West Hayden Island

Since it was sunny and mid-50s this afternoon in Portland, I decided to stop by West Hayden Island, a noted birding spot. But when I got there it was more like foggy island.

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West Hayden Island is part of a channel bar on the Columbia River manipulated over years by diking and dredge disposal. There are grassy hills, river beaches, and stands of deciduous forest. It is currently owned by the Port of Portland and considered “industrial reserve.” The opposite end, Jantzen Beach “SuperCenter” is highly urbanized with shopping centers, industrial ports, RV parks, and even yacht clubs. The Port of Portland’s original vision for West Hayden Island similarly was parking lots and marine industrial terminals. Thankfully the controversial fate of the western portion was saved last year due to strong opposition from the community (hooray!).

This 826 acre wildlife habitat area is a valuable resource for birds, fish, amphibians, and humans alike. Apparently, it’s also a popular place to take dogs on the beach. I think I arrived about 30 minutes too late as just ahead of me there were people with dogs running in and out of the water. Good for the dogs, not so great for the birds…who drifted farther and farther away from the shore. There is a leashed-pets only sign but no one seemed to heed this rule.

Not every trip will be a bright birding success; some will be foggy dog days.

Despite the imperfect conditions, I spotted Song Sparrow, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Gulls, Anna’s Hummingbird, Canada Geese, and a Bald Eagle. I’ve read Bald Eagles nest here and I did see a very large nest, but no parents nearby that I saw.

I’m happy to report I can add two new species to my list: Western Grebe and Killdeer. I have a soft spot for Killdeer since it was the first bird I correctly identified on my own when I took an ornithology class about hundred years ago. I was curious when I’d see one again and this was the trip!

The park could use some TLC, there was graffiti and trash along they way, but hopefully the natural future of this island remains bright. I’ll surely make a point to visit again soon.

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The fog lifts as I head out

Save West Hayden Island

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey