[birding] Some thoughts on those Horned Larks near Luckiamute SNA

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Mon Jun 10 06:41:17 PDT 2013

Hi all,

Lisa's detection of Horned Larks in the field at Springhill Drive &
Buena Vista Rd is, so far as I know, the closest to Luckiamute State
Natural Area that these birds have ever been detected during nesting

These birds are presumably Streaked Horned Larks, the subspecies endemic
to the lowlands of western Oregon and western Washington, which, just
last fall, the US Fish & Wildlife Service formally proposed for listing
as "Threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

Modest but significant numbers of Streaked Horned Larks have nested in
farm fields within two miles of LSNA for quite a few years. The
particular fields that they use seems to vary from year to year,
depending on crop rotations, but generally they can be found in fields
along Corvallis Rd/Independence Hwy, from Camp Adair Rd. north to Suver
Road. My highest single count from the summer season was 35 (23
juveniles and 12 adults) in a field one mile west of Lisa's location, on
August 17, 2003.

My hunch is that the larks that Lisa heard might have started nesting
later than usual, after one of their more regular fields one mile to the
west got plowed up on April 28-29. The timing of harvest in the field
near LSNA (some type of clover being grown for seed, I'd guess) will
certainly be of concern.

The good news is that sometimes clover fields aren't harvested for seed
in the first year after planting, so these larks might get a reprieve
this year. 

It certainly would be good if some of the public lands in this
neighborhood could be managed and/or expanded to provide more secure
nesting habitat for Streaked Horned Larks. Unfortunately most of the
public landscape, both at LSNA and E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, is
fragmented by trees and shrubs, and lacks the open quality that Horned
Larks tend to seek out for nesting.

The most suitable area in terms of landscape scale at LSNA is the field
just north of the Luckiamute River Bridge on Buena Vista Rd (field
adjoining the famous "Sedge Wren patch"), which is currently being
leased to a farmer for mint production. Alternatively, we can hope for
expansion of the Wetland Reserve Program to provide habitat similar to
what's developing along Riverside Drive. The Willamette Bluffs greenbelt
property (another private parcel under conservation easement) just north
of LSNA also holds some promise as a potential nesting habitat for
Streaked Horned Larks.

Happy birding,

On Sun, 2013-06-09 at 22:20 -0700, Lisa Millbank wrote:
> After turning onto Springhill from Buena Vista, I saw someone applying
> a small amount of a chemical treatment to a field of low-growing
> plants. At the same time, I heard at least 2 HORNED LARKS singing in
> the field.   Hopefully, this won't affect the larks too much, and I
> have to wonder if the harvesting will be done when there are still
> eggs or nestlings on the ground.  Sure would be nice if some of the
> farmed fields at LSNA could be restored to low vegetation with patches
> of bare ground (maybe bare patches created by dried vernal pools)
> where the larks would be able to nest in relative safety.  I thought
> about the new Wetland Reserve Program properties along Riverside Drive
> in Linn Co., and wondered if they could someday provide lark habitat
> as the shallow vernal wetlands there recede. 

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