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The Observer paper 04/29/16

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Join Ladd Marsh Birdathon flock

PRINCE OF THE MARSH: Wood ducks live throughout the Grande Ronde Valley. The less-colorful female seeks out an abandoned woodpecker cavity to nest, but will accept artificial nest boxes. Wood ducks, and up to 200 other bird species, will be sought after by birdwatchers at the upcoming “Birdathon” at Ladd Marsh. This third-annual event runs May 9 -11. For more information call 963-4954. - Photo/JIM WARD
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife invites experienced and novice bird watchers to the third annual Ladd Marsh Birdathon. The event will take place May 9-11 at ODFW’s Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area located five miles south of La Grande.

“The event is a non-competitive birding opportunity for the family and free of charge,” said Ladd Marsh Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak. “We hope families will come out and visit the wildlife area not only to go birding, but to enjoy the scenery.”

New rule requires hunters to report results

Harvesting a buck doesn’t end with putting the meat in the freezer. Hunters are now required to to submit a report about their hunt online or via automated telephone within 15 days of the end of the season in which they participated. - The Observer/JEFF PETERSEN
OK, hunters, tell no tall tales like the kind a person might read in Outdoor Life.

Just give the facts, however scintillating or mundane they may be.

This just-the-facts-Max approach is what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is now mandating from hunters.

Frozen lake puts fishing derby on ice

Read more...Old Man Winter’s extended stay in Northeast Oregon is putting a popular Union County tradition in peril this spring.

The Morgan Lake Fishing Derby, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed because of ice — enough ice to fill thousands of freezers.

About 95 percent of the lake is still covered with ice. Snow also surrounds the lake, making it difficult to reach its shore.

Snow keeps turkeys low

Lingering winter-like weather and deep snowpack at higher elevations has turkeys concentrated on or near valley floors.
Hunters will find plenty of Rio Grande turkeys in Union and Wallowa counties when Oregon’s hunting season for the elusive birds opens Tuesday.

Hunters will also find lots of snow and if they are not careful — conflict.

Extended winter-like weather has left higher areas covered with snow. Most turkeys are concentrated on valley floors.

Elk-friendly fence

Three elk crossings have gone up along a cattle fence on Foothill Road. The crossings were installed at places where there is heavy elk traffic. - The Observer/DICK MASON
A fence along Foothill Road that elk find daunting may soon seem like a mere speed bump to the animals.

Three wooden crossings have been put in by Friends of Ladd Marsh in portions of a .75-mile private cattle fence along the west side of Foothill Road. The 30-inch-high crossings are about 18 inches lower than the fence and much easier for elk to get over. The crossings are also high enough to discourage cattle from escaping.

Eddie Miguez, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ladd Marsh, Elkhorn and Wenaha wildlife areas, is optimistic about the crossings. He has seen similar ones work effectively for elk near the Oregon coast in the Jewell area.

First Ski Anthony Lakes Triathlon

AND THEY’RE OFF: The first leg of the Ski Anthony Lakes Triathlon March 16, above, was a 3-kilometer run. Ron Bennett, right, races through the challenging second leg, the bike leg, and went on to win the men’s overall title. - Photos courtesy SKI ANTHONY LAKES
North Powder — The Ski Anthony Lakes Triathlon proved successful March 16 despite competitors having to battle their way through soft snow.

The first leg of the race was a 3-kilometer run. Competitors found it difficult to obtain secure footing, making for a long slog.

After pumping up the last hill to the bike exchange, racers snagged up their bikes and attempted pedaling against the soft, fresh-fallen snow. Comical and entertaining for spectators, the bike leg was by far the most treacherous for racers. Most ran along side of, or carried their bikes through the second leg.

Close encounters with cougars

Chris Heffernan, left, and his son Sheldon took this cougar in early January near their home 10 miles west of North Powder. Sheldon, a University of Idaho student, shot the cougar after tracking it with help from his father and brother Justin. - Submitted photo
NORTH POWDER — Cougars are adept at retracing their tracks.

Chris Heffernan of North Powder will never forget this after a harrowing experience two months ago.

Heffernan was riding a snowmobile a half mile from his home about 10 miles west of North Powder in mid- January when he spotted a fresh cougar track, one made minutes earlier.

Action heats up at birdwatching paradise

It is certain that more sandhill cranes will be appearing at Ladd Marsh. Presently about two pairs are there, but within the next few weeks many more will arrive. Ladd Marsh often has 50 to 100 sandhill cranes in the spring, many of which can easily be seen at the Tule Lake Nature Area. - Photo/JIM WARD
Pronghorn antelope have not raced across the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area for at least a month.

Still, the hearts of excited wildlife viewers are zooming to rates of at least 120 beats a minute following the annual opening of Ladd Marsh’s Tule Lake Nature Area.

Nordic skiers take a liking to Meacham Divide

Skiers glide along a portion of the 25 kilometers of trails at the Meacham Divide Ski Area. - Submitted photos
It has been a good winter for the Meacham Divide Ski Area.

So good that even a jackknifed semi truck on Interstate 84 could not keep the cross country skiing center from setting a record pace.

To date, 524 skiers have come to Meacham Divide. That’s 84 percent more than the number that had visited the area by this time year ago, when totals were first kept. This year’s total may be the highest in Meacham Divide’s 10-year history.

Union County Christmas Bird Count yields 13,510 sightings; 7 records set

EUROPEAN STARLING: Starlings, numbering 3,364, were viewed during the Dec. 15 count. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photos/LEE KARNEY
Soon it will be official in the eyes of the National Audubon Society.

The Union County birding record book will be rewritten.

The reason? The success of the 32nd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count, the results of which be submitted to the National Audubon Society next week.

Seven records were set and one tied during the count.

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