The paths at Delta Ponds City Park in Eugene, Ore. are used for walking and biking. Delta Ponds is one of Eugene’s top bird watching spots, with 155 documented species of birds. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

Editor’s note: this story was updated on October 17 to reflect that those interested in a birding tour can contact Rebecca Waterman at fieldtrips@laneaudubon.org

In this era in which a pandemic has limited our social lives and our attention is constantly demanded by our phones, many of us feel limited in the ways we can connect with the natural world. But there is an unlikely remedy to the tunnel vision you may be experiencing: birding.

Birding, more commonly known as “bird watching,” is a woefully underrated activity among young people, especially young nature lovers. It’s the perfect fall activity to counteract the feeling of being sucked into your phone, because it puts you out into nature and encourages you to be observant and mindful

Rebecca Waterman, a field trip organizer with the Lane County Audubon Society, recommends birding to anyone and everyone. She emphasizes that birding is accessible in that you can do it on your lunch break or from your backyard.

“There are so many benefits to birding,” Waterman said. “One of the big ones is that it gets you outside. Another is that you can do it anywhere you are. There are birds everywhere you go.”

Waterman wants to break the stereotypical idea of a birder and invite curious people to try it for the first time.

“I would like to see more diversity in the people who are birding. For a long time it was kind of thought of as an activity for old White people,” Waterman said. “I want to get younger people and People of Color more involved because it is so accessible, and people who can should be taking advantage of that.”

To start out, all you need is a half-decent pair of binoculars and an Oregon field guide. New binoculars can be pricey, but you can thrift high quality used binoculars in the same section of Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul’s where you would normally find cameras, and you can pick up a field guide from the book section while you’re there.

Eugene is home to some incredible birding spots within city limits, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a spot to begin. Waterman’s top three local recommendations are Delta Ponds, Skinner Butte and Fern Ridge Reservoir. 

Delta Ponds is a 150-acre natural site just north of Valley River Center. The trails are flat and provide some great viewing platforms to look over the pond. You will likely hear a red-winged blackbird’s throaty but striking song from the top of a tree. Across the pond, a great blue heron may display its majesty and power to you.

Skinner Butte is close to the UO campus and has trails for every level of hiker. There are a ton of warblers and other small birds to find along the trail, but you should also keep an eye out for a bald eagle or a Cooper’s Hawk.

Lastly, Fern Ridge Reservoir, located about twenty minutes east of downtown Eugene is “home to some of the best birding in all of western Oregon,” Waterman said. More than 250 species have been recorded at this site, including large flocks of ducks.

If you and someone you are quarantining with would like to go on a free, private birding tour, contact Rebecca Waterman at fieldtrips@laneaudubon.org


A&C Reporter

Jennah is a writer for Arts & Culture desk of the Emerald. She writes about performing arts and outdoor/environmental topics.