Finding Fall Fauna and Fungi in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Office Trail/Wren Loop

Combine fall leaf peeping with fall birding! Hike the Office Trail/Wren Loop at the Willamette National Forest Middle Fork Ranger District Office on Highway 58 in Westfir - you'll find both.

Fall means bird migration for many species. Stretching from the Cascade Mountains to the Oregon Coast, this region is blessed with a diversity of ecosystems, which means a variety of animals inhabit them.

  • The Willamette National Forest shelters the Cascade Mountains on the western edge of the region. Here Douglas fir reigns and creates deep, dark forests where sunlight streams down through misty canopies to land on blankets of sword fern and moss. Species that frequent these forests in the fall and winter include Pileated Woodpecker, Pacific Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Great Gray and Northern Spotted Owls. Elevations above 3,000 feet boast more alpine species, such as Gray Jays and Clark’s Nutcrackers.
  • Heading west out of the Cascades along Highway 58, Dexter Lake offers some great migrant water bird spotting.  I have seen Canvasback, Redheads, Gadwall, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, Coots, Bufflehead, Ring-necked duck, and Lesser Scaup.
  • As you continue west, the Coast Range rises up with alder-laced coastal streams and many of the avian species you’d see in the Cascades. Check out the Siuslaw National Forest for a guide to trails and other viewing areas.
  • Once you reach the Pacific Coast, you’ll find numerous public access beaches and dunes in the Florence area. You may see Harlequin Ducks and Surf Scoters bobbing in the waves, or Plovers and Sandpipers scrabbling up and down the beach as the waves lap in and retreat.
  • Peregrine Falcons are not uncommon in the winter; you’ll often see them scouting along the shoreline for a shorebird, gull or sea duck meal.
  • Lane Audubon Society meets in Eugene and has an active group of regular participants who host field trips and monthly meetings.
Oregon Chanterelle
An Oregon chanterelle

One of my other favorite fall activities is hunting for edible wild mushrooms. My personal favorite are chanterelles, but there are lots of other delectables to be found, including hedgehog, coral, oyster, lobster, and chicken of the woods, to name a few. Oregonians appreciate and celebrate their fungi and there are many opportunities to learn about, gather, and eat edible mushrooms in the fall.

  • October 28th and November 4th, 2011 – Willamette National Forest
    free guided tours:  half-day guided mushroom hikes in the Middle Fork Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.

Cheron Ferland-Johns is a Wildlife Biologist with the Willamette National Forest