Stride: Observing Jackson Bottom wildlife
Jackson Bottom is a wild place where I find inspiration. All I have to do is think of it, and I am inspired.
I have in my mind an image of the trail to Pintail Pond. The wood chips on the trail with trees and plants on both sides. I am startled by the rustling of the plants next to the trail, and I stop and peer through the chicken wire. Fifteen feet away, there is a doe standing there looking at me. Our eyes lock for a short time, and then she runs off.
I have done a difficult thing — I have spotted a deer on the trails of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.
I am walking along a gravel road at Jackson Bottom. There is an old couple who are walking towards me. I see a dog run across the road behind them. I am offended because dogs are not allowed on the preserve. When they come near, I ask them if they have a dog with them, and they reply that they do not. It did not take long for me to realize that I just spotted a coyote running across the road. I told them and others that I saw a coyote on the trail.
There are several busy beavers at Jackson Bottom. I know this because I have seen them swimming in the ponds and seen their sign. When I go off-trail, I can find areas where beaver have felled many trees for both food and to build their dam. Once I got too close to a swimming beaver, and he slapped his tail in the water, making a startlingly loud sound that was a warning not to come any closer.
One day, I was with some other people, and we saw a family of muskrats sunning themselves on a log at the southernmost bird blind. We watched them through binoculars as they lay on the log and jump into the water and swim around and then crawl back up on the log. We watched them for a long time.
One day, while walking to Pintail Pond, I flushed a cottontail rabbit on the trail. As it ran in front of me, I could clearly see that its tail resembled a swab of white cotton. Thus the name "cottontail."
Boys and snakes seem to gravitate to each other. I have asked many a boy what wildlife they have seen on the trail, and they often answer, "Snakes." I guess that they are looking for them, I don't know.
For sure, there is no shortage of birds on Jackson Bottom. Most who come to spot wildlife are bird enthusiasts. They can be seen toting binoculars and cameras with foot-and-a-half-long telephoto lenses. Personally speaking, I found keeping track of all the bird species kind of tedious, but I still have my favorites.
The snowy egret and the great blue heron can often be found in the shallow parts of the ponds and sloughs. They stand motionless in shallow water and wait for a fish or tadpole to come by, and they snatch it with their long bill. As long as there is shallow water for them to hunt in, they are ensured a meal. We have seen as many as 40 egrets at Pintail Pond at one time and a fewer number of herons.
As of mid-September, there have been several flocks of geese that pass over my apartment complex in Hillsboro. There are two types of geese that migrate through western Oregon: Canadian geese and cackling geese. While they look very similar, they have a different call that they use when flying in formation.
At Jackson Bottom, we have three types of birds of prey. The bald eagle is king. There is osprey and the red-tailed hawk. These birds live by hunting for fish in the ponds, sloughs and Tualatin River.
Seeing wildlife at Jackson Bottom every time you go there is not guaranteed, but if you go there regularly, over time, you will see the birds and animals of Jackson Bottom.
William Stride is a "roving naturalist" at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve and an avid outdoorsman.
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