Two Portland preserves are great for birding

Head south out of downtown Hillsboro, Oregon, at this timeof year and you might think a dam has broken. Floodwaters lap atthe shoulders of the highway, and summer's farm fields lay hiddenbeneath acres of water.

In fact, this flooding occurs almost every winter, when theslow-moving Tualatin River overflows its banks; the resultingwetlands attract tens of thousands of wintering birds.

For many years, two of the largest wetlands, Jackson Bottom andFernhill, were nothing but sewage treatment ponds. Over the pastdecade, however, both have seen the creation of marshes and islandsthat provide improved habitat for wildlife. For human visitors,trails have been added and viewing platforms have beenconstructed.

That's good news for birders. Both wetlands are home to Canadageese, green-winged teals, Northern pintails, American wigeons,ring-necked ducks, buffleheads, double-crested cormorants, and manyother species. Both preserves also have resident pairs of eagles.Best news of all for those looking to log a lot of birds: you caneasily visit both of these wetlands in a morning or afternoon.

At the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, join "Lunch with theBirds" at noon on Wednesdays (through June), when a naturalist orvolunteer is on hand to answer questions, spotting scopes are setup, and binoculars and bird books are available for visitors.

Fernhill Wetlands has no lunchtime program, but it does boast afour-mountain view: Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens, and Mt.Jefferson are all visible on clear winter days. Fernhill's othermain selling point is its nearly 2-mile network of trails throughthe wetlands. "You can walk out into its heart, to the east viewingshelter, and be surrounded by wildlife," says Eric Brattain,director of Friends of Fernhill Wetlands.

Where the birds are

WHERE: To reach Jackson Bottom from Portland, take U.S. 26west to Glencoe Rd. (exit 57); drive 6 miles south past Hillsboro(Glencoe becomes First Ave. north of town and State 219 south oftown). To reach Fernhill, drive north from Jackson Bottom intoHillsboro, turn left onto State 8, drive 6 miles; turn left ontoState 47 Bypass, go 1/2 mile, then left on Fernhill Rd.

CONTACT: Jackson Bottom Wetlands: www.jacksonbottom.org or(503) 681-6206. Fernhill Wetlands: (503) 357-5890.

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