Grant’s Getaways: Backyard Bird Watching in Oregon

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Grant’s Getaways: Backyard Bird Watching in Oregon

When is a birdhouse a ‘home?” Oh, that’s easy! It’s when feathered residents move in and build a nest.

“Birding” is a popular outdoor recreational activity for many Oregonians– whether it’s watching for varied species, filling a feeder or even building the songbirds a home! Today, I visit a man who makes sure native songbirds get more than a simple roof over their heads: they get a backyard resort for a home.

There’s quite an outdoor show for those in the know as Oregon’s wild places are prime at this time of year  – rain or shine – places like Sauvie Island Wildlife Area are at their showy best.  ”No better time of year,” I like to say as eagles soar or waterfowl dive and it gets even better at places like Smith–Bybee Wetlands when you’ve an expert who shows the way for a walk on the wild side:

“It t may be wet, it may be cool but it’s not freezing and there’s lots of food for the birds,” noted James Davis, wildlife author and teacher. Davis works for Metro and he is a an accomplished wildlife expert who wrote the comprehensive “Northwest Nature Guide.”

He said folks don’t have to travel far to find wildlife at this time of year.

“There are hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese and swans and hundreds of raptors coming to and thru the heart of the Willamette Valley.”  It’s hard to imagine a better place to watch the show, but Davis added that there are many easy to reach sites that could be considered “close to home,” like the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood.

It offers a wonderful visitor center and two miles of easy trail that combine to put you in touch with wildlife that’s practically as close as your own backyard.  “This is ‘the south’ for half a million birds. We have a warm, mild, wet climate that is great for them. But many people think, ‘Well it’s cold here, why would they come here?’ Well, just imagine what it’s like in northern Manitoba right now? Brrrrr!”

Don’t forget Ankeny Wildlife Refuge near Salem. It offers visitor friendly boardwalks and viewing platforms that give you a front row seat to wetlands and feeding waterfowl that also keeps you out of foul weather.  US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist, Molly Monroe, keeps a sharp eye for the many wildlife species that use the refuge and said it’s a perfect place for newcomers to “stop in and visit and hike the varied trails.”

“It is a wonderful thing when you can sit somewhere, observe the finest little things, and enjoy an outdoor spectacle – a great way to come out and enjoy the refuges.”

Spectacular shows are easy to come by in winter; not just the huge flocks of waterfowl or solo raptors like hawks and eagles, but also the smaller songbird species.  In fact, consider attracting wildlife species like songbirds into your own backyard.

Hillsboro resident, Dennis Frame, loves the sights and sounds of the wild – so he builds feeders and houses for native songbirds.  Frame’s structures aren’t really homes – but his elaborate wooden abodes are more akin to – well, bird resorts.

Washington County resident, Irene Dickson, has two of Frame’s beautiful yet functional – feeders and each is firmly planted in the ground on fence posts – 6 feet off the ground in her yard. She said that they “really work.”

“They add such pleasure and peace,” said the avid bird fan. “They’re real de-stressers too. Plus, the resort detail is fabulous and impressive with the little rock walls, benches and other details. It looks like a little cabin by a lake.”

Frame is a builder of human homes by trade, but in his cozy and well organized carpentry shop, he said his greatest pleasure comes from crafting the elaborate “bird resorts.”  “This is my little getaway and I can come in here and get away from it all and get creative too.”

He’s always been a fan of simple, rustic log cabin homes and will often scour the countryside for “models” that he can reproduce on a small scale for the birds.  “I’ll drive and spot one and ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Maybe snap a photos or make a mental note and then recreate it in a bird house.”

Frame has been ‘chippin’ away’ at his hobby for 15 years and said it ‘s the tiny details that impress most people.

The resorts sport stone and mortar chimneys, decks with handrails and small pieces of character that set them apart from ordinary store-bought models – including a wooden front door.

“The door actually opens. I do that because you must clean out the resort following each nesting year. In fact, the birds seldom return the following year unless you do that. I try to make it an easier job.”

Frame also trades, barters and salvages for everything – recycling for the birds!  On top of that – he rarely sells a house; instead, through the years he has given them away to non-profits like his local Rotary Club and the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center. The groups then sell Frame’s bird resorts and raise hundreds of dollars to support their educational programs.

“This is my way of giving back to the community. I believe in community; they help me out so I help them out. And getting people out of their houses and learning more about the outdoors is a positive way to go in my book.”

Many people must agree with Dennis! His wildlife work is “red hot” popular and he can’t make them fast enough.  In fact, Dennis created a special edition that’s a one of a kind dandy home that he has named the “Grant’s Getaways Bird Resort.”

He has donated the avian abode to one of my favorite non-profits: the Banks Community Auction.  The popular and annual Washington County event raises money to support programs in the local schools.  In addition, I’ll contribute two of my “Grant’s Getaways” books to go with Frame’s wonderful bird resort.

So, consider attending and bidding on the package to help the birds and local children. This year the auction will be held at the Banks High School on April 28.

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