Visit this coastal refuge west of Salem from fall through spring to find Dusky, Lesser, and Western Canada Goose and Aleutian, Taverner's, and Semidi Islands Cackling Goose, as well as shorebirds and raptors.
By Marcie J. Bushnell | Published: 10/21/2011
Thousands of Cackling and Canada Geese take refuge at the Nestucca Bay NWR each winter, including an unusual subpopulation of Aleutian Cackling Goose.
The Semidi Islands Cackling Goose numbers only about 130 birds. They breed on small islands off the coast of the Alaska Peninsula and winter only here. During daytime, they hang out in private and refuge-owned fields in Pacific City, and they spend nights around and on Haystack Rock off the coast. Observing the geese is best from pullouts along Brooten Rd. and Resort Dr. As I scan the geese for the green neck collars that distinguish the Semidi Islands birds, I am rewarded quickly and am left feeling amazed by the flock’s perseverance.
The refuge’s main public birding area, the Cannery Hill Unit, is farther south on Christensen Rd. I park at the lower parking area, where I watch for Bald Eagles and other raptors, then walk two trails, where I look for sparrows, vireos, warblers, finches, and Ruffed Grouse. The Pacific View Trail leads to an observation deck where you can see the ocean, Nestucca Bay, and the Coast Range. — Marcie J. Bushnell
Marcie J. Bushnell is a freelance travel writer and a retired French teacher based in Eugene. She is a member of the Lane County (Oregon) Audubon Society.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Tidal marsh, mudflats, grasslands, forested wetlands, pasture, open water.
Moderate 0.4-mile gravel road/trail from lower parking lot to upper parking lot in Cannery Hill Unit. From upper parking lot, paved 0.3-mile trail is wheelchair-accessible.
Late October to early April: Dusky, Lesser, and Western Canada Goose, Aleutian, Taverner’s, and Semidi Islands Cackling Goose, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, all three scoters, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers, Townsend’s Solitaire, Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows. Summer and early fall: Brown Pelican, Black-bellied Plover, Black Turnstone, Dunlin. Year-round: Black Oystercatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, American Dipper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Anna’s Hummingbird, Varied Thrush, Song Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle. Rare: Golden Eagle, Cinnamon Teal.
When to go
Year-round for songbirds. Fall through spring for geese, shorebirds, falcons, and eagles.
Hiking trails, observation deck, restrooms, benches along Pacific View Trail. Annual Pacific City Birding and Blues Festival April 13-15, 2012.
National wildlife refuge. No fees. Open daily from sunrise to sunset. Cannery Hill Unit is open to public. Nestucca Bay Unit is not. Views available at pullouts along Brooten Rd. and Resort Dr.
To see the Semidi Islands Cackling Geese fly to or from Haystack Rock, stand on the beach at Cape Kiwanda at dusk or dawn. Raingear useful in spring and fall.