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.
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.
The minute I first saw the huge windows in the back of the little house, I was blinded to the broken down backyard fence and kitchen cabinets, the oversized low-hanging bedroom fan threatening decapitation, an aged dirty carpet covering a plywood floor, and a multitude of smaller sins.
Love, after all, is the ability to look past the warts and treasure the good. I told myself I would fix what I could, when I could.
The windows were old, no longer fit, and couldn’t be locked. I saw them as my year-round access to the outdoors and whatever wildlife I could nurture in my tiny backyard.
Butterflies, bees, tiny green tree frogs, and garter snakes live in my new little yard,
Hummingbirds found the feeder the day I first put it up. A scrub jay and a pair of house wrens frequent the yard and drink from the bird bath. Skunks and squirrels and chipmunks live nearby. I only need to pay attention to enjoy their presence.
The house is close to the wildlife refuge and the autumn skies are often filled
with large flocks of noisy gossiping geese.
Yesterday morning, as I was looking out my back window I saw a tremendous flurry of activity in a neighbor’s large tree. Hundreds of Cedar Waxwings were filling up on the bright orange berries covering that tree. Cedar Waxwings are the most nattily dressed of birds. I was so delighted to see them that I forgot to take a picture.
Feeding wild birds can be a delightful distraction in these days of social isolation; but not so much when you find yourself dealing with sprouting seed under your feeder, wet and rotting bird seed, and squirrels who hog what little is left. It took years, but I finally learned that it is possible to enjoy feeding backyard birds without the mess, the spoilage, and the waste, and without inviting rodents to share the feast.
I learned by making mistakes, many mistakes; none more disconcerting than the sunny afternoon I realized I was hosting a family of rats under the feeder (The Honeymooners). Having made so many mistakes, I’d like to share some things that took all the fuss out of what should be one of life’s small joys.
To get the most pleasure out of your yard birds you really only need a few things, a source of water, a good quality feeder and the right food.
Whether you feed or not, consider a bird bath filled with fresh, clean water. Thirsty birds will gladly stop by, and the antics of bathing birds are endlessly entertaining. An inexpensive concrete bath is perfect, but a shallow bowl or ceramic container will do. Even a large rock with a natural indentation makes a lovely bath.
Most important is a clean bath and fresh water. The bath should be kept free of scum. I keep a stiff brush by the faucet to quickly clean the concrete bath as I replenish water. The best bird baths have a gradual slope so that the birds can wade into the depth they prefer. If yours doesn’t slope, a few decorative rocks of different sizes will enable birds to use it more easily.
Feeder and Seed
Your feeder should keep seed dry. Rotting seed, wasted seed, and the mess under your feeder, can kill the birds and will eventually make you feel like trashing the idea of bird feeding.
I stick with a gazebo style feeder and keep it full of sunflower “hearts” (chopped sunflower seeds). Sunflower hearts are the only seed I buy. Since they are already shelled and broken up, even finches love them.
Don’t waste your money on bags of seed mixes. They contain a large percentage of “filler” seeds that the birds don’t eat. You’ll find sunflower hearts in the in the garden section of your grocery store, not the pet section. You can also get them at bird shops, and yard and garden stores.
The gazebo style feeder is ideal for beauty and practicality. Food stays dry until the bird enters the feeder and coaxes the seed from the plastic center cone. A mesh floor keeps water from collecting in the feeder. Because the seed is dispensed in the center of the gazebo, and because it holds only shelled, chopped, sunflower seeds, not a single shell or seed hits the ground. There is absolutely no waste, no shells to attract rodents, and no rot to sicken the birds.
Placing your Feeder
Pick an open spot in your yard, about ten feet from overhanging branches, or any structure which will allow a clever squirrel to jump on top of the feeder. Don’t place your feeder near undergrowth where your neighbor’s cat can lay in wait. Mount your feeder about five feet high (a metal pole in a concrete block is ideal). Don’t forget to add an inexpensive metal squirrel baffle under the feeder, about four feet above the ground.
Now you are ready for years of bird watching without the mess.
If you are interested in attracting colorful woodpeckers, and delightful flocks of tiny Bush Tits, you may consider offering suet to the birds. Suet is fat from cattle and a delight to woodpeckers and other insect eaters. Directions for making suet are available online but I much prefer buying suet blocks at same place I get seed. It’s not expensive, and the birds have not complained.
Suet can also attract more aggressive birds like Starlings, Crows, and Jays; birds that can quickly finish off a suet cake and discourage the birds you want to feed. The trick is to buy a holder that is only open on the bottom. Woodpeckers and Bush Tits are fine hanging upside down while they dine; crows and starlings don’t like it at all and will soon give up trying.
