A Happy Beginning at Hatfield Lake: Hunters and birders come to together to the clear the air and the ground at waterfowl site | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

A Happy Beginning at Hatfield Lake: Hunters and birders come to together to the clear the air and the ground at waterfowl site

Different people come together to clean up Hatfield Lake.

Two years ago, during the annual Christmas Bird Count carried out by the East Cascades Audubon Society, three people conducting the count ran headon into a few (illegal) waterfowl shooters at Hatfield Lake. Judy Meredith, a longtime member of the first Audubon chapter started in Bend back in the '70s, was the leader of the CBC group, and didn't take the verbal abuse the illegal shooters dished out. She called the law and they responded, leaving some very disgruntled shooters in their wake.

It turns out the eager-beaver shooters allegedly tore down part of the perimeter fence around the sewage plant and traipsed in, seeing Hatfield Lakes as their private hunting preserve.

According to Tom Crabtree, a birder and attorney in Bend, the city of Bend closed Hatfield to hunting years before, and far as he was concerned, the shooters were there illegally, and unjustly harassing legal, official bird-counters. In fact, the bird counters had secured permission to enter the water treatment property to count waterfowl.

Being a naturalist, this writer got into the middle of the confrontation and wrote an article about the mess, which the Source published that same year.

During the last Christmas Bird Count, it happened all over again, but this time the Bend wastewater facility was posted with signs that clearly stated the area was closed to hunting. This apparently didn't mean anything to the wannabe duck shooters - who didn't care or couldn't read - and they went in to shoot what they could.

All this finger pointing was clearly giving the law-abiding hunters a bad shuffle. With the wisdom of Solomon, Meredith contacted Dan Ramming of the Bend chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, they got their heads together and decided it was time to put a stop to all the nonsense of illegal shooters giving legal sportsmen a bad name. What better way to get things done than forming a partnership? The two groups got their troops together to take on a cleanup project at Hatfield Lake.

Last Saturday, with much smiling and a getting-to-know-each-other attitude, 40 or so hunters and birders got together at Hatfield Lake to do a much-needed litter cleanup. Hundreds of pounds of debris left behind from recreation of all kinds was picked up, dug out and otherwise stuffed into big plastic bags and hauled off to the landfill.

Actually, from the stories I've heard over the years, it was a very caring, and wise-thinking Republican who made it possible for Bend to enjoy the modern engineering of a wastewater facility. From what Judy Meredith can recall, it was while Ruth Burleigh was Mayor of Bend that the sewer project got underway.

As it is too often with public works projects, unforeseen costs popped up. All that rugged terrain and lava rock at the present site created a huge expense and there wasn't enough local money to complete the job. Burleigh, being the wise and effective person she was, engaged then-Senator Mark Hatfield's help.

Hatfield backed Burleigh's request and went to work obtaining funding for the project. It only seemed right to name the new treatment plant and the holding ponds in his honor, and we now have Hatfield Lake.

The only legal access and use at Hatfield Lake is limited to walking on trails to the ponds and birding. No hunting is allowed! The first pond is only a quarter mile from the front gate, but the back ponds are more than a half-mile hike in. The first pond can be seen from the gate, but other ponds are farther to the north and cannot be seen from the gate. The sewage lagoons are surrounded by sagebrush/scrub and juniper, and is a prime birding spot in all seasons.

Good numbers of ducks can be found and a wide variety of shorebirds is usually present during migration. Rails can be heard in the cattails and a variety of raptors use this area for hunting. Eared grebes are normally present (they breed here) and sparrows and loggerhead shrikes use the sagebrush/scrub areas. If you're a red-hot birder and observe a species that catches your breath, drop a line to Tom and share your sighting with him, it may be a one of the "special surprises" that birders love to find.

And if you want to see some of the birds from Hatfield Lake, come to an East Cascade Audobon Society birder's night, or go visit toynutz.com/birds.html

The Audobon Society's Tom Crabtree put the whole picture of birding and hunting into focus, when he said, "I eat chicken, turkey and occasionally duck. It would be hypocritical of me to think it is okay to have a butcher kill them for me to eat, but somehow inappropriate for someone to hunt and kill them on their own.The OHA folks are as passionate about nature and know as much about ducks and geese as anyone I know.They also are committed to making sure that those in their hobby follow the rules and are good community partners. It was a real pleasure working with them."

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