Calling all bird enthusiasts (2014)

Wapato Access State Greenway on Sauvie Island is another good spot for birding.

Wapato Access State Greenway on Sauvie Island is another good spot for birding.

We typically think of winter as a “slow period” of hibernation and inactivity. Not so for the many birds that can be seen at Fort Stevens State Park this time of year. The park boasts an incredible variety of bird life, and it’s out there now—soaring, preening, dabbling, diving and scurrying across the sand. During this season, it’s common to see loons, gulls, cormorants, herons, ducks, hawks, woodpeckers, eagles or even snowy owls, which periodically come down from the Arctic Circle to winter on the north coast dunes. Birders know that when it comes to our feathered friends, no season is ever boring!

If you’ve got a keen eye for spotting wildlife, Fort Stevens invites you to join their flock of volunteers who have been conducting regular surveys to monitor the local population of birds at the park. Notable sightings so far this year have included a black phoebe, a peregrine falcon, a wrentit, a white-throated sparrow, and the sora, a secretive marshbird.

The sora, a common but rarely seen "marsh-walker"

The sora, a common but rarely seen “marsh-walker”

Each survey takes just over two hours to complete, leading you to diverse habitats within the park via a short walk or drive to record the birds you see. No long-term commitment or previous experience is required to participate, as identification guides are provided, although knowledgeable birders are of course appreciated.

Upcoming survey dates are:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 21
  • Saturday, Jan. 25
  • Tuesday, Feb. 4
  • Saturday, Feb. 8
  • Sunday, Feb. 16
  • Saturday, Feb. 22

If you can’t make it out to the park during the next few weeks, there will still be time to get involved: the surveys will continue until May in order to track the presence of different species from winter to summer. The effort is part of a larger initiative to conduct bird surveys each year in parks across the state.

All of the surveys at Fort Stevens meet at Battery Russell, the fort’s old concrete gun battery located just northeast of the campground, at 9 a.m. You’ll want to dress warmly and bring binoculars if you have them (the park also owns a few loaner pairs). If you have questions, call Park Ranger Dane Osis at (503) 861-3170 ext. 41 or e-mail him at

Two other state parks have free birding hikes coming up: Brian Booth State Park this Saturday, Jan. 18 and Tryon Creek State Natural Area on Sunday, Feb. 9.  Alternately, to learn more about the world of birds, we highly recommend checking out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s site at, a treasure trove of taxonomy with photos, videos, and recorded calls that can help you tell a blue jay from a bluebird and a goose from a grouse. Happy birding!

Posted on January 15, 2014, in wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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