“Wildlife First” is the motto at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (TRNWR). How funny this must sound after I mentioned how unwelcomed the nutrias are here. There are a plethora of invasives that are managed for at this site and I’m sure it makes people wonder why and aren’t they wildlife too? Yes they are wildlife, but they are not the wildlife that makeup a healthy ecosystem here. They just don’t belong. Today at my second Naturalist training session a volunteer quoted a phrase that seemed to explain this situation so easily. He said “a rose in a wheat field is still a weed”.

One of the many things I learned while at training was that not all violets are purple. To make things more interesting, all parts of this wood violet are edible.

Naturalist training has easily become one of my favorite things. My fellow Naturalists are much older than I am, yet I don’t feel like a foreigner when I am with them. Being a part of this group is actually quite intoxicating. If you could only see how we all transform into a group of curious children as soon as our shoes touch the gravel trail. We huddle around the leader and we listen attentively until we are given the opportunity to bombard each other with questions. Eventually some of us end up straying from the group when animal sounds entice us away. The group leader is then burdened with the task of herding us all back together.

Naturalists checking out the bald eagles nesting on a snag in the wetland.

Watching the youthful souls of the Naturalists is extremely heartwarming. They play the role of children so well and at the same time they make for amazing educators. With every step we take through the refuge a fact about either the flora or fauna of this special place is spoken. I recall attempting to keep up with all of the information thrown at me at my first training session and I was left exhausted.  I recapped with my supervisor Kim Strassburg about my experience and she reassured me that that amount of knowledge came with time. With those words I no longer felt pressured to attempt to learn it all in a day. Suddenly I had a new goal. Someday I hope to be as knowledgeable as these lovely people are by retaining my childlike curiosity as they have.

This red cedar is pretty amazing. If you look closely you can see the remnants of the nurse log it sprouted from. This tree was also known as being essential for the Kalapuya people. With the bark they made skirts and sleeping mats.


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