Tuesday, December 27, 2005

SE ~ Oaks Bottom

Date visited: December 16, 2005
Agency: Portland Parks & Recreation http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/?c=35300
Path Surface: Dirt, paved, gravel
Elevation gain/loss: Approximately 150 ft.
Distance: Two mile loop
Ratings: Setting +++ Calorie-burning ++
Directions: From SE Tacoma St, turn north on SE 7th to the parking lot at Sellwood Park.

We are fortunate to have what is left of this Willamette River flood plain. Construction of the railroad tracks between the river and bottom lands was the first insult, compounded by garbage dumping and fill from freeway construction, the sum of which nearly obliterated what has become one of the premier preserves of Portland.

From the parking lot, zigzag down the bluff toward the water. Bufflehead and common mergansers dive and surface there. From force of habit, we normally continue along the bottom of the bluff (generally north), passing the wetlands on our left. We had ideal conditions for waterfowl observation today, as ice covered much of the shallow water, causing green wing teal, northern pintail, mallards and a few coots to congregate near the trail where the water was still liquid. Circling among these was a male and female wood duck and one lonely pied-billed grebe. While we watched, a first-year Cooper's Hawk tried without success to take a meal from the suddenly excited flock.

Continuing north along the path shows subtle changes to the vegetation as drier conditions prevail. At .8 mile, shortly after crossing a wooden bridge, turn left (west) on the dirt trail toward the Willamette, or continue just a bit farther north if you prefer pavement, again turning left toward the Willamette. After emerging from the woods, continue left (south) to go under the railroad tracks to the Springwater Corridor path. Step across the path (watch out for bikes) to see the "Shifting Assets" exhibit and get a good view of the river. To complete the loop, follow the paved Springwater Corridor south. Near the entrance to Oaks Amusement Park, the pavement splits. Veer right, downhill, to again pass under the tracks. Follow the gravel trail further south until it swings back to the bluff, turn left along the bluff trail and climb up to return to the parking lot.

A great place to look for birds any time of year--if you have your binoculars, this may the slowest two miles you have ever walked. Other birds on our list today included a downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadees, song sparrows, blue heron, a flicker, golden-crown sparrows, robins, a ruby-crowned kinglet, a brown creeper and a hermit thrush. (November 20, 2007 update to our bird species list: Anna's hummingbird, ring-neck ducks, lesser scaup, Stellar's and scrub jays, robin, flicker, juncos, northern shovelers, mallards, American goldfinch, American and Eurasian wigeon, gold-crowned kinglet, glaucous-winged gull, northern pintail, female golden eye, redwing blackbird, gadwall, ruddy duck, bald eagle, kingfisher, double crested cormorants, crow, hairy woodpecker, Bewick's wren, winter wren.)
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