A wastewater-treatment facility east of Bend, Oregon, that is a magnet for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.
By Damian Fagan | Published: 12/14/2012
Most birders don’t turn their noses up at the thought of birding at a wastewater-treatment facility. Bend’s Hatfield Lakes (named after Senator Mark Hatfield, who helped secure funding for the facility) is part of the city’s water-reclamation facility. In a landscape known more for its sagebrush, junipers, and pines, the ponds are magnets for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Even when the birding is slow, the view of the surrounding snow-capped Cascade Mountains is well worth the walk in.
Seasonal water fluctuations create shallow-water or mudflat habitats for shorebirds such as Western, Least, Baird’s, and Pectoral Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes. The emergent vegetation of cattails and bulrushes that borders the ponds provides cover and nesting habitat for Virginia Rail, Sora, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Marsh Wren. And the open water attracts ducks and geese.
Another highlight: In spots, gravel roads separating the lakes offer slightly elevated views. I always enjoy watching swallows hawk insects over the water, often at or below eye-level. — Damian Fagan
Damian Fagan is a freelance writer from Bend, Oregon, and a past president of the East Cascades Audubon Society.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Secondary wastewater lagoons surrounded by sagebrush-shrub and juniper forests.
Flat. First lake is a quarter mile from the gate; back ponds are about half a mile.
Almost 200 species. Trumpeter Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Eared Grebe, Bald Eagle, Virginia Rail, Sora, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Western, Least, Baird’s, Pectoral, and Spotted Sandpipers, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls, Common Nighthawk, Western Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Tree, Bank, Cliff, and Barn Swallows, Mountain Bluebird, Nashville and Townsend’s Warblers, Western Tanager, Savannah and Vesper Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Pinyon Jay, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird. Rarities: Tufted and Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Merganser, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Long-billed Curlew, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sabine’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Purple Martin, American Tree Sparrow, Bobolink.
When to go
Year-round. Diversity is best in spring and fall.
No facilities at the site; gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores on Hwy. 20. A visitor kiosk orients birders to the area and provides checklists and maps.
Municipal water-treatment facility. No fees. Foot or bike access only; don’t drive in even if the gate is open. Use the walk-through in the fence if the gate is closed.
Dress for the weather and be prepared for changing conditions; carry bug spray in summer. A spotting scope helps with views of distant shorebirds and waterfowl.
For more info
On O.B. Riley Rd. in Bend. Four miles of trails along the Deschutes River. American Dipper, Hooded Merganser, Anna’s Hummingbird, Pygmy Nuthatch, Canyon Wren.
Tumalo State Park
North of Bend off Hwy. 20. Campground and day-use area along the Deschutes River. Canyon Wren, Great Horned Owl, warblers, vireos, jays, and flycatchers.