Bird Watching Hotspots in Walla Walla Vicinity

Below Shirley Muse lists several of her favorite birding locations within an hour drive of Walla Walla.

1. Walla Walla River Delta and the McNary National Wildlife Refuge

The delta is fast becoming one of the hottest birding spots in Eastern Washington. Spring and fall migrations bring thousands of shorebirds to this ever-increasing delta area. Some of the better state "records" are now being seen at the delta. The one drawback is the erratic decisions by the PUDs upriver on the Columbia and their drawdowns on water. You never know how exposed the mudflats will be. The best place to view the delta is difficult to find. Going north on Highway 12 from the junction, watch for a left turning (rough road) just past the bridge over the Walla Walla River. This can be difficult due to the amount of traffic on Highway 12. Park just before the railroad tracks and walk down the well-defined path to the shore. When the flats are fully exposed, you can walk out and view the birds at closer range. A spotting scope is a must.

2. Coppei Creek and other northern drainages.

This is one of the better birding spots in the entire county--especially in spring migration. It is litterally alive with passerines. It is one of the few spots in the county where you can find American Redstarts. Warblers, wrens, Fox Sparrows, Vireos, Flycatchers, Catbirds, Towhees, are some of the species you will find here. Birding by ear is the best way to find the birds because of the heavy brush along Coppei Creek. Any of the drainages in this area are excellent for spring birdwatching. Orioles, Tanagers, Woodpeckers, Thrush, and on and on.

To get there, take Highway 12 east of Walla Walla and go to Dixie. After Dixie the highway climbs up Minnick Hill to the elevators at the top. Turn right at this spot and immediately after crossing the old rail tracks, turn left up a steep hill. Follow this road up over the top and down to a T stop. You are there. Bird both up Coppei Creek and left down. Perhaps the best area is the one between the stop, left down the road to Coppei Creek. You might turn right and drive up the South Fork of Coppei to the end of the road. Birding is good there and you always have a chance to see Ruffed Grouse, Redstarts, and again warblers, vireos. buntings, and flycatchers can be seen in the excellent habitat alongside the road. At the other end (turning left from the stop sigh) you will come to the creek and can then turn right and drive up North Fork Coppei which is also very good birding.

3. Hawk watching. In the fall and winter months, the Walla Walla valley has one of the best hawk populations in the state of Washington. You should drive all of the roads south of Highway 12 (accessible at both Lowden and Gardena) and watch all powerlines, fence posts, fields, trees, etc., for wintering buteos. There are good numbers of Red-railed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels, and you will almost always see 1 or 2 Prairie Falcons, and a Ferruginous Hawk or two. Northern Harriers are quite abundant most years, but this varies. As many as 250 birds have been seen in a single day, but a hundred or more is not unusual.

4. Closer to Walla Walla, we have the bicycle and running path along Mill Creek, past the Community College and on to Bennington Lake. There is an excellent path surrounding the lake and you can find birds there in almost any season. Species and numbers will depend upon the season and the weather. Shorebirds and waterfowl use the lake in spring and fall migration and the brushy areas leading to the lake are great for hummingbirds, buntings, warbler, vireos, and flycatchers. To get there you can begin either at the end of Cambridge street off of Wilbur Avenue in Eastgate, or you may park at Tausick Way and Mill Creek and begin the walk at that point. You should not forget Rooks Park, at the Diversion Dam site. This is also excellent in the spring and summer. Singing warblers, vireos, wrens, and flycatchers fill the air with a mixed chorus. This is a good spot for owls--screech, great horned, and saw-whet.