Lane County history
Voices of Spencer Creek
Sunnyside of Spencer Butte
by Lois Barton
Knee deep in rushes
a great blue heron poses
at the water's edge.
Heron drawing by Marcia O'Rourke
On June 13, 2001, in Lane County, Oregon,
I had an amazing experience. I've been a bird enthusiast since I received a bird
book and a free box camera on my tenth birthday. The camera was from Eastman Kodak
celebrating their tenth anniversary.
The first picture on my first film was that of a bird nest in the grape arbor by
our house in Ohio. I've kept lists of birds seen in given areas where I've lived,
bought up-to-date bird books to help with identification, and in my eighties finally
established a bird feeding station where I can watch those feathered friends feuding
and feeding a few feet from my window.
None of this compares with today's spectacle. I visited a heron rookery high in a
riverside tree in Alton Baker Park. I've never seen a heron's nest before, let alone
four of them in the same tree. I didn't know herons nested in trees, since they seem
to be primarily wading birds. We sat on a conveniently placed bench where we could
look on for an hour. Possibly fifty feet up in this black cottonwood tree, herons
have built and used at least four nests this spring. Each of the nests we watched
today seemed to have three almost grown fledglings in it. Several of them were testing
their wings in short bursts of flight a few feet above or to the side of the nest.
One parent bird came to a nest with food, and those fledglings set up a raucous cacophony,
vying for the handout, only to settle quietly again when their parent flew off. Through
our binoculars we could see one young bird perched in a clear spot silhouetted against
the sky. It looked just like a grown bird. As we enjoyed this rare spectacle of nature,
other people came by to check the birds out. One elderly lady who arrived on a bicycle
reported that she comes every day to see if the birds are still there. One frail
gentleman said he's been a faithful observer for ten years, always hoping to be present
when the young herons finally leave the next. His companion told of watching a parent
bird push a youngster from the next, then flying with the young bird, sometimes above,
sometimes beneath the fledgling, around the tree and back to the nest.
Another observer reported that there
was one nest in that tree fifteen years ago. More nests have been added in ensuing
years with a total of five present last year, we were told. There was general agreement
among the observers that it would be a discouraging job trying to feed those big
lunks. Is it possible the parents beginning to wean their young to hasten the day
of their departure?
How delighted I am to have had this look into one of natures nurseries. We are indebted
to the city park system for providing this wildlife safety zone. I hope readers of
this report will take time this spring to enjoy a similar treat.
From Coburg road north of Eugene take Centennial Boulevard toward Springfield. Turn
right on Aspen Street and drive to the parking lot at the very end. Some aspect of
the show is likely to be available for viewing from mid-April for sixty days into
mid-June. From the parking lot the rookery and trail side bench are located about
500 feet to the right along the river on a paved walkway.
*** *** ***
by Lois Barton
About an hour before daylight
on a frosty winter morning
I opened my eyes and looked out
the bedside window at a moonlit landscape.
While I looked on, a jet plane
laid down (or was it up?) in the sky
a pearly vapor trail
within my line of vision
In this day and age jet trails
are no big thing,
and scarcely rate attention,
but I do not remember
ever seeing one visibly appear
in the moonlight before.
My thoughts turn back about seventy years
to another memorable occasion in the early twenties.
Puzzled by the sound of an engine
where there should be no enginge,
my siblings and I rushed out
from a farmhouse kitchen in Ohio
and peered upward to behold
the very first flying machine
of our experience.
A small noisy byplane flew
right over where we stood, mouths agape.
What an event that was
for unsophisticated country kids!
No grandchild of mine will likely be excited
by a mere airplane overhead.
When they become octogenarians
what events of this decade will seem to those children
to belong to the dark ages of long ago?
Writer and historian
Lois Barton is an 83 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same
rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children
learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and
garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982
when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter
of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept;
and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of
the Soil. Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood
association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane
County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in
1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director
of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.
Some of Lois Barton's West By Northwest On the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte
articles and/or check the Archives for more:
Charlotte's Overdose -
Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife - The
midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow
- Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.
Books by Lois Barton
History and stories of the peoples of the Northwest.