Birdwatching abounds in Columbia County
Birdwatching is a hobby you can take up at any age.
All you need is a guidebook and a notepad — although in the digital age, websites and apps can be of great help, too.
Tom Myers, an avid birdwatcher who knows the birds of Columbia County about as well as most people know the backs of their hands, says birdwatching is a great hobby for anyone to get into.
Myers, who lives in Warren and teaches at a public school in Portland, got into birdwatching — or birding, as it's sometimes called — about five years ago.
"I wish I had started birding at a younger age," Myers said, noting that after he bought a kayak on Craigslist, "I started paddling a bit more in the area, around Sauvie Island and the Columbia River."
Time on the waterways inspired Myers to take on the hobby of birding.
"I got hooked pretty quickly and it wasn't long before I had my binoculars and my camera," he said. "I was just, like, out with the sole purpose of looking for birds."
Myers, who does a lot of his birdwatching in Columbia County, said the county has some very accessible birding spots, including the Crown Zellerbach Trail and the riverfront in downtown St. Helens, where you can spot osprey nests and purple martins.
Just where to begin looking for birds in Columbia County? Myers has some tips.
"We're kind of at a transitional time of year," he said. "In the spring, we have tons of colorful songbirds and migrants that come back up from Central and South America."
These birds nest in the summer.
"When those birds first show up, they're kind of everywhere and they're usually more colorful than the birds that we have in the wintertime," Myers said. "When they're nesting in the summer, they're pretty good at staying hidden."
As summer nears an end in Columbia County, shorebirds will start showing up. A lot of shorebirds travel through Sauvie Island, making it fun for both Portlanders and birdwatchers from St. Helens, Scappoose and Columbia County. Among the shore birds you can see locally are sandpipers, seagulls and terns.
Later in the fall, you'll see more ducks and other waterfowl, as well as raptors, such as hawks and eagles.
Myers said you can birdwatch all year in Columbia County.
"If there is any lull, it's kind of right now, the middle to end of summer," he said. "It's all about what you want to see, too. In the dead of winter, if you go to Sauvie Island, and drive around, there's a huge flock of sandhill cranes. These are huge birds that spend the winter walking around Sauvie Island."
Myers said areas around Clatskanie are great birding spots, as well as the CZ Trail and Scappoose Bay.
Myers noted that at Columbia View Park, you can find nesting osprey every summer.
Asked if he has been heard of a rare bird sighting, Myers said, "There was an emperor goose on Sauvie Island, in 2019 … they normally live in eastern Russia and Alaska."
Myers says for him, birdwatching helps him relax.
"I go birding every day after school," Myers said. "It's definitely a stress reliever. It's like a way to wind down at the end of a workday."
If you need help with birdwatching, Myers suggests two sources: an app called Merlin and the website ebird.com, where people track what birds they see in different locations.
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