our backyard, the mountain chickadee outnumbers the black-capped about five to one. That is why I submitted this photo of a mountain chickadee at our sunflower seed feeder.

Spout's night skiing 'big city amenity'

VARIED TERRAIN: Spout Springs owner John Murray believes that Spout Springs, with its varied terrain, is an ideal place for alpine skiers of all levels to hone their skills. Map/skispoutsprings.com
Night skiing at Spout Springs will soon go dark.

Evening skiing at Spout Springs for this winter ends Feb. 21.

The lights though are not going out on Spout Springs Ski Area’s season — far from it. The ski area has a solid snow pack and will continue operating through March.

CAT stats

It is a nickname richly deserved.

Cougars are frequently called “mountain ghosts’’ because they are stealth-like creatures rarely seen in the open like deer and elk. Monitoring their population levels precisely is thus impossible, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pat Matthews, who is based in Enterprise.

Still, despite the secretive nature of cougars, it is safe to assume that Northeast Oregon’s big cat population remained at least stable in 2008, Matthews said.

Ski Anthony Lakes

An Anthony Lakes skier cuts a turn and casts a long shadow at the bottom of Variety. - PHIL BULLOCK-The Observer
Sun Valley, Clint Eastwood and an Eastern Oregon man of diverse talents — all three play key roles in the trails at Ski Anthony Lakes.

The names reveal links to Idaho’s Sun Valley Ski Resort, to when the movie “Paint Your Wagon” starring Clint Eastwood was filmed at Anthony Lakes and to the talents of the late Ben Francy, who grew up in Union County.

Following is a look at the stories behind the names of some of the runs and trails now open at Ski Anthony Lakes.

Nourishing backyard friends rewarding pastime

Winter is when most bird feeder operators do their thing.

Snow and colder temperatures make the birds hungrier. And while the golf clubs are stashed in the closet, and the fishing pole is on the rack, watching wild critters flit about the yard is a good way to ease the January doldrums.

Feeding birds is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the country.

Plenty of snow awaits Nordic skiers at Meacham Divide

A skier glides along the Loppet Trail that starts at the Meacham Divide parking lot and ends at Loppet Point. Observer photos/PHIL BULLOCK
A break in the weather.

It is just what the Blue Mountain Nordic Club ordered.

And local skiers will be the beneficiaries this weekend.

Bird counters will try again Sunday

COLORFUL SPECIMEN: Evening grosbeaks will likely be spotted during the 33rd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count Sunday. Photo/JIM WARD
Members of the Grande Ronde Bird Club are determined not to let Old Man Winter get the best of them.

That is why Sunday they will make another gallant attempt to conduct the 33rd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count. The count was originally scheduled for Dec. 21 but had to be canceled because of extremely poor weather.

People interested in participating in Sunday’s bird count should come to the Bobolink, a La Grande birding supply store at 1102 Washington Ave., to pick up a packet of materials for the event.

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