Oaks Bottom is a treasure located in Sellwood, 15 minutes from downtown Portland, on the east bank of the Willamette River. Over the years I have seen a mama raccoon schooling her babies in the middle of a stream at Oaks Bottom. I’ve seen many deer and other mammals, and gone home to my family with excited tales of wild drama. I once watched a coyote catch up with a nutria on the riverbank.
Oaks Bottom offers a wide variety of habitat; there is wetland, woodland, meadowland, and the sandy banks at the river’s edge. All that variety makes for wonderful birdwatching. You can barely spot a Hairy Woodpecker on the tree at left.
Yesterday a friend and I walked the loop around the wetlands. It can probably be done in less than an hour but there is so much to see that we tended to linger.
For quite a while, we watched geese and several goslings near the water’s edge. Soon the youngsters scrambled up on the bank and began exploring, as the adults watched the babies closely and looked at us suspiciously.
When the babies moved very close to the path where we were standing, a parent put herself between us and the babies. Though it was the babies that had innocently headed our way, she was not happy with us.I don’t know if geese can blink, but she did not.
Teddy was shaking and whining with excitement when we got out of the car at Cook Park. He knew this wasn’t going to be our usual neighborhood walk. It was cool but not freezing as it had been the day before. The sky was clear but heavy rains had left the ground mucky and Teddy seemed to gravitate to the worst puddles.
We arrived in time to see a huge flock of geese rise from a pond and circle the sky above our heads. I confess that I never get tired of their noise and chaos.
The little dog followed his nose from tree to tree, reading pee mail and gathering as many smells as he could. I have to wonder whether he remembers particularly delightful scents the way I remember the the lovely Egret we saw.
There are plenty of opportunities to glimpse the Tualatin River as you walk the path through the woods.
I stood near the path,on the “civilized” side and peeked through the bushes into the wildlife area. It was a bit like straddling two different worlds and my favorite moment of the morning.
Snowberries always looks like Christmas to me, and we found plenty of them when we followed the path to Durham City Park.
Teddy must have been happy. He trotted along happily beside me on the way back to the car. At home he had to submit to having his feet washed before he found his favorite soft spot (my favorite chair) an napped for a few hours.
The chaos and drama of sunrise at the Tualatin River Refuge a couple of weeks ago (Celebrating the Dawn) inspired me to wonder if sunset would provide equally dramatic moments amidst the masses of water birds wintering there.
It was 3:00 PM when I parked near the highway and hiked up the hill to the visitor center.
From the observation deck overlooking the pond, I watched hundreds of ducks and geese moving about on the water.
I was fascinated by one small duck swimming into the middle of a group of geese, staying there for a few minutes, then moving on to another party of geese, seemingly introducing himself again and again, as though he was making the rounds at a cocktail party
Birds came and went from the pond in bands of four or six and sometimes in groups as large as fifty.
The prehistoric croak of a Great Blue Heron announced his short flight from an overcrowded area of the pond to a quieter spot. It’s not the first time I’ve observed that the Blue Heron seems irritated with the masses of birds wintering in his home.
I shivered as I watched birds noisily jostling for position water or gliding quietly on the surface. There didn’t seem to be nearly as many birds as I had seen rise together at dawn only a few weeks ago.
Like the frog in boiling water, I had barely noticed how quickly the temperature was dropping until my cheeks began to sting and my bare hands to ache. I’d left my gloves in the car.
To avoid the cold wind, I backed up under the overhang of the building, held my hood tightly in place, and continued to watch.
I had been so sure there would be some dramatic end to the day for these creatures, something to match their wild dawn awakening of a few weeks ago. The sun gradually dropped behind the hills, the temperature continued to drop, the cold wind grew wilder, and the birds grew quieter. My curiosity and resolve waned.
Shivering and miserable, lacking the fortitude to last five more minutes until sunset, I quit that cold, windblown place.
I was still shivering as I reached the highway, started the car, and waited for circulation to return to my fingers. On the other side of the highway I saw that many hundreds of birds were gathered on wetlands, more birds than I’d been watching at the pond. As I watched, the sun slipped away and the birds across the highway rose suddenly, and noisily, together. They spread across the sky and flew over my head to the ponds at the refuge. Many of them appeared to be landing at the pond where I had been keeping watch.
This was the main event I’d been waiting for, and I was catching it because I’d given up! There must be a lesson there.
From the warm car, I watched until every last bird appeared to have flown to the refuge. If there were birds left across the highway, it was too dark to tell.
I was at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to greet the dawn this Saturday morning. There was no rain, but the air was cold and the dampness from the rains we’d been having seemed to penetrate my warmest jacket and gloves. Trees held plenty of water from the rain and one or two icy drips managed to run down my neck until I wrapped my scarf tighter.
There are not many leaves left on the trees, but there is still a colorful carpet of leaves in some areas, and they serve to soften the sound of the gravel path.
I startled a small flock of juncos and sparrows rooting around on the gravel path. They flew into a bush, waited for me to pass, then immediately went back to sorting gravel.
According to the weather service, dawn would be at 7:18. At exactly 7:20, with the sun burning softly through the fog, a roar rose from the refuge ponds. It was the sound of many geese and water birds rising together in response to the dawn. Perhaps there were thousands of them. I can only say there were so many that they didn’t sound like geese. For just few moments, sounded instead like the roar of the crowd in a huge football stadium during Superbowl. I’ve seen huge flocks of geese before, but I’ve never heard anything like the roar they made as they first roused themselves.
The geese seemed to rise in waves, some appearing to fly away from the refuge but many staying overhead, low in the sky, circling, stretching their wings, milling around and around, not minding the fog. There were so many geese overhead I worried about what might drop on my head. In the end, luck was with me. A noticed a heron who seemed to resent the noisy early morning ritual as he fled for more peaceful territory. After thirty minutes most of the geese had settled back down and quieted. The ceremony of celebrating dawn was over.
The spectacular wakening was the gift I had come for, so was the small herd of deer I nearly stumbled into, and the juncos and the sparrows. I seldom anticipate what I will see when I walk in the refuge. Instead, I wait for the gift I will be given. I am never disappointed.
Oh Canada goose! How often have I cursed your multitudes. You spread across grassy fields leaving slippery bullets everywhere. One woman and her small dog can barely navigate without falling into the filth. I have wished you into a stew pot or the centerpiece of a Dickens Christmas dinner.
Yet I cannot look at you without smiling. Sitting alone, at the highest point on the roof, you look down on humans walking the paths in Crystal Springs. You cackle and croak, offering us a cranky tongue lashing perhaps, or quoting scripture and spreading the Good News. Maybe you are cursing us, wishing us into stew pots.
You are a cocky fellow, confident and handsome Without your friends and relations, I see how beautiful you are, a living bright-eyed study in black and white and cream. You have something to say and you are a fine dressing for the top of that roof.
I’ll curse you and your friends and relations again, but this morning I bow to your singular spirit.