Skip to main content

Oregon Family Magazine

Connect with Your Natural Neighbors

02/01/2024 ● By Beth Stein
Tap…tap…tap…  Tap…tap…tap… Ever wonder who’s knocking, open you door, peer outside, and discover a woodpecker in a nearby oak? You’ve just met one of your natural neighbors! Feathered, furry, scaled, and shelled, critters of all kinds live in neighborhoods just like yours, right in the middle of town.  

Starting this month, you’ll have lots of opportunities to meet your natural neighbors. By connecting with these critters, and treating them as a part of your community, you’ll strengthen the web of life to which we all belong.  Read on to learn about four friends you might encounter as you explore.

Pacific Treefrogs: Did you know there’s a free symphony in wet places like Amazon Park every spring? This lovely chorus is made up of male Pacific treefrogs “singing” their mating songs. Fun fact: each tiny frog amplifies its tune by inflating a resonating throat sac — up to three times the size of its head!

Western Pond Turtles: On a sunny day, take a walk at the Delta Ponds behind Valley River Center and you’ll likely see a whole party of turtles sitting on logs. Turtles are reptiles, so they need a heat source outside their bodies to stay warm, thus their passion for sun bathing! Fun fact: western pond turtles are unable to swallow food in the air; they must swallow under water.

Beavers: Beavers delight in eating the soft, tasty growing layer just under the bark of water-loving trees. If you visit Alton Baker Park, you’ll see their handiwork all along the canal. Touch the tooth marks on a beaver-chewed cottonwood and imagine having teeth tough enough to chop down a tree! Fun fact: beavers can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes!

Ducks: We all love ducks, right?! Look for mallards – brightly colored males and easily camouflaged brownish females – along all of the waterways in our community. Mallards are called puddle or dabbling ducks. Kids love watching them tip tail-up to reach submerged vegetation, seeds, and invertebrates. Fun fact: water birds need LOTS of feathers to stay warm – about 12,000 per mallard!

To help your kids connect to their natural neighbors year around, sign them up for outdoor after school programs, no school days, and summer daycamps. Nearby Nature ( and other local nature groups have lots of cool spring and summer programs open for registration starting this month!

Beth Stein is the Executive Director of Nearby Nature, a non-profit education group dedicated to fostering appreciation of nature nearby and providing tools for ecological living. Nearby Nature hosts after school care, the Wonder Keepers preschool, no school day programs, school field trips, special events, summer daycamps, and restoration projects. For more information, call 541-687-9699 or see