Hotspots Near You

99. Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon

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.

99. Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon

Directions

Fernhill Wetlands is a popular hotspot west of Portland. From the city, take Hwy. 26 to NW Glencoe Rd. and turn left. Drive to NW Zion Church Rd., turn right and go about 1.5 miles to NW Susbauer Rd. Turn left, drive 3.7 miles, turn right at N. Adair St., and go about 1.75 miles to Hwy. 47. Turn left at SW Fern Hill Rd. and continue to the entrance on your left.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
45°30’31.03″N 123°5’27.79″W

Habitat

Seasonal ponds and mudflats, dikes, grassy fields, and small willows with a stand of Oregon ash, oak trees, and cottonwoods.

Terrain

Flat. Woodchip-lined loop trails are 1.5 and 2.5 miles long. Not wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

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.

Amenities

Benches at a few viewing sites. No restrooms or drinking fountains.

Access

Water utility property. No fees. Gravel parking lot with space for around 25 cars.

Tips

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

Fernhill Wetlands Management Council, brattae@pdx.edu
Audubon Society of Portland

Sites nearby

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.

Tualatin River NWR
Hotspot Near You No. 91. About 22 miles southeast of Forest Grove in Sherwood. Migratory songbirds and shorebirds. Waterfowl, including Cinnamon Teal, in winter.

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