Hummingbirds are fascinating back yard guests. The often behave like ferocious little terriers of the bird world, zipping after each other like fighter pilots and keeping the area around a feeder exciting. The formula for food is simple, four parts water, one-part sugar. Never use honey or any other kind of sweetener and never add coloring. It’s important to thoroughly wash the feeders and give fresh food frequently.
I’m hoping there is something here that will make your bird feeding simpler, less messy, and much more fun. Wishing you a happy spring enjoying the wild birds in your own yard!
If the fish in your backyard pond kept disappearing, you’d get tired of replacing them. You’d start focusing on getting rid of the character who was eating them, most likely a raccoon.
That’s why Debbie and Jerry bought a large Havahart live trap, set it up near their pond, baited it with tuna fish, and waited. Several mornings later Jerry stepped out the back door, saw they had something in the trap, and was immediately disappointed to realize they had apparently caught someone’s black and white cat.
Fortunately, Jerry was approaching the trap from the rear when he realized what he really had in that wire cage.
The back end was all Jerry could see of the little skunk. That was good. It meant the skunk could not see him.
Quietly, Jerry backed away from the cage. He would much rather have dealt with a thirty-pound snarling raccoon than a five-pound skunk. He needed advice.
Clackamas County Fish and Wildlife said, “You have to release it. Take it five miles past the Oregon City limits and let it go.”
“Don’t you have someone who can come out and help me?” Jerry asked.
It’s a skunk in a large wire cage. I won’t be able to get anywhere near it!
“We don’t do that, sir. You have to take it out of town.”
How about a humane way to get rid of it without getting close?” Jerry asked.
“No! You are required to take it five miles out of town.”
Jerry was running short of patience by then, “How about I take it to your offices and release it there?”
“No! Do not bring it here, sir and do not do anything to that skunk! We may send a officer out to your house and make sure you properly release it!”
Jerry had to work that morning but he came up with a plan.
Debbie grew up on a farm in Colton. She knows skunks and she says, “If a skunk can’t see you, it won’t spray you.”
Holding up a large tarp so the skunk couldn’t see him, Jerry tip-toed quietly through the tulips, past the pond and right up to the wire cage. Still hidden, he carefully covered the entire cage with the tarp. Then he used several bungee cords to make sure the tarp was tied down tightly. Next, Jerry lifted the large cage to the back of their small Chevy pickup. The skunk was quiet.
Jerry planned to park the truck in a shady spot at his office and then, after work, take the skunk out of the city and release it.
Sailing down I-205, with the skunk in the back of his truck, Jerry was feeling pretty confident.” So far so good,” he thought!
It wasn’t long before Jerry noticed honking, a lot of honking. Then the driver of a white Toyota flew by and scowled at Jerry. Suddenly Jerry picked up the powerful scent of skunk. Panic took hold of him when he looked in the back of the pickup and saw the tarp flapping in the wind. People in the lane next to him flew by as fast as they could, some of them were gesturing toward the back of the truck. Many were making obscene gestures. Those who passed carried with them the scent of a terrified freeway-riding skunk.
They say that a skunk can spray about six times in a row to a distance of ten feet. But this skunk was really terrified and Jerry swears the skunk never stopped shooting until they arrived at Jerry’s work. In any event, the ten-foot range must have been extended to hundreds of feet behind the truck – what with the wind produced by the freeway speeds.
Jerry made it to work and parked in a shady spot far away from any other vehicles. He told his work buddy, John, the tale of his morning adventure.
“Skunks have never bothered me,” John said, “I’m a single man with a cabin in the woods. Bring the skunk out to my place and let him loose. He’s welcome!”
After work, Jerry carefully tied the tarp down again and followed John out to the cabin. In a pleasant wooded spot they slowly lifted the tarp from the front of the cage.
John stood behind the cage, held the tarp in front of himself, and lifted the door of the cage. The skunk could see nothing but freedom.
He waited. And waited.
Jerry couldn’t see any reason to wait for the skunk to gather courage so he went home.
Now it was just John and the skunk.
John continued waiting for several minutes.
Since he was hiding behind the tarp, John couldn’t see the skunk but he was pretty sure it hadn’t left the cage yet.
He continued to wait.
After a while, John peeked over the tarp, just barely, he was too nervous to pull it back far enough to see the cage.
He continued to wait. There seemed to be no movement from inside the cage.
Then he thought, “Maybe I looked away for a second, the little guy ran out, and I missed it completely.”
So he lowered the tarp a little bit more, peeked further over, and looked into the shiny black eyes of one mad and disoriented skunk. Before John could think, the skunk turned, fired, then proudly waddled off.
Too late John dropped the tarp and ran to his cabin.