As I traveled back from my New Year’s week vacation on the Amtrak Empire Builder, a train from Chicago to Portland/Seattle, I was amazed by the amount of wildlife I observed during my multi-day trip. My train was three days late in departure and five hours late into Portland due to temperatures of -37 to -52 degrees in the Mid-West. However, these delays did not cause me frustration or anger by having to extend my vacation but it presented me with an opportunity to view portions of the trip that normally I would only see in complete darkness. When we crossed into Washington from Idaho heading towards Oregon, we had only three hours until daylight. I was fortunate enough to observe a plethora of winter birds, deer, Roosevelt Elk, Bald and Golden Eagles and other wildlife in Oregon from the comfort of my private sleeper car eating a wonderful box lunch and sipping a beer. But you don’t have to take a long train ride on the Empire Builder to observe winter birds and sip beer, just book a weekend here at the Fulton House and you can do both.
Portland’s winged wonders create a visual feast for bird-watchers this time of year which include wild ducks, cormorants, coots and kinglets. One of the most colorful sightings is the wood duck, a bird that was nearly extinct a century ago because of hunting and habitat loss. But today, both conservation and placement of artificial nesting boxes have increased their numbers. Wood ducks are one of the waterfowl species that can be seen in the Portland area year-round. Other birds easily seen in the winter include the dark bird with the long neck, a double-crested cormorant. Rather a proud bird who paddles around with its bill tipped up. The pinkish-brown duck with the white racing stripe over its head is an American wigeon, a duck species with a habit of kleptoparasitism (stealing food). And American coots, almost as common as mallards, ply the ponds in groups, with their white bills contrasting with their black bodies. You will also find buffleheads and hooded mergansers both with a white patch or “hoods” on the sides of their heads. Buffleheads prefer the open water of Crystal Springs where as the Mergansers prefer the more sheltered waters right across the street in Reed Lake, on the Reed College campus as well as the pied-billed grebe. There are two locations to observe bald eagles either driving on I-84 up the gorge or in at a winter roost in Washington County from which 30-40 eagles `commute’ to Sauvie Island each morning at sunrise. Even right here in downtown Portland among all its tall-buildings, you will find red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons perched or nesting along with all the city dwellers. Or perhaps you will hear a tiny kinglet or a black-capped chickadee (Oregonian, January 10, 2010).
WINTER BIRDING LOCATIONS IN PORTLAND:
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: Near the intersection of Southeast 28th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard. Admission is free through February. 503-771-8386, (8 minutes from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast) http://www.tinyurl.com/cyfvrk
Reed Lake on the Reed College campus: 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd; (10 minutes from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast) www.reed.edu/canyon
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge: Southeast Seventh Avenue and Sellwood Boulevard. (4minutes from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast) http://www.tinyurl.com/h36g3
Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area: 5300 N. Marine Drive, 503-797-1850, (19 minutes from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast) http://www.tinyurl.com/smithbybee
Tom McCall Waterfront Park: Naito Parkway between Southwest Harrison & Northwest Glisan streets, downtown. (8 minutes from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast) http://www.tinyurl.com/pdxperegrines
Willamette Park: Macadam Avenue and Nevada Street, (1 minute from the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast). Check out the four-season list of birds regularly seen in the Portland area at http://www.tinyurl.com/pdxbirdlist
Winter is no time to stop watching birds so check out either of these recommendations. For places to go and wild things to see, check out “Wild in the City: A Guide to Portland’s Natural Areas”, edited by Mike Houck and M. J. Cody recently re-released and available at the Portland Audubon Nature Store, 5151 N.W. Cornell Road, and amazon.com. Or join naturalists from Metro and the Portland Audubon on February 6th for a Raptor Road Trip to see eagles, hawks and falcons. $10per vehicle includes parking permit. More information: 503-797-1650 or http://www.tinyurl.com/raptortrip
After a winter day of birding or if you just need to take a lunch break, you can stop at any one of our wonderful micro-brews located here in Portland. While visiting Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and Reed Lake on the Reed College campus, stop off at The Beer Mongers on 12th & Division and pick up your favorite international or local beer. They are a new and growing beer store and micro bar selling and serving some of the best ales and lagers from around the world. You can drink on premises or purchase beer to bring back to the Fulton House and enjoy in the privacy of your room. Tastings Events on January 11, 2010 Lagunitas Tasting and January 20th Three Creeks– Check out their website at: http://www.thebeermongers.com
Oak Bottom Public House is named for the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge that runs just west of their location in the Heart of West-Moreland and is located at 1621 Southeast Bybee Boulevard. The 163-acre Natural Wetlands was Portland’s first urban wildlife refuge and is home to more than 125 species of birds, including the Great Blue Heron. Try their Lompoc Strong Draft, a Portland Classic! This strong ale has a deep mahogany color and is crafted with seven different specialty malts. A touch of smoked malt gives it a complex aroma and incredible flavor. Check out their website at http://www.newoldlompoc.com
Fulton Pub and Brewery is located on Nebraska Street just across the avenue from Willamette Park. Fulton Pub dates back to 1926 when it was a Prohibition-era hangout serving home cooked meals, pinball games, stogies, candy and ice cream. Speculation says that during Prohibition that the pub might even have provided patrons the odd pint o’ beer as an unadvertised special. Try the Hammerhead Ale, legend has it that the brew’s hallowed recipe was perfected here! My favorite is the Nebraska Bitter which was first brewed here at the Fulton Pub & Brewery. While wandering along the river’s edge in Willamette Park watching for Blue Heron, Canada Geese, ducks and other waterfowl just stop off at the Fulton Pub for a quick refreshment or lunch. Check out their website at http://www.mcmenamins.com
Hope to see you soon! Now is the only time to see some of our winter visitors!