When I have limited time for a nature walk and want to search out an interesting place to explore that’s close to home, I often end up at an urban wetland tucked away just off the beaten asphalt path. Here are some photos from two I’ve visited recently: Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton, and Smith and Bybee Lakes in Portland.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is a private-public partnership maintained by Hillsboro Parks and Rec, about 20 miles west of us. I first visited without a camera when I was in the neighborhood in April 2021, and returned with my new camera and my intrepid 10-year-old photo buddy on a cold foggy day in December. My recent visit was sunny and warm, with the waterfowl at a distance in the receding wetlands, and lots of fast moving birds in the foliage along the trail.
The last time I went to Oaks Bottom, back in January, the temperature was in the thirties, and I had to call it quits when my fingers couldn’t feel the buttons on my then-new camera. It was much more pleasant this time, with summer scenes of wildflowers, singing sparrows, cedar waxwings, and a downy woodpecker nest.
It was great to get back to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on a sunny and dry day with the seasonal trails open (except for the Kiva Trail where a Sandhill Crane pair had nested over the winter and hatched a colt). We parked at the Ridgefield Kayak Launch and walked into the Carty Unit to the Headquarters, and then back to the car for a circuit around the Auto Tour at the River S Unit. We saw amazing birds all along the way — and heard many more.
Last year we had a crow’s nest in our front yard, and we were able to watch the entire process, from nest-building to fledge. This year, we didn’t spot the nest, but there was a crow pair coming and going from a neighbor’s fir tree in a familiar manner. Over the past couple days, we heard some different vocalizations from the pair, softer and shorter, calling out from low branches in the neighborhood. This morning, we watched this young crow in our backyard, hopping up on chairs and clumsily flapping back down, and ultimately working its way up to the top of the kids’ climbing structure, before taking a long inelegant glide to a distant raised bed.
Another nice thing about visitors (besides: visitors!) is that we get to return to some favorite local spots, perhaps sooner than we would have on our own. I’m always ready to visit the Japanese Garden; every time is different, and I find new ways to be amazed by its magical intersection of natural beauty and thoughtful design. Catching my eye this time: the bonsai collection (recently moved out from their winter protection), fresh looks at some of the design features, and the continuing spring color show.
You can read Nancy’s reflections about this day on her blog.
(Click any of these sample images to go to the full gallery.)