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Originally published Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Bennington Lake is birding oasis in wine country

Bennington Lake near Walla Walla is on Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail.

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Bennington Lake, Site 44 from "Sun and Sage Loop" of Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail

Location: Near the wine town of Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington.

Habitat: 612 acres of cottonwood and willow trees, seasonal mud flats; 52-acre lake created and managed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Best seasons for birding: Year-round.

Birds commonly seen: Spring and summer highlights are nesting lazuli buntings, black-headed grosbeaks, yellow-breasted chats, spotted sandpipers, house wrens, tree swallows. Ospreys fish spring and fall; late fall find greater yellowlegs and tundra swans. In winter, discover Townsend's solitaires and northern shrikes, and listen for great horned and long-eared owls.

Viewing tips: Scope lake below first parking area for shorebirds. 2.6-mile Meadowlark Loop by lake and 4.8-mile Whitetail Trail on hillside are part of 20-mile hike/bike network from Walla Walla. Caution: Hunting Sept. 1-Jan. 31 on Whitetail Trail.

Getting there: From Highway 12 at Milepost 339.4, take Airport Road/Port of Walla Walla exit. Turn south onto Airport Road. Drive 0.5 mile. Turn left onto Reservoir Road. Drive 1.7 miles to parking lot, continue to left, park at picnic area.

More birding: Return 1.2 miles on Reservoir Road. Turn right into Mill Creek Project Office. Drive 0.1 mile to kiosk. Cross bridge to 1.7-mile Kingfisher loop trail. Check spillway in winter for common and hooded mergansers.

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

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