A group of interested birders, some amateur and some experienced, joined Mike Houck, an Urban Naturalist with the Portland Audubon Society, for a three-hour tour of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Portland’s first urban refuge. Across the 170-acres managed by Portland Parks and Recreation, you can spot many of the 209 bird species that call this complex of wetlands, meadows, and woodlands home—at least part of the year. Being on the Pacific Flyway, many birds are seasonal, or “just passing through.”

When Houck asked, “Does anybody see anything?” the kids start shouting out names: osprey, red-tailed hawks, scrub jays. Using his knowledge of calls, Houck managed to draw some birds a bit closer.

The tour descended from Sellwood Park on the bluff to the South Meadow, formerly a floodplain for the Willamette River, but now changed by years of industrial activity, the addition of a railroad grade, and flood control apparatus. Still, as Houck points out, the land has recovered dramatically. Oregon ash, western maple, thimbleberry, and spirea have re-colonized damaged areas—and created a paradise for birds.

The tour followed along the Springwater Corridor to views of osprey nests on Toe Island, and to the North Meadow for views of lesser goldfinches, Bewick’s wrens, and brown creepers. Some birds you hear rather than see. And some are hard to identify: is that a Sharp-shinned hawk or Cooper’s hawk? Is it male or female?

I saw birds I’d never seen before. Oaks Bottom, smack in the middle of the city, is an excellent place to spot Bald eagles, kingfishers, and Great blue herons. The three hour-tour, offered free by Portland Audubon, was punctuated by a walk around the lake that dwindles to a shallow puddle as summer wears on. Just don’t forget your binoculars.

For more information on exploring the great outdoors of Oregon, please visit our Outdoor Recreation section.

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  1. Jim Johnson says…

    Birding in Oaks Bottom is great. We were visiting my mom in SE Portland a couple of Christmases ago and had the pleasure of birding Oaks Bottom in the snow. We had a successful nest of Lewis’s Woodpeckers this year on our property in Bend.

    Written on August 7th, 2008 / Flag this Comment
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