The Bee-All and End-All

“Every third bite of food you take, you can thank a bee or other pollinator for… ”
E.O. Wilson, Forgotten Pollinators.

I was once a field biologist, lucky enough to call catching and identifying butterflies part of my
job. On one particularly hot afternoon, though, my pursuit of a rare butterfly was not going as
planned. It would fly close by, only to slip my net at the very last second. As the white wings
fluttered away for what felt like the hundredth time that day, I gave a resigned sigh. I let my net
slide to the ground. But mere moments later, I glanced down and there, resting gently on my
sleeve, was the butterfly. It was one of the most perfect, beautiful things I had ever seen. A new
appreciation of these insects was born.

Butterflies offer much more than beauty. Along with bees, hummingbirds, moths, wasps and beetles, they are pollinators whose small stature belies their importance. Pollinators transfer pollen and enable many plants to produce fruits and seeds. This makes them vital to the reproduction of many native and commercial plants. Our native flowering plants are key to healthy soils and clean air and water. Plus, more than 150 different crops, such as apples,
almonds and tomatoes, rely on them — a 2016 report estimates that pollinators are essential to three-quarters of the world’s crops, worth more than $577 billion. Pollinators and the plants they support also hold rich cultural values that no dollar amount could ever cover. Pollinators are under threat on a global scale. Pressures include habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, disease and the widespread use of certain harmful pesticides. Despite this, I am feeling optimistic. Last spring, we held an event to shine a spotlight on efforts to protect pollinators. The City of Bend, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sisters Middle School and Your Garden Companion shared their conservation successes and answered audience questions about how to support pollinators of all kinds. Their passion and commitment to this cause, and the enthusiasm with which audience members responded, gave me hope for the future of pollinators.

At the Museum, we are all keen to contribute to these local conservation actions. This summer, we look forward to celebrating National Pollinator Week and helping visitors to contribute to the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas. We are also planning to plant a pollinator habitat of native flowering plants on the grounds. In the fall, we will begin a professional development program to help teachers to establish pollinator habitats at three different Central Oregon schools.

If you are keen to support local pollinators yourself, a few things to consider:
• If you have a yard or patio space, plant some native plants that the pollinators will love.

Get inspiration from the Xerces Society, or chat with experts at your local plant nursery.
Build a bee condo!
• Tell your friends and family about the importance of pollinators.

I am no longer out in the wilderness identifying butterflies for a living. But my role at the Museum is to
connect people to why such species matter and how we can help them to thrive for generations to come
— and that, for me, is even more fulfilling.

Photographs by volunteer Museum photographer Abbott Schindler

Give a Bird a Home

Nest boxes are a fun and simple way to help backyard birds this spring.

Last spring, I watched in wonder from the window as a pair of mountain chickadees built a nest and raised their young in the front yard. I would perch, tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, excitedly reporting my sightings to my partner and our dog. It was such a perfect start to my day.

To see birds create and care for a nest, then witness their young fledging, is a delight. If you’re lucky, birds might naturally select a site near your home, but a nest box will improve your family’s chances of seeing this phenomenon first-hand. Many High Desert bird species are in decline due to a combination of pressures including habitat loss and fragmentation, window collisions and predation by domestic cats. A small but meaningful way to support them is to provide a safe, dry place for them to raise their nestlings.

Nest boxes are available at specialty and most hardware stores. It can be less expensive and more fun to make your own box, however, as some folks did recently at the Museum’s Nest Box Building workshop. If you’d like to do the same, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nestwatch.org offers a variety of building plans and information about nest monitoring.

Bird species vary in nesting behavior and therefore in their nest box preferences. The American robin tends to prefer a shelf, for example, while the northern flicker requires a deep box, filled with wood shavings, that it can excavate as it would a tree. When considering what type of box to provide, think about the habitat around you, what species you’ve seen in your area and which birds you’d most like to attract.

You can help to keep birds safe from predators by providing a secure, perch-free box that blends in with the surroundings. Predator guards are also available. If you or your neighbors have an outdoor cat, place your nest box in an area your feline friend cannot access.

It can take a while for birds to adopt a newly installed box, so be patient. Providing food and a reliable source of water can help to attract them.

As I watched the chickadees fledge last year, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for the opportunity to watch them at such close-range. Now that spring is here, I’m looking forward to seeing the whole process all over again.

Spring Activities for Kids

As the sun’s rays shine between the trees, glinting off the frost covering the bare aspen branches outside my window, I can feel the promise of spring, even as winter weather lingers. I know that soon buds on aspen branches will burst with fresh spring leaves and winter will give way to a new season! The arrival of spring is one of my very favorite times of the year. It’s a great time to get outside and explore. Longer days, warmer temperatures, new leaves and blossoms, and the return of migrating birds await you.

