Visiting the big island

We housesat in Portland while Josh and Tanya flew off to Hawaii’s big island. We thought of them lazing on sandy beaches by the blue sea, and we wished that we’d thought to escape to the island, too.

Well, we’d make the best of it: a week in Portland’s St John neighborhood and who knew what we’d discover? We typed into the search engine, “what to do in Portland.” One thing led to another, and we discovered the hottest spot for bird watching is Sauvie Island.

DSC01675

The island is larger than Manhattan and is bordered by the Columbia River, the Multnomah Channel, and the Willamette River.

We knew the island! Josh and Tanya – both farmers — had lived there and worked at Sauvie Island Organics for years. Our many trips to the island were centered on visiting them at the farm, and we’d not done much exploring of the island.

A bridge crosses the channel and the scenery quickly changes from industrial to rural.

A bridge crosses the channel and the scenery quickly changes from industrial to rural.

Almost the entire island is farmland with almost half the island designated as a wildlife area.

Almost the entire island is farmland with almost half the island designated as a wildlife area.

We discovered the island was too large to explore in a single day, so we planned three excursions. The first took us to Wapato Access State Greenway, a wooded area that included Virginia Lake. Birds called (and a few mosquitos hummed) nearby. As we walked, we also heard the background hum of bees at work among the bushes and plants. It took some time before we could find any birds in the deep foliage, but, by the time we left that morning, we’d seen 25 different species.

We knew we must be near her nest when a female black-headed grosbeak fluttered from branch to branch nearby, frantic to distract us.

We knew we must be near her nest when a female black-headed grosbeak fluttered from branch to branch nearby, frantic to distract us.

We hiked a 2-mile loop trail in a refuge down Oak Island Road on our second visit. Another couple strolled up, and we ended the walk together. Diane and Dave showed us a bald eagles’ nest and helped us to see a new bird (for us) – an American house wren.

The view was quite wonderful, and at the end of the hike, three snowy peaks were visible: Mounts St Helens, Hood, and Adams.

The view was quite wonderful, and at the end of the hike, three snowy peaks were visible: Mounts St Helens, Hood, and Adams (though not pictured in this photo, but trust us, they were there).

Most wildflowers had bloomed long ago, but these cheery ones brightened up the edge of the path.

Most wildflowers had bloomed long ago, but these cheery ones brightened up the edge of the path.

We read that over the years, marshes and food sources for migrating birds have become scarce on their journey in western North America. The value of birds to the environment is critically important. (Imagine life if birds didn’t consume all those insects?) On our third visit to the island, we met a volunteer who told us that the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife was planting nearly 400 acres in wheat, millet, and corn on Sauvie Island for the birds to eat during their migration. Bravo!

We continued up Reeder Road, past a long beach, when it occurred to us that, while Josh and Tanya were enjoying the big island of Hawaii, we were enjoying the big island of Portland.

No, not exactly the same experience, but we definitely found it was a rewarding island get-away.

 

June 2015

 

 

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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9 Responses to Visiting the big island

  1. D&D says:

    Joe and Beth, we enjoyed your Sauvie Island post and had a lovely time walking the Oak Island Trail with you. Here’s our list of sightings from that day, totaling 30 species. Your travels are inspiring! Happy trails! Diane and Dave

    Osprey
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Northern Flicker
    Robin
    Bald Eagles
    Savannah Sparrows- lots
    Crow
    Cowbirds
    Red-winged Blackbirds
    Tree Swallows – lots
    Spotted Towhee
    Song Sparrow
    House Wren
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Black-capped Chickadee
    American Goldfinch
    Anna’s Hummingbird
    Bullock’s Orioles
    Great Blue Herons
    Egrets – Great
    White Pelicans
    Bushtits
    Sandhill Cranes (heard)
    Olive-sided Flycatcher
    Western Wood-Pewee
    Starlings
    Turkey Vulture
    Cedar Waxwings
    Scrub Jay
    Mourning Dove (heard)

  2. Love your pace of life.
    The entire city of Morro Bay is a bird sanctuary. Mostly for us, that means leaving the starlings alone. But we have a great heron rookery and a huge refuge for plovers nearby.
    Did you see the bald eagles? I think we have seen at least one every time we’ve traveled up to Oregon.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Island life! Another enjoyable post – thank you!

  4. Merrill says:

    I lived in Portland 30 years and can’t remembering visiting Sauvies island more than atone or two.

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