This large waterfowl haven located between Corvallis and Eugene is an overwintering site for the Dusky Canada Goose, and it’s a great spot to see California Quail, Western Meadowlark, Lazuli Bunting, and other birds.
In 1905, conservationist William L. Finley spearheaded the formation of Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon coast — the first wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi. In the 1960s, about 10 years after his death, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established this refuge in Finley’s honor. Along with sister refuges Baskett Slough and Ankeny, it provides critical winter habitat for the Dusky Canada Goose and other waterfowl.
Smaller than their cousins, Duskies keep limited, highly specialized summer and winter ranges, and winter almost exclusively in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Tens of thousands of geese use the refuge lands and waters. For birders, the confined spaces serve up fantastic shows as the geese rest and feed. Periodic patrols by Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks launch sky-darkening clouds of wings. Sometimes, the eagles cull injured or sickened birds from the noisy throng. That, too, is nature.
Spring flocks of Dunlins delight me with their bunched flights and Venetian-blind wing flashes. I have whiled away summer afternoons at the refuge feeders, watching hummingbirds, goldfinches, and Evening Grosbeaks. From the trails, I have spied woodpeckers, waxwings, bluebirds, and Great Horned Owls. It’s a special place. — Rhonda Ostertag
Rhonda Ostertag is an avid birder and guidebook author who travels widely to bird. She lives in Keizer, Oregon.