Fern Ridge Reservoir is an exceptional birding site and a very popular birding destination. It is the largest area of open water and wetlands in the Willamette Valley, and relatively close by air to the marshes of the Klamath Basin. Many wetland species that are typical of inland marshes, including Redhead, Western and Clark’s Grebes, Black Tern, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Black-necked Stilt, also breed at Fern Ridge. To bird this area on foot, walk past the gate and continue along the old Royal Ave roadbed until you reach the water?s edge (distance varies with seasonal water levels). Observation decks and side trails are to the south of the roadbed. Habitats include marsh, mudflat, Willamette Valley wet prairie, oak woodland, and reservoir water (through August). Shorebirding is fantastic during southbound migration (July-Oct); along with all of the regularly occurring species, watch for rarities such as golden-plovers and Stilt, Buff-breasted and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. The oak woodland features Acorn Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch. In spring, watch for a huge variety of waterfowl, waterbirds, hawks, and songbirds. Access to Royal Avenue viewing platform is open daily year-round. Some areas of Fern Ridge Wildlife Refuge have seasonal access restrictions in place to provide sanctuary for wintering waterfowl. Please read posted signs for access rules, which are strictly enforced. Another good birding walk nearby starts from a gravel parking lot about 0.25 mi W of Fisher Road along Highway 126. Walk N along the gravel road toward Fisher Butte for views of prairie to the E and marsh on the W. A road around the base of the Butte continues on to Royal Avenue.
From Site F6 go W 2.2 mi on Royal Ave to intersection with Fisher Butte Rd; or from Eugene go W on Hwy 126 for 1.8 mi past Greenhill Rd, turn N (R) on Fisher Butte Rd and go 0.5 mi to reach the same intersection. From there head W on Royal Ave. Stop at the grove of oaks to view the Acorn Woodpecker colony, then continue W to the gate, which blocks Royal Ave, and park in the gravel lot.