Whenever I’m driving back from the Rainier area, I stop to check out the birds at Carr Slough. This waterway next to Trojan Park is one of the best local spots to birdwatch any time of year. But in winter the waterfowl really start to fill it.
I park just off the highway at the beginning of Graham Road. Mergansers and Pied-billed Grebes are a common sight on both sides of the slough, and nutria are always patrolling.
The main bodies of water on either side of the road hold geese, ducks, herons, and egrets. Bald eagles pick at carp and and if you get lucky you might see a Merlin. The greatest attractions are the swans, both species of which winter here.
If you come in summer, don’t forget to inspect the trees along the route for songbirds. Some of the more interesting species here include Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Black-headed Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing, and Marsh Wren. Summer is also when Western Painted Turtles crop up on available basking spots.
Earlier in March I took Sophia here, and after taking some of the above waterfowl pictures we continued down Graham Road to Prescott Beach County Park. In summer this is a nice family spot for beach and picnicking, but on this late winter day it was occupied by salmon fishermen of the human, eagle, and seal varieties.
Prescott Beach is a birdwatching destination as well, mostly spotting them as they fly or swim up and down the Columbia. Raptors are common, waterfowl, pelicans, and loons are in the air and the river, and you can spot up to five species of gull in one sitting.
Swans, geese, most ducks, grebes, and gulls are best seen in these spots between November and March, though many ducks and geese will show up as early as September. Just last week I spotted a pair of Trumpeter Swans already in the water. Pelicans, wood ducks, swallows, and most songbirds are best seen between May and August. Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets are there year-round.
I hope you have a great time birding, and don’t forget to upload your finds onto iNaturalist!
Carr Slough and Prescott Beach County Park at a glance
What: birdwatching, fishing, picnicing
Where: Approximately 4 miles south of Rainier off Highway 30, turn left onto Graham Road
Hiking: No trails but a good amount of space to walk around
Notable Wildlife: sea lions, bald eagles, hooded mergansers, trumpeter swans, tundra swans, other waterfowl, wading birds
Property status: Columbia County Parks