by Ken Knittle
Woodland Bottoms is a great birding area with easy freeway access off and on for travelers heading south toward Oregon. You can pull off just to stretch your legs for a few minutes or spend half a day exploring this area of southwest Cowlitz County. It’s even a good place to check at night for Barn, Great Homed, and Short -eared owls.
In winter, large flocks of geese feed in the agriculture fields along with flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans. Other possibilities include Green Heron; Great and Cattle egrets; and Brant, Ross’s, Snow, and White-fronted geese.
In summer, the large trees along the river produce Red-eyed Vireo, House and Bewick’s wrens, and Yellow-breasted Chats. The chats can be heard calling off and on all night. They prefer the brushy areas near the water’s edge.
To get to Woodland Bottoms, take the Dike Access Road off! -5just north ofW oodland, and head west toward the Columbia River. Geese are commonly found in the field to the north. At the T intersection, you can turn right for a different angle on the geese. This is a dead-end road, but it can be productive due in part to less traffic.
Turning left at the T, check for rarethe small, muddy pond. This is also a
good spot to check at night for chats on the right side of the road. From this point on, you can continue south on the dike, stopping at good looking spots. You’ll usually find Sandhill Cranes in the big, open fields along here. Eventually, the Dike Road turns east and follows the Lewis River. Watch the grassy fields, which are good for herons, egrets,
harriers, and Short-eared Owls.
As the road turns north along railroad tracks, take the first road to the right, cross the tracks, and pass some big, spreading oaks. Stay to the right and you will soon be at Horseshoe Lake, which has waterfowl and large gulls to sort through. Glaucous Gulls are here occasionally, as are Western, Thayer’s, and Herring. By now, you have returned to Woodland and have easy access to 1-5. Have fun birding the WoodlandBottoms.