Photo trip report: Tualatin River NWR, Oregon, 25 June 2006
Greg Gillson


Above: First year male Bullock's Oriole

I rose early to beat the predicted heat of nearly 100 degrees today. I arrived at the parking area of the newly opened refuge at 6:30 a.m. This is the Atfalati (aka Steinborn) Unit off Hwy 99W between Sherwood and King City SW of downtown Portland about 15-20 miles.

The surrounding area is farm fields and formerly small towns now being enveloped with Portland's suburban sprawl. The slow-moving Tualatin River winds its way across the valley here, with narrow riparean corridors of ash, alder, willow, cottonwood, Douglas-fir, oak, and maple.

Compared to other wetland areas in Washington County (Fernhill Wetlands, Jackson Bottom Wetlands), this is more open farmland, with more walking available. A new graveled trail reaches a good mile around the eastern and northern edges of the wetland/fields, following the Tualatin River. A dirt road then continues all the way around, past several shallow puddles. Total round trip around the whole meadow of the Atfalati Unit is a bit over 3 miles.

More than any other area in Washington County this area has good numbers of Lazuli Buntings and lowland Willow Flycatchers. The dirt access road leading past the mudflats are open from May 1 to September 30. This refuge is going to produce numerous rare shorebird records in the next few years. I think it will attract more birders from the Portland area, too. Suddenly birding Washington County has become a lot more interesting...


Above: Starting down the hiking trail from the parking area; walking counter-clockwise around the wetlands, now heading north on the SE side of the Unit.

Western Scrub-Jays, American Goldfinches, Western Wood-Pewees, Spotted Towhees, and White-breasted Nuthatches were common here. A Bullock's Oriole was one of the first species I saw here, though I don't expect they are common.


Above: An overlook of the Tualatin River

After about a half mile the trail along the Tualatin River enters a wet woodland and a short side trail up a small knoll. This area had Hutton's Vireo, Brown Creeper, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and Swainson's Thrush. This was the only area where I detected mosquitoes, and only about 3 (one of which left a knot on one of my knuckles, nevertheless).


Above: An overlook shaded by oaks in the middle of the north side of the Unit.

Leaving the woods you reach an overlook and reservable photography blind. You may walk a mile back along the dirt road, or continue another 2 miles all the way around the wetlands. Common birds here included Savannah sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, and Lazuli Buntings.


Above: Savannah Sparrow


Above: Savannah Sparrow


Above: A very blond Red-tailed Hawk

The dirt road follows alongside the Tualatin River for a ways, with numerous spruce trees here. I've never seen them on the Willamette Valley floor before. Off the trail the poison oak is abundant along the river's edge. We now have reached the NW corner of the Unit, at the far opposite side of the wetlands from the parking area. The trail continues across the fields along side a ditched creek. Barn, Tree, and Violet-green Swallows are the main birds here, but there are also Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Vaux's Swifts. The field is crawling with Savannah Sparrows and Common Yellothroats.


Above: Turning around to look back towards the north on the west side of the Atfalati Unit near SW Roy Rogers Road and an unmarked parking area.


Above: Juvenile Northern Rough-winged Swallow


Above: Juvenile Northern Rough-winged Swallow

There is a pond and attractive park-like area where Chicken Creek enters the refuge. It is closed to access at all times, but one can view the area from the edge. From here it is a hike back east on a dike between several wet fields and ponds towards the original parking area.


Above: Blue-winged Teal, male


Above: Blue-winged Teal, female


Above: Gadwall in eclipse plumage.


Above: The Bald Eagle gets no respect from the American Crows.


Above: Cinnamon Teal


Above: I hope this pond remains until the fall migration! Already there was one Greater Yellowlegs here... an early fall migrant or summering non-breeder? Looking north, the drowned oaks in the background make a favorite perch for a Bald Eagle, several Great Blue Herons, and a rare summering Great Egret.


Above: Turning around and looking south near Hwy 99W on the south edge of the Atfalati Unit. Many Canada Goose families, Great Blue Herons, and Killdeer.

This report was mailed for Greg Gillson by http://birdnotes.net

Date: June 25, 2006
Location: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Washington County, Oregon

Low temperature: 65 degrees fahrenheit High temperature: 85 degrees fahrenheit
Percentage of sky covered by clouds: 0%

My first visit to the refuge since it opened up in May. Walked the
entire 3 mile trail around the Atfalti (Steinborn) Unit. 6:30 a.m. to
9:30 a.m. on a day getting very hot.

Birds seen (in taxonomic order):

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 55
Gadwall (Anas strepera) 8 
American Wigeon (Anas americana) 1 Female
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 65
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) 2 pair
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) 2 pair
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 3
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 15
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Sora (Porzana carolina) 1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 70
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) 1 fall migrant 
	or summering bird?
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) 4
Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi) 12
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 1
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) 1
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 4
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) 4
Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) 12
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) 1
Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni) 2
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 2
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 15
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 7
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) 35
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) 50
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) 15 
	including fledglings
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 75
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 10
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) 12
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 7
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 1
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 12
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) 1
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) 8
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 25
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 90
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 55
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) 35
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 10
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 40
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 35
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) 4
Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) 3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 45
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) 20
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) 30
Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) 1 first year male
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 5
Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria) 8
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) 45

Total number of species seen: 57

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