Monday, March 11, 2013

Smith and Bybee Wetlands: Something to See, Anytime of Year

Recently we've had some very Spring-like days here in Portland. The days last a little longer, and the sun feels a little warmer. We're already seeing the first blossoms of Spring.  Native plants like Red-flowering Currant and Indian Plum don't wait around for the calendar to say that Spring is here.  They just bloom whenever it feels right.  I know there are many more showery, gray days to come (and rain is a good thing), but I can't help looking forward to the drier, greener days ahead.

Red-flowering Currant

Sometimes our weather memories are rather short-term.  Here in western Oregon, we gripe about the rain until it's time to gripe about how hot it is.  So to help us not take the current mild temperatures for granted, I thought I'd look back a couple of months and share some photos that I took out at Smith and Bybee Wetlands on a very cold and frosty January morning.

 Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area - often referred to as Smith and Bybee Lakes - is the largest protected wetland within an American city.  Located in North Portland, west of PIR and Delta Park West, the park is a great place to see water fowl, raptors and other birds, as well as beaver, river otter and one of the few remaining populations of Western Painted Turtles in the lower Willamette Valley (listed as "critical" on Oregon's sensitive species list).  Facilities at the park include a paved, accessible trail between the two lakes (complete with viewing platforms), restrooms, a launch for non-motorized boats, and some very nice interpretive signs.  Some interesting public art is sprinkled throughout the developed areas.

View Larger Map

 It looked like I was the fist to arrive by car on this January day.

Informational signs by the parking area

 I walked past frosty Nootka Rose hips...

...frozen cattails...

...and frost-dusted Oregon Grape.

Then I came to the viewing area looking out over the frozen slough.

This is the place where you can spot Western Painted Turtles basking in the sun during the warmer months.  Hopefully they're all tucked snugly into the mud at the bottom of the pond where they hibernate - their body temperatures dropping to just above freezing.

Moving on down the trail, I saw a Brown Creeper and a Bushtit, but didn't get a good picture of either one.  Then I looked up to see this juvenile Bald Eagle looking down at me.

It either got tired of me staring up at it, or it decided it had better things to do.

Here's the observation platform on Smith Lake.

And the view from the platform,

 which included some American Coots (I believe).

The Coots seemed nervous, and I thought it was because of me, but it might have been that juvenile eagle that was flying overhead.

So even in the rain, snow, or heavy frost, you can always see something interesting out at Smith and Bybee Wetland.  

Just a few more photos to wrap it up...
Frozen perimeter of Smith lake

Signs of Beaver in the neighborhood
One of the many pieces of public art
This last photo was taken south of Portland, in the area of Donald and Aurora, but it could have been taken at many places in the Portland Metro region.  I wanted to share it here because it goes so well with the frosty theme of this post.

Canada Geese flying in front of a frosty old Oak

Brrrr... looks cold, doesn't it?  

Remember to get out and enjoy the mild temperatures we've been having lately.  Pretty soon it will be too hot.  ; )

Real Time Analytics