“All I need now is to find you some Whales”

How do you make a good first impression? You tell your supervisor how much fun you had while birding and they will definitely remember you. My first week at the Hebo Ranger District was filled with lots of new places to see, new faces, and many names to remember. When they asked me how my first weekend here was, I shared my story about the Bald Eagles.

We are hiking up a hill in the Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge, a few miles south of Hebo, and it’s windy but sunny. The warm sunlight makes up for the wind blowing against your face. All around me, there is nothing but green; trees covered in moss, green ferns on the ground. I think the trees are Douglas-firs and hemlocks; I am still learning my Oregon trees. I hear birds I have never heard nor seen before, at least not back home. They are chirping from high up at the top of the trees. Someone says they are Golden-crowned Kinglets, but no one sees them. The day has just started and it is the first time I have gone birding in Oregon.

I mentioned birding to a couple of friends back home and one of them asked, “What is birding?” At that moment it dawned on me that no one had asked me that question before, and I realized that for many people birding may be a completely foreign activity. So, just for clarification, according to the Lake Region Audubon Society, birding or birdwatching is the practice of observing wild birds, which involves studying both their appearances and behavior.

Back on the trail, we continue our hike, and the wildlife technician who invited me to go birding with her starts to list the names of the birds she hears and sees (she is the best birder in town, by the way). These include Golden-crowned Kinglet, Steller’s Jay, Hairy Woodpecker, Cooper’s Hawk, and “Oh! It’s a Bald Eagle, and it’s a juvenile one!” We come out of the trail and into a beautiful meadow where some sort of restoration work is being done and, what do you know, an adult Bald Eagle appears. It is flying low close to the ground a few meters away from us. Everyone is excited, but they have no idea I am the most thrilled because for the first time I am seeing a Bald Eagle that close and in the wild. I am still getting over how awesome my whole morning has been, and there they are–two more Bald Eagles come down to the lower part of the meadow. In total we saw six Bald Eagles that day. The technician is so happy for me and starts to look far off into the distance in case there are any whales that are often seen around this time of year making their migratory journey. We get back in the car and after six Bald Eagles and a group of whales, I knew I was in the right place.

This first outdoor experience in Oregon is important to me for many reasons, the main one being that I now have a personal story that I can share with people when I get out and begin to do community outreach. In doing so, I hope that they too get to experience the wonderful wildlife the Siuslaw area has to offer.

Araceli Morales
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