Migrant shorebirds, wintering waterfowl in the thousands, and a resident pair of Bald Eagles make great reasons to visit this hotspot west of Portland.
By Lauretta Young | Published: 8/20/2010
When I arrive at Fernhill Wetlands, I feel excited about the birds that await, and yet I’m also fully relaxed because, with little traffic or industrial noise, I can easily hear bird songs and the other sounds of nature. Almost always I come away with more than 40 species in a two-hour walk, and usually I find a bird that is rare for the area: Northern Shrike, Ring-necked Pheasant, Warbling Vireo, Peregrine Falcon, or a vagrant gull.
The resident pair of Bald Eagles are my favorite birds at Fernhill. They often perch in the same trees, except when they’re on their nest, which is visible from the parking lot. I have seen them hunt cooperatively, picking off Green-winged Teal and Cackling Geese and eating them atop tall poles.
The sheer variety of birds in such a small area is a treat, and the area is so large that even if many cars are in the parking lot, it can be rare to see other people. The area is compact enough to bird with binoculars only, but I bring my spotting scope for the Wood Duck perching far across the pond or to see if any Trumpeter Swans are mixed into the huge flock of hundreds of Tundra Swans. — Lauretta Young
Lauretta Young is a retired physician and a bird-tour leader (www.portlandbirdwatching.com). She also wrote about Tualatin River NWR, Sherwood, Oregon, Hotspot Near You No. 91, and Black Butte Ranch, Sisters, Oregon, No. 179.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Seasonal ponds and mudflats, dikes, grassy fields, and small willows with a stand of Oregon ash, oak trees, and cottonwoods.
Flat. Woodchip-lined loop trails are 1.5 and 2.5 miles long. Not wheelchair-accessible.
Spring: Huge numbers of Tree and Violet-green Swallows. Spring and fall: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Common Yellowthroat, Red Phalarope, Dunlin, many sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher. Winter: waterfowl in the thousands, including Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Tundra Swan, Cackling Goose, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Western, Pied-billed, and Eared Grebes, and Ruddy Duck. Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and large flocks of Golden-crowned, Song, Fox, and other sparrows. Resident Bald Eagles successfully raise two chicks per year on average. Other raptors: American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, and the occasional Red-shouldered Hawk. Rarities: Northern Shrike, American Tree Sparrow, Brant.
When to go
Year-round. Every season is a delight. The bird community changes from week to week. One of the most productive spots for variety in Oregon.
Benches at a few viewing sites. No restrooms or drinking fountains.
Water utility property. No fees. Gravel parking lot with space for around 25 cars.
Dogs are allowed and not all owners pick up their waste; watch your step. Most owners keep dogs on leashes, but there have been scary moments with large dogs running loose.
For more info
Hillsboro Public Library
2850 NE Brookwood Pkwy. A grove of oak trees here is one of two spots in the Portland area where you can see Acorn Woodpeckers.