The longer we work on this website and wildlife survey, the more hidden locations we turn up. One new discovery is “Santosh Wildlife Area” at the north end of the CalPortland property in Scappoose. Marlea Berumen told us about the place, otherwise we never would have known it existed.
We started at the CalPortland office and they were extremely welcoming. The manager simply asked us to sign a release form before we entered the property, which was then good for the rest of the year. Since we visited once in summer and then three more times in December, our pictures will show a mix of summer and winter views
The gate looks like this:
The entry road passes through riparian hardwood with an understory of invasive Autumn Olive and Himalayan Blackberry. Here we encounter mobs of chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits and kinglets. Wandering around in the trees towards the north results in woodpeckers and creepers.
On the west (left) the dirt road goes past a marshy field. Here sparrows, towhees, finches, and wrens proliferate, and in the distance sit raptors including Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Bald Eagles. In summer garter snakes sun along the road.
Just a little ways up you reach the lake. There must be some fish because all the birds we see in the lake itself are fish-eaters – Belted Kingfisher, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Common Merganser and Hooded Merganser. Often Wilson’s Snipe will burst away from the banks. A large flock of American Wigeon feeds in the marsh just north of the lake, with a few Gadwall mixed in.
Unfortunately the trails around here are choked off with blackberries and only one end of the lake is easily accessible – which happens to be the end that birds are least visible from. I’ve asked CalPortland if it’s possible to remove the brambles and open access to the rest of the lake, they’re going to take a look at it. Until then, photos of the lake’s turtles will be subpar shots at distance.
Hunting around the scrub and trails can reveal more wildlife, including deer, weasels, and likely River Otter or Muskrat. We’ve found Long-toed Salamanders and Northwestern Salamanders. On a couple occasions a Barn Owl has burst from its day roost, though much too fast for a photo, and others have sighted a Great Horned Owl.
Around the Wildlife Area are signs of scouting activity. They’ve hung bat boxes and built a gazebo with a wood-chipped trail. CalPortland told me the area is registered with the county as an undeveloped refuge, so hopefully more people will take advantage of what it has to offer in the future.
We’re interested to see what CalPortland does with this property, especially concerning clearance of some of the invasive brush to open up the trail around the lake. For now it’s an option for birders who happen to be in the area, but nothing you’d go out of your way to find.
If you do happen to visit, the adjacent Honeyman Road is a birding destination in itself. This road is surrounded by fields which become marshlands in the winter/spring, including a couple wetlands mitigation areas also built by CalPortland. Wading birds, waterfowl, gulls, and migratory birds proliferate, with raptors especially fond of the wide-open spaces. Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks sit every few hundred yards, Ospreys nest, Northern Harriers hunt the fields, and if you’re lucky in winter you might chance upon a White-tailed Kite, Rough-legged Hawk, or even a Golden Eagle. Loop from