Country changes
Rural preservation
Lane County history

Voices of Spencer Creek

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Heron Rookery

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.

*** *** ***

Plane Tales

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
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.

© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.

West by Northwest
Spencer Creek Press
PO Box 51251
Eugene OR 97405

West By Northwest

Voices of Peace, Volume VI
Africa: Peace with Justice Northwest Tour
Starhawk's Heresies in Pursuit of Peace: Thoughts on Israel/Palestine.
Sarah Shields asks Please Dad, Tell Me: How Do I Stop Being Complicit?
Peg Morton sharesMy School of the Americas (SOA) Saga.
Web links
Erbin Crowell considers Coffee and Fair Trade.
Illegal Logging Threatens Ecological and Economic Stability.
Ecstasy of Ecology - Penny Livingston and the Permaculture Institute.
Norman Solomon considers India and Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons and Media Fog and the USA's "War On Terrorism": Winking At Nuclear Terror.
M.G. Hudson asks us to Consider the Case of Patricia Sweets: The Failing Safety Net of Publicly Financed Health Insurance.
Patrick Morris, writes on the role of the Royal Pains.
High Plains Films releases This Is Nowhere
Meet Skip Schiel, an remarkable photographer
Delight in Guy Weese's Summer in the City Photos
Doug Tanour's Exodus Poems
Jane Farmer uses the medieval villanelle
Explore a few small presses with big ideas. We look at The Magic Fish, When Spirits Come Calling, Saving Wilderness in the Oregon Cascades and Cradle to Cradle.
Barbara S. Thompson's My Life, Chapter 4, Moving Out West to Los Angeles.
Cogentrix to Aquila, Going from Bad to Worse? by Mary Zemke.
Lois Barton's Sunnyside of Spencer Butte, The Cat That Flew and Sauerkraut and All That.
Jonnie Lauch's electronic debut in Nighttime Intruder.


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