This refuge southwest of Portland is full of warblers, towhees, and Lazuli Bunting in spring and migrating shorebirds, including Long-billed Dowitcher, in fall.
By Lauretta Young | Published: 4/23/2010
Landscapes on Tualatin River NWR allow us a glimpse of what the Atfálat’i people might have seen here centuries ago. Plants such as wapato, smartweed, and white oak, once abundant, are now confined to a few small areas in Oregon, including the refuge.
I like to imagine that the first Oregonians were also familiar with the river basin’s tremendous birdlife: waterfowl, eagles, shorebirds, herons, and songbirds. Today the refuge allows anyone in Portland a chance to connect with nature.
I love to visit any time of year but especially when the service roads are open in the spring and summer. They allow me to hear birdsong undisturbed by urban noise and to hike through many habitats, often seeing 50 species per two-hour jaunt.
Of course, I enjoy thinking back on the life birds I’ve found here. In particular, the Lazuli Bunting I saw and photographed a few years ago ranks among my best birding memories. It was quite cooperative and photogenic! And I’ll never forget the scene in the parking lot in fall 2009. Dozens of Western Bluebirds perched, hopped, preened, and ate in full view of several birders. It was quite the sight. — Lauretta Young
Lauretta Young is a retired physician and and a bird-tour leader (www.portlandbirdwatching.com). She also wrote about Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon, Hotspot Near You No. 99, and Black Butte Ranch, Sisters, Oregon, No. 179.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Seasonal wetlands, oak savanna, riparian woodlands, grassland, and wet-meadow prairie.
One-mile gravel walking path wheelchair-accessible. Service roads flat.
About 200 species. Spring: Dunlin, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, and Wilson’s Warblers, Spotted Towhee, Lazuli Bunting, Band-tailed Pigeon, Western Tanager. Breeding: Red-breasted Sapsucker, Spotted Sandpiper, Virginia Rail, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit. Fall: migratory songbirds and shorebirds, including Long-billed Dowitcher. Winter: Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Wood Duck, Hooded Mergansers, Cinnamon, Green-winged, and Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Tundra Swan, Cackling Goose, and several subspecies of Canada Goose.
When to go
Checklist at kiosk and on website. A photo blind can be reserved free of charge.Migratory Songbird Festival May 15. Wildlife Center has exhibits, restrooms, drinking fountains, and store. Educational activities for all ages.
Federal wildlife refuge. No permits or fees. Trails open dawn to dusk. Seasonal trails open to foot traffic May 1 through September 30. Wildlife Center open Tuesday-Sunday 10-4 and may be open later in summer. Tri-Met bus route 12 serves the refuge; visit trimet.org for schedules.
In winter, bring a spotting scope to scan the wetlands. Refuge volunteers often on the trail with a scope for public use. No pets or bikes.