Corvallis Science & Nature: Spring Whale Watch Week, Bird Science, Riverfront Cleanup

 It’s official. Spring is here. 8:06 pm Corvallis time on Tuesday, March 19 was the exact moment of this year’s spring equinox, the time when the sun’s position lines up with Earth’s equator, giving the northern and southern hemispheres equal time in its light. From now until the summer solstice in June, we in the north get more light each day, as the southern half of the planet gets less. This past week, we got a taste of the spring warmth that’s coming. This week will be back to generally wetter conditions, and whether you choose to enjoy the showers or wait inside for the sun to return, there’s plenty to do around town.  

It’s Spring Whale Watch Week! 

We all see the spring birds arriving and the flowers starting to bloom, but one more big sign of spring is here that takes a little more patience to observe. Migrant gray whales are making their annual southward trek past the Oregon coast. Since 1978, volunteers and whale experts have helped mark this event by helping residents and visitors spot the giants as they pass by. It’s one of the two Oregon Whale Watch Weeks each year, and it starts this Saturday, all along our coast. This Google map shows the locations where volunteers will be stationed, or you can find your own spot to watch.  

Corvallis and Newport are home to some of the world’s foremost experts on whales and their ecology. This week, members of the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Mammals (GEMM) Lab at OSU published a new paper revising the family tree of blue whales, as well as a blog post on hypoxia, a threat to Oregon coast ecosystems including our whales.  

Thursday: Oregon Bird History Talk 

People have been watching birds in Oregon as long as there have been people in Oregon. Birds play important cultural and practical roles in many local Indigenous cultures. Western bird science and the modern idea of birdwatching are much more recent, but still have a long history, stretching back to the Lewis and Clark expedition. This Thursday, author Alan Contreras will be the speaker at this month’s meeting of Corvallis Audubon Society. His presentation will center on the modern history of ornithology in Oregon, focusing on his 2022 book “A History of Oregon Ornithology: From Territorial Days to the Rise of Birding”.  

The talk starts at 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 21, in the Chandler Ballroom of the Corvallis Community Center. It will also be available via Zoom, for pre-registered viewers. For more information, click here.  

Saturday: Avery Park River Cleanup 

Spring will be a great time to get out on the Willamette River, and there will be plenty of local Riverkeeper events to help keep our river clean. But this Saturday, Willamette Riverkeeper is sticking to shore, with a land-based cleanup at Avery Park. Organizers will provide trash bags, gloves and trash grabbers, but remind volunteers to bring their own water and good closed-toed shoes, and to dress for the always unpredictable early spring weather.  

The cleanup runs from 9 am to Noon on Saturday, March 23. Click here for details, and to register for the event.  

Saturday: Preschool Science at the Monroe Library 

This spring break, there’s no end of events for older children off from school, but not nearly as much for preschool-age kids. This Saturday, the Monroe branch of Benton County Library presents Preschool Science, a science-themed storytime and hands-on workshop for babies and kids up to five years old. The theme this time around is “Simple Machines”.   

The program runs from 12:30 to 1:30 pm this Saturday, March 23, at the Monroe library branch at 380 N. 5th Street, Monroe.  

Next Wednesday: Climate Friendly Lawn Talk 

With the official arrival of spring, gardening season is no longer coming. It’s here, and even if you don’t think of yourself as a gardener, if you have a yard, you have a space that you can use to harbor native wildlife, improve air and water quality and even sequester carbon from the air. This week, OSU professor Dr. Alec Kowalewski presents a webinar on making your lawn more climate-friendly, including choosing the right grass species, mowing, fertilizing and more to maintain not only healthy grass but healthy soil underneath it.  

The webinar runs from noon to 1 pm on Wednesday, March 27. Click here for details and to register. 

By Ian Rose 

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