The Muse: An Owl's Call - Columbia Land Trust
A message from Executive Director Glenn Lamb

One night in mid-September, appreciating the absence of wildfire smoke, we had our doors and windows open. And for the first time in our decades living in inner southeast Portland, we heard a western screech owl.

Our most common neighborhood birds are crow, robin, junco, goldfinch, house finch, scrub jay, house sparrow, song sparrow, hummingbird, and flicker. In the last couple of years, we have also heard western tanager and, just twice, varied thrush.

It is always a thrill to see even our regular birds. So many of these birds travel thousands of miles in a year across diverse habitats. Their presence in our yard is a gift, and we are happy to offer them food from the many native species we planted as part of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program.

But I have paid even more attention to them since reading the article published last fall in the journal Science, detailing the loss of about 3 billion birds in the United States and Canada since 1970, nearly 25% of the entire population of birds. While scientists can’t be sure what is causing this loss, they point to human actions as contributive causes, including the loss of habitat and the use of toxic pesticides.

As you’ll read in this issue, managing lands to be more resilient to wildfires may be critically important to many species, including birds. The 6,000 families who are participating in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program are making our urban landscapes more resilient for birds as well.

Survival of so many species is dependent upon things we easily overlook: the types of flowering plants available, fruits or seeds coming ripe at just the right time, insects hatching just prior to bird migration, natural areas remaining intact along migratory corridors to offer rest and replenishment.

In a world with accelerating change, our actions—yours and mine—to restore habitat that offers natural resilience is critically important. These actions aren’t just theoretically important. They likely save wildlife every day, month, and year.

Thank you all for making this work possible.

Glenn Lamb, Executive Director