[birding] More Larks

Will Wright Will.Wright at monroe.k12.or.us
Mon Jun 10 09:16:23 PDT 2013

Two adult Horned Larks were seen this morning around 7:30 on Finley Rd., just off of the Hwy.  The large field to the south has scant vegetation while the field to the north is fully grown mint.  The larks were pecking seeds or small gravel on the shoulder of the road.


-----Original Message-----
From: birding-bounces at midvalleybirding.org [mailto:birding-bounces at midvalleybirding.org] On Behalf Of Joel Geier
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 6:41 AM
To: MidValley Birds
Subject: [birding] Some thoughts on those Horned Larks near Luckiamute SNA

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 season.

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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