Whitaker Ponds Nature Park
One of my favorite parks is Whitaker Ponds Nature Park. Ever since my first time there I knew it was a special place. It’s a small (but productive) park at 24 acres with a 1/2-mile flat loop trail. Completely surrounded by urban land, it is a mini-oasis for birds.
And for myself. Here I saw my first Common Merganser, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Great Egret, and Anna’s Hummingbird. And later in the summer my first Western Tanager and Warbling Vireo. And I’ve once seen a family of river otters in the pond.
Needless to say, I’m sentimental about the place.
In the past year, it’s gone through some changes. Where there once was a gorgeous willow tree and field now is a parking lot. I’m kicking myself for not taking more “before” photos, but I hadn’t known about the project until after it was gone. Danger Garden took one of the best photos of that willow tree I could find on the internet. Here’s a couple I took of the progress.
Of course there’s pros and cons, there’s better parking, which will make people feel more comfortable visiting, and hopefully then more people will care about the park. There’s still a problem of transients living and littering in certain forested areas, but in general it’s getting better.
I’ve recently started following the Columbia Slough Watershed Council on Instagram, they’ve organized and implemented a ton of restoration work on the park. They also provide updates on water levels and beaver activities. (thanks for keeping the beavers, birds, and me happy!)
I’ve seen 87 species at Whitaker Ponds (it even gave me 40 species in my 5-mile radius). Most recent additions were a Hermit Thrush that surprised me before bulleting away as quick as it could.
A Glaucous-winged Gull flyover (no photos), and a female Barrow’s Goldeneye (more yellow on that bill).
Compared to the female Common Goldeneye below (more black bill with yellow tip) and male (right), also hanging in the slough.
While observing the goldeneyes I heard an enticing “zu-wee, zu-wee, zu-wee” and I turned around to the best looks ever of a Hutton’s Vireo.
Thicker bill than Ruby-crowned Kinglet and gray feet (vs. yellow on RCKI).
There were two singing back and forth. Along with endless Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Townsend’s Warblers.
Also on this trip I saw the reliable Black Phoebe.
And I got a quick glimpse of a Spotted Sandpiper.
Just before I spooked a Cooper’s Hawk.
This park is full of surprises. Even sneaky Great Horned Owls.
I wish I could visit every day. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from my house and now that the construction’s completed really I have no excuse. I’ll make a point to visit more often and make it a goal to find more species. I was going to say 100 (since I’m at 87), but that might be a stretch since the top eBirder at the park (Nick Mrvelj) has 97. But we’ll see!
Cheers to local patches!
Tweets and chirps,
I think that your spotted Sandpiper is actually is Solitary Sandpiper. We-ring, and white eye-ring and face, yellow legs.
We were just out there today and saw the same bird.
Hi! Thanks for your comment, and I wish it was a Solitary Sandpiper! But this is, in fact, a Spotted Sandpiper. It’s in adult nonbreeding plumage, plain brown on top, brown sides of breast, bobs its tail a lot. They only look spotted in breeding plumage and they are regular winter visitors to Whitaker Ponds. Maybe the one you saw today was bobbing its tail? That’s their signature move. Solitary Sandpipers are exceedingly rare in winter in Oregon, there is only one winter record in eBird in Jan 2004 in Marion County. They are usually a summer migrant. Good to keep an eye out though!