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.
If you hadn’t heard what happened to the bald eagle pair tending this year’s nest at the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, the pair I’ve mentioned several times in the last few months (A Pair of Eagles), I apologize for bringing bad news. Many of us have been following the nest this spring and hoping to see hungry eaglets Sadly, the wild winds of last Tuesday morning sent the tall fir tree, along with the eagle’s nest, into the river.
I was compelled to go see the damage this morning and was able to talk to a woman who had been watching when the incident happened. I also read an account by a photographer who had been there.
Both witnesses said that the tree fell very quickly and that the distraught parents circled again and again above the spot, obviously in shock and confusion.
The woman I spoke to this morning said she has only seen one eagle in the last few days. As I left the refuge I saw one eagle in the top of the huge oak tree near the visitor center.
It’s a sad outcome for this year’s eagles at the refuge, but those parents are big, strong, beautiful birds – and there is next year. it is still springtime, it is still the season of hope, the season of growth, and a time for renewal. There is much to love about this time of year.
was a sign that they are nesting. I could hardly wait to find out this morning. There she was, sitting high in a tree across the river, safe from human traffic. A Bald Eagle’s nest can be eight feet wide and weigh as much as a ton. In Alaska they have been known to get much bigger and weigh up to two or three tons. Sitting at the very top of a tall tree, as this one is, makes them an engineering marvel, but most bird nests are.
That white head barely showing above the nest is everything I hoped to see.
Next time I go to the refuge I’ll be checking out the half-chewed tree below to see if the Beaver came back to finish the job.
Tigard’s Woodard Park is a perfect spot to picnic. It’s quiet and beautiful, and there is a playground with plenty of room for romping. It’s also full of surprises offering access to Fanno Creek Trail, Derry Dell Creek, Tigard Library Trail, and more.
The first time we visited Woodard Park I was surprised, and delighted, to accidentally find the Derry Dell Creek restoration project. Yesterday we returned and found another surprise
As we walked Woodard’s graceful paths shaded by tall old oak and long-leafed pine trees, there were choices to be made. We were just exploring, so I let my little dog decide to follow the path to the left. He seldom gets to make those decisions. We walked over a bridge where I spotted a breathtakingly beautiful Cedar tree. Phone apps aren’t always correct, but mine identified the tree as an Eastern Red Cedar.
The trail had led me to Tiedeman Street. Across Tiedeman Street I was surprised to see an entrance to Dirksen Nature Park. In the nature park I tried to photograph a wren before it flew off. Then Teddy and I became distracted by tiny two-legged wildlife at the most appealing toddler playground I’d ever seen.
There were plenty of small people enjoying themselves on a sunny Saturday morning. As a stranger, I was careful not to take pictures of children, but we enjoyed watching them climb logs and rocks, run, everywhere, and play with the little windows and doors on the carved tree stumps. I didn’t see it but there is also hidden “cave” for the little people.
Teddy basked in attention from children whose parents allowed them to pet his soft red fur. He reluctantly abandoned all that adoration when we left to enjoy the overlook in the oak savannah area of the park.
This last picture of Teddy was taken as we left the children and all the attention he was enjoying. He was not happy.
We’ll go back soon to see where the shaded paths at Woodard Park will take us next.
It was wet and 39 degrees at the Tualatin River Refuge Wednesday morning. But I can never stay away for long.
Thanks to winter storms, the water is brown and running much faster than it was last summer and early fall.
I peeked under the rails of a footbridge, noticed this Great Blue Heron looking for breakfast, and took a dozen photos hoping to capture his face. He refused to cooperate but catching the elegant feathers on his body was enough.
The storms of the last two weeks were too much for a large old oak. The relatively new wetland overlook will need repairs.
Teddy and I meant to spend a few hours exploring Woodard Park in Tigard this morning. Instead, we stayed on the boardwalk at the end of Johnson Street and marveled at the Derry Dell Creek Restoration project.
Only a few years ago, Derry Dell Creek had become an ugly ditch that frequently threatened homes, property, and sewage systems. It was inhospitable to humans and wildlife, and it was a dead end for fish trying to move upstream.
Today, the creek is a messy, chaotic, living work of art; exactly what a healthy creek should be. It’s a piece of wild beauty in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood.
Now the creek is rich in inviting habitat for herons and many other birds.
There are streams of fast-moving water making ripples in the surface. The stream sometimes wanders around giant root balls and logs piled up like pick -up-sticks, other times it sits quietly at rest in pools. A pair of raptors nest in one of the tall trees standing over the creek
The restoration work received the Oregon State Land Board’s Stream Project Award in 2014.
One day soon, Teddy and I will go back to explore the rest of Woodard Park, and we will go back again in the spring to see what’s happening on Derry Dell Creek.
The backyard chimes I enjoyed so much in a tiny breeze last summer, are temporarily down. I wasn’t thinking about winter storms when I hung them outside my bedroom window last spring.
A few nights ago, tucked in my warm bed, I listened to a howling wind and buckets of rain splashing against the bedroom window. The wind and rain only only heightened my sense of warmth and security.
The storm woke me up every once in a while, but only long enough to turn my pillow over, snuggle deeper under the blankets, and drift back to sleep. My pillow was cool, the bed was warm, the dog was at my feet, and I remembered how fortunate I am.
A wild night of wind and heavy rain had flooded the paths in the oak savannah area of the refuge this week. Still, I counted myself lucky to be able to take a nice walk before the rain began again.
Thank to the storm the night before, the river was moving swiftly, carrying logs and debris. I rarely see any noticeable movement on the lazy Tualatin River. Drops from rain-soaked trees along the banks fell to the river, briefly expanded in concentric circles, then quickly disappeared before being replaced by others.
As I stood there, a single black goose flew over the river, reminding me of my ignorance in identifying waterbirds.
While walking to the river, I had seen a pair of Bald Eagles fly to the top of a tall fir overlooking a large pond crowded with ducks and geese. I’d first noticed the eagles because of the modest little chirrup sound they made as they landed. It’s a sound that doesn’t seem appropriate for such a magnificent creature. As for the ducks and geese, they didn’t appear alarmed, though I’m sure the eagles were planning dinner.
I left the eagles and took the path into the woods and out to the wetland viewing platform where I could see several ponds in the distance and a small herd of deer gathered together on the grassland about half a mile away.
On the way back, I glanced to my left just in time to see the eagles land together in a fir tree directly across the river from me. It is hard to miss the bright white plumage of the huge bird. One of the eagles seemed to be sitting low on a nest and the other sat beside the nest, tall and confident. I lingered under the dripping trees for a while just to savor the sight.
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.