It is fortunate that the owners of the original cattle ranch at Black Butte could not figure out how to drain its central wetlands. As a result, the property was not valuable as a cattle operation. Today, the large swampy meadow is vital to migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, some of which stay for winter.
I’ve been visiting the ranch for almost 30 years and often lead birding trips there. Eleven woodpecker species are present, including the majestic Pileated. My favorite is White-headed, which is abundant and easy to see on even a short walk through ponderosa woods.
I found my first Barrow’s Goldeneye on a large lake in the middle of the wetlands area. Wilson’s Phalaropes love the appropriately named Phalarope Lake. Their habit of twirling around in the water to stir up prey got one of my young sons interested in watching birds. Western songbirds that have been recorded include Steller’s Jay and MacGillivray’s Warbler.
You can bird the ranch for a few hours or a day, or you can rent a vacation home, condo, cabin, or lodge room and explore the ranch more thoroughly. Most properties have a deck, where you can do a big sit. — Lauretta Young
Lauretta Young is a retired physician and a bird-tour leader (www.portlandbirdwatching.com). She also wrote about Tualatin River NWR, Sherwood, Oregon, Hotspot Near You No. 91, and Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon, No. 99.