With fall migration waning, and hunting season starting, you may be doing a bit of head scratching as to where to bird. Here are some suggestions that are close to town, and most importantly, safe.
The Natural Area
This is a city park found off Myra road and adjacent to Fort Walla Walla Museum. Audubon has worked hard over the years to improve the trails, and add signage. The trails meander through dense brush, wetlands, cottonwood groves and along ponds. Finches, Towhees, Cedar Waxwings and Owls can be found. Bring your kids, as it’s an adventure just to wander through the winding trails.
About seven miles west of town, the mission can be found by following the signage off Highway 12. Here you will find acres of trails that vary between open fields, a large pond and riparian vegetation along the Walla Walla river. Hawks, owls, ducks, geese and Pileated woodpeckers are often found here. As autumn progresses, the trees will put on quite a color show. And for a birds eye view of the valley and the Blue Mts., be sure to climb the small hill to the memorial.
While you’re in the area, drive west down Detour Road, which is found about ½ mile away by taking a left out of the Mission. In the fields and weeds along the road, Brewers Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows can be found, as well as the occasional Snipe in the irrigation ditches.
OK, starlings aren’t usually a target bird, but in the fall they form huge flocks which change into amazing moving shapes, ….a phenomena called murmuration. To find them, head south of town on either Plaza Way of Highway 11. Turn onto any side road and drive through the vineyards. Get out your cell phone and film the awesome displays. Late afternoon seems to be best.
This road, which is found about five miles east of town off of Russell Creek Road, lives up to it’s name. It gradually climbs to the top of a ridge, from which you get a fantastic view of the Mill Creek Canyon and the Blues. Walk along this road and you may find Turkeys, White Crowned Sparrows, White Throated Sparrows, Towhees, various raptors and even deer and elk. The road then descends to connect with Mill Creek Road, along which you may spot Dippers, Stellar Jays and if you’re lucky a Pygmy Owl.
Rooks Park and Bennington Lake
On weekdays, this ever popular spot is usually not too crowded. A great loop is to start at Rooks Park, cross Mill Creek, head to the dam, and then walk along the canal until you get to the trails that circle around the lake. I suggest staying on the trails that are closest to the lake, as hunting is allowed in the area; the boundaries are labelled with yellow stakes. Early in the day there is usually an abundance of waterfowl on the lake…many species of ducks as well as geese. Hawks, shorebirds, finches, waxwings and owls can usually be spotted. If you go around dusk, you may even catch sight of the beavers, who have a lodge on the east side of the lake.
So, get out there, enjoy the fall colors and the clean air. There’s just so much to discover so close to home!