Fall foliage birdwatching

While looking at the beautiful fall trees, take a closer look at who is hiding in them. Fall is a great time to go birdwatching.Hundreds of thousands of birds are flying through our skies, landing in our parks as they head south for the winter. Birdwatching is easy, and you don’t need to be a wildlife biologist to enjoy it. Longtime birdwatcher Sylvia Maulding has seen 296 species of bird this year alone. Yet, when I asked her what she loved most about bird watching, she said they were pretty and it gave her an excuse to be outside year-round.

Maulding is one of around 10 faithful birdwatchers that meet every Wednesday at 7 a.m. at a Eugene coffee shop. The group, made up mostly of retirees, talks about where they should go to see birds that day and then they head out the door, rain or shine. Luckily, for me, the morning I met them it was all shine.

Their mornings take them to Fern Ridge, Skinner Butte Park (better in spring, they say) and around Mt. Pisgah. Today we went to Alton Baker Park. I run and bike this park weekly, yet birdwatching introduced me to wildlife I never knew were on the paths with me.

We saw seventeen different species of birds in the first thirty minutes alone. We spotted ospreys, a bald eagle (what a treat!), sparrows, and cormorants before even leaving the parking lot.

We headed east along the canal, walking slowly, listening for chirps, whistles and rustling bushes.

“Things will pop out, you never knew were in front of you,” said Maulding.

The patience paid off. We soon saw a bush full of bushtits followed by a peregrine falcon and a black throated grey.

“I was vibing for a warbler,” Lane Community College English Professor/ birdwatcher, Ellen Cantor remarked.

Along with binoculars, Cantor brings a special scope. I looked through the lens at an osprey perched high above us. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The osprey’s eyes were very cat-like; huge, golden and focused.

The next time you are at the Cuthbert or headed to Autzen, look up. There are blue heron nests right above the bridge that connects the two.

Advice for first-time birdwatchers

Eugene isn’t alone in being a birdwatcher’s paradise. Go out and look for birds in your own community. Take pictures of your walks and send them our way.

Happy trails!

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