16 November 2007
Tualatin Hills Nature Park
15655 SW Millikan Blvd.
Interpretive Center. Photo May 2007 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.
Directions from Portland: Take US 26 west and get off at Murray Blvd. in Beaverton. Head south on Murray Blvd. approximately 1.5 miles. Turn right (west) on Millikan Way, which becomes SW Millikan Blvd. The entrance to the park and Visitor’s Center is about ľ mile from Murray Blvd.
Directions for public transportation, TriMet Westside Light Rail: Get off at the Merlo Road/158th Station. Cross the tracks and make a left turn onto the asphalt path to enter the park on Oak Trail.
Tualatin Hills Nature Park web site:
The Tualatin Hills Nature Park is a 220-acre wildlife reserve in the heart of Beaverton, Oregon. It is made up of evergreen and deciduous forests, creeks, wetlands, ponds and meadows. There are approximately 5 miles of trails. About 1.5 miles are paved, the rest are well maintained soft surface trails.
Though open all year, the best birding is during the spring migration and early summer, April-July, when over 100 total species have been recorded. Because of the dense woods, many birds are heard-only. In fact, one might be frustrated at not being able to see many of the singing birds. Spring mornings often yield 40-50 species in two hours if one knows the songs and calls of the common woodland birds. If one is determined to see the singers, it may take three or four hours to adequately cover the park.
In the spring of 2007 I birded once or twice a week on the way to work, getting off the Light Rail at the Merlo Road Station. The route I took covered all the paved trails and visited most of the park except for the South Woods and portions of the Big Fir Woods, which were closed due to tree falls from the winter. I usually spent about 2 hours and walked about 3.5 miles, before hurrying off to work. I shared the trail before 8 o’clock with only a very few early morning joggers or speed walkers.
The portion of Oak Trail from the Merlo Road Light Rail Station to Tadpole Pond consists of dense Douglas-fir and western red-cedar woods. This area frequently has Pileated Woodpeckers, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Brown Creepers. I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk here a couple of times. A Rufous Hummingbird reliably mans a perch on a snag along the boardwalk over Cedar Mill Creek. Often a pair of Wood Ducks swims in the creek. Bewick’s and Winter wrens are abundant here and throughout the park. In late May the Western Tanagers really like this area.
Oak Trail between Tadpole Pond and Vine Maple Trail is mature oak and ponderosa pine, a rather unique habitat in the Willamette Valley. This area is filled with Purple Finches, Bewick’s Wrens, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Bushtits, and Hutton’s Vireos. In early spring one can expect to find Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets.
The small Tadpole Pond is on the edge of the woods and a meadow under the power lines. Dark-eyed Juncos nest here. The pond itself usually contains a pair of Mallards and an occasional Canada Goose. This is always a good location for migrant warblers, including a MacGillivray’s Warbler one morning that was just passing through.
The Beaverton Powerline Trail follows the high voltage lines through damp wild rose, willow, and small oaks that are kept from getting too tall. Larger oaks are nearby in back of an adjacent industrial park. This area supplies one’s list with White-crowned Sparrows, House Finches, Mourning Doves, American Goldfinches, Killdeer, Northern Flickers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats, Bewick’s Wrens, Song Sparrows, and Western Scrub-Jays. In April this is the area to find Golden-crowned Sparrows and occasionally Fox Sparrows. Anna’s Hummingbirds often perch out in the open. In early May a couple of Bullock’s Orioles flew around here one morning.
The main parking lot and Interpretive Center and Nature Store is another good spot to view migrant warblers in the taller bigleaf maple, white oak, and ash trees. Lesser Goldfinches favor this area, too. There are public rest rooms here.
At the intersection of Vine Maple Trail and Oak Trail a Cooper’s Hawk has nested for the past couple of years. This east portion of the Vine Maple Trail attracts Townsend’s, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Gray warblers in late April. The Black-throated Gray Warblers remain through summer. It is in the thick understory that migrant Hammond’s and Pacific-slope flycatchers put in an annual showing in late April. Spotted Towhees and Bewick’s Wrens are abundant here.
The boardwalk on Vine Maple Trail as it crosses Cedar Mill Creek is an area that hosts numerous Swainson’s Thrushes and Black-headed Grosbeaks in late May. One may also hear Warbling and Cassin’s Vireo here.
The upland woods of the North Woods at the west end of Vine Maple Trail occasionally attract three species of finches that are variably common in spring: Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak, and Red Crossbill. Lily Pond rarely has anything of interest, as the surface is nearly covered in huge lily pads. However, Willow Flycatchers nest here, starting in very late May.
One of the best areas of the park is the confluence of Cedar Mill Creek into Beaverton Creek. One reaches this area by leaving Vine Maple Trail and taking Elliot Trail and the western portion of Big Fir Trail. This leads to a meadow with ash, wild rose, and willow clumps. Early in spring an Anna’s Hummingbird stakes out a perch here. Great Blue Herons sometimes roost in the trees. Orange-crowned and Wilson’s warblers frequent this area in spring. Brown-headed Cowbirds become common by early summer. A view of the open sky may reveal a Band-tailed Pigeon flying overhead.
A long boardwalk on Cougar Trail follows the edge of the woods and Beaverton Creek. There was a road along here at one time, so it is more open with ash trees. This gives another place to view Townsend’s and Black-throated Gray warblers. Steller’s Jays usually hang out here. American Robins, Hutton’s Vireos, Black-capped Chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers are expected. Green Herons have been seen along the riverbank. In winter several ducks may be found along the creek and in Big Pond.
Cedar Grove in the West Woods is an interesting area with many Brown Creepers. Varied Thrushes are resident here, but infrequently detected. Ash and smaller oaks make up the rest of the West Woods. Hermit Thrushes migrate through this area in April, and Hutton’s Vireos are resident.