The Seattle Times

Low-graphic news index | Mobile site

Friday, November 30, 2012 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.

See golden eagles, feeding elk at Oak Creek Wildlife Area

Birders’ Top Spots

Oak Creek Wildlife Area: Tieton River Nature Trail, Site 21 from “Sun & Sage Loop” of Audubon Washington’s Great Washington State Birding Trail

Location: Off Highway 12 west of Naches, Yakima County

Habitat: Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife site; three miles of post-fire Garry oak woodland, river, sage and bunchgrass below andesite cliffs. Audubon-designated Important Birding Area.

Best seasons for birding: Winter through summer

Birds commonly seen: Nesters high and low. Golden eagles nest on cliff rim, cliff swallows on cliff face, Bullock’s orioles in branches over river, Lewis’ woodpeckers in blackened oak trunks. Violet-green swallows zip over water; turkey vultures soar aloft. Glimpse blue hue of Steller’s jays and western bluebirds. Check trees for northern flickers, shrubs for eastern and western kingbirds, forest floor for spotted towhees.

Viewing tips:

• Oak Creek Headquarters — Walk across Highway 12, cross bridge, and walk or bike upriver two miles to suspension bridge. Also walk west through elk fence gate, past barn, and 0.3 mile up hill through meadows by basalt outcrops and Garry oaks. Bonus: winter elk feeding station and spring wildflower extravaganza.

• Suspension Bridge — Walk 0.1 mile to river, cross bridge, walk upriver 1+ miles.

Getting there:

• Oak Creek Headquarters — From Highway 12 at Milepost 183.5, turn north into Oak Creek Wildlife Area. Discover Pass required.

• Suspension Bridge — From Highway 12 at Milepost 182.1, turn south into parking by Quonset hut.

More birding: From headquarters, return to Highway 12/Highway 410 junction. Drive 0.6 mile north on Old Naches Road. Turn left into bighorn sheep winter feeding station. Scope Cleman Mountain for golden and bald eagles.

Source: Audubon Washington, Great Washington State Birding Trail maps. See maps online (or order hard copies, $4.95, or apps, $2.99) at wa.