There are so many ways to celebrate spring, no matter your age, but these are some of my favorites!

1. Go on a hike and look for signs of animals!
In the spring, animals such squirrels and rodents are emerging from hibernation or torpor (periods of long slumber, but not true hibernation). You’ll see signs of their activity such as chewed pine cones and nibbled plant shoots.
Make a simple chart to focus your observations. Sketch what you see!
– Scat (animal poop)
– Tracks (footprints)
– Forage (chewed pinecones, nibbled branches, etc.)
– Homes (nests, dens, etc.)

Come stroll the Museum’s many nature trails and look for signs of animals such as the golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks, which are very active this time of year. Check the feeders in the wildlife viewing area for spring activity. Talk with a wildlife expert at the Museum if you have any questions about birds and mammals you’ve seen during your visit.

After watching the busy songbirds at the Museum’s feeders, get an up-close and personal view of raptors during our “Sky Hunters” program, offered for a limited run each year during spring break (March 24-31, 2018). Watch as powerful aerial predators take flight overhead in this intimate, free-flight demonstration showcasing each bird’s agility and grace. Date, time and price information can be found on our website calendar.

Families with young children will also enjoy exploring our “Who’s Home?” interactive exhibit. Watch as your little ones get creative, imagining they are snakes in the rimrock, just emerging from hibernation!

2. Start sunflower sprouts!
Sprouting seeds indoors before you plant outside helps the plant develop in a controlled environment. Or, rather than planting outside, have you ever eaten fresh microgreen sprouts? They are extremely nutritious, and, when grown in your own kitchen, very local!

By planting sunflower seeds inside, you can choose to transplant some outside where they will grow into tall sunflowers come summer, and save some for a delightful, edible treat.

Black oil sunflower seeds are my favorite. You can find quality seeds at a garden supply store, or by searching online.

1. Purchase quality seed. I use black oil sunflower seeds. Though other types will work, these are the least expensive.
2. Soak your seeds in warm water for 12 hours in a covered container. I recommend about two cups.
3. Drain and rinse.
4. Soak the seeds again in warm water for another 8-12 hours. (Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the seeds start to sprout.)
5. Once the seeds have begun to sprout, fill a clean, plastic nursery tray with moistened seed-starting potting mix nearly to the top.
6. Sow the seeds thickly across the entire tray then cover
it with another inverted nursery tray to block out the light. There is no need to cover the germinating seeds with more potting soil. Be sure there are some small holes in the top tray to allow for ventilation.
7. Water the tray from the bottom once or twice per day by setting the tray in a bigger tray of water for a few minutes.
8. As the shoots grow, they’ll push up the top tray (usually within a few days). At this point, remove the top tray to expose the growing seedlings to light.
10. Move the tray in front of a bright, sunny window.
11. Continue to regularly water by spraying shoots and soil with a spray bottle several times a day.
12. Harvest the sunflower shoots that you want to eat when they reach 4 inches high by cutting them off at soil level with sharp, clean scissors. Transplant the rest of the shoots outside!
13. Store unwashed sunflower microgreens in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. Wash them as you need them by running the shoots under cold water. They are delicious on sandwiches and salads!

By planting seeds indoors, kids get to witness every stage of the sprouting process, and then taste the results of their efforts and watch as their sunflowers grow and mature in the yard or garden.

Did you know?? At the Miller Ranch, the Millers are also getting ready to start a garden for the summer. Come ask the Millers about what they are doing to prepare their garden.
Spring is a prime time for sprouting in the great outdoors, too! Look for bud bursts and other signs of spring on the High Desert Natural History Walk at the Museum, offered daily.

3. Make a Bird Feeder
More than half of Central Oregon’s birds depart for the winter, leaving about 175 species that are hearty enough to survive the cold temperatures, snow, and scarce food. But come spring, migrant birds are returning and need to replenish after a long journey! Create this ponderosa pinecone bird feeder, and survey the local birds that come visit! Consider placing the feeder away from windows to mitigate collisions. Take it one step further and apply window stickers so birds don’t mistakenly fly into the glass!

You will need:
– Large ponderosa pine cones (found on the ground on an outside adventure!)
– Peanut butter (shortening for people with nut allergies)
– Birdseed
– String
– Butter knife
– A shallow dish
– And, of course, a place to hang your bird feeder! (a tree or bird feeder hanger work nicely)

1. Shake or lightly brush the pinecone to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off any loose scales that may break off as you create your feeder.
2. Tie string securely around the cone. Create a loop to easily hang your feeder from a tree branch.
3. Use the knife to coat the cone with a layer of peanut butter, pressing some between the rows of scales, filling in larger gaps. If the peanut butter is too thick to spread well, it can be warmed up slightly in the microwave to make it easier.
4. Once the cone is completely coated with peanut butter, roll it in the birdseed in a shallow dish, pressing lightly to keep the seed adhered to the cone. Work the seed in between the rows of scales.
5. Feeders can be hung immediately, or can be frozen for several weeks. The feeders do not need to be thawed before hanging.
6. Hang your feeder and carefully watch for visiting birds!
For bonus points, record the species you observe on eBird (www.ebird.org) – a partnership of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. There, you can see what types of birds other people have seen in your area, and share your sightings with others.

Learning about birds in your own backyard is an excellent extension of learning to complement your Museum visit. What do the birds in your backyard have in common with birds at the Museum? How are they different?

I hope you can use these activities to embrace the changing seasons! Spring is a blend of showers and sunshine, but whether sun or rain (or even snow), there’s plenty to explore to stay busy! When you’re warming up (or drying out) back indoors, continue your celebration of spring with these books:

Spring children’s books:
And then it’s spring by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stesd
Seeds, seeds, seeds! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Seeds sprout! (I like plants) by Mary Dodson Wade
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

Spring adult books:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

To Blake Little, Gay Rodeo is Personal

Blake Little, Chute Dogging

By Kari Mauser

From the moment he attended his first gay rodeo in 1988, photographer Blake Little was hooked. “I was completely drawn to it and I had to be a part of it,” he stated. “I wanted to be a cowboy.” Pursuing the thrill of his own cowboy dreams through the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), Little became immersed in the spirited Western community. As a participant, Little found himself in a unique place where he could draw on his passion for photography and use his background and skills as a photographer to document the gay rodeo through his camera lens.

Little knew, of course, that the view through a camera lens can be unique, often capturing the world from a different angle than seen when simply passing by. Through his photographs, he invites us to view things as they are, while also challenging us to see them from a different perspective.

What resulted was a series of 41 stunning black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992. On exhibit at the HDM from December 15, 2017, through April 30, 2018, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, presents a glimpse into a little-known world, allowing us to explore a story with the intimacy of an insider’s point of view. In addition to representing Little’s own experience on the gay rodeo circuit, the exhibition also celebrates the lives of many of its participants during those years, capturing the spirit and camaraderie of a vibrant community. The collection elegantly combines the action of roping and riding, while also presenting a portrait of the courageous cowboys and cowgirls behind the scenes.

The exhibition, Little explained, memorializes his own “unforgettable experiences in gay rodeo,” and honors “the cowboys who competed with me and left a huge mark on my life.” Competitors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet the relationships they formed became some of the most important in their lives. The gay rodeo community offered the LGBT cowboys and cowgirls a place where they could be themselves and embrace their true identities. Despite the competitive nature of rodeo, participants were supportive of one another. “For me that was the most memorable and rewarding thing about rodeo,” Little stated.
Some of the rodeo participants pictured in Little’s photographs still ride, but many have retired and some have passed away.
Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is curated by Johanna Blume, assistant curator of Western art at the Eiteljorg Museum, and offered through the courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN.

This exhibit is a program of ExhibitsUSA and The National Endowment for the Arts.
Made Possible by Cascade Arts & Entertainment, Oregon Cultural Trust and Zolo Media. This project has been funded in part by the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. With support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

Blake Little, Chute Dogging, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989; archival pigment
printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 13.25 x 20 inches; Loan courtesy
of Blake Little.

Changing Forest

The High Desert region is a complex landscape that features more than just sagebrush. This exhibit explains the role of forests and their dynamic nature in an arid environment. Learn about nutrient cycles, soils, impacts, wildlife and the influences of the dynamic trio: water, sunlight and air in the life cycle of a changing forest.

High Desert Ranger Station

One of the first things you see when you enter the Museum grounds is a little white building with a green roof. It’s an authentic forest ranger office from the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, built in 1933.

Lazinka Sawmill

Authentic 1904 sawmill. See an authentic sawmill that was used at the turn of the 20th century to process wood with an enormous blade slicing through thick Oregon timber.

Autzen Otter Exhibit

The Autzen Otter Exhibit is located outdoors and includes both outdoor and indoor viewing areas. Recently renovated, the outdoor glass walls provide great viewing for kids and those in wheelchairs to watch the otters.

1904 High Desert Ranch

Stop by and see what life was like for locals more than a hundred years ago. They will get your kids to do the chores they may refuse to do at home: digging in the garden, washing the laundry, or cross-cutting firewood. And when they’re finished, they can enjoy playing some frontier games. On the weekends during the winter months, stop by and warm up by the stove while listening to tales of yesteryear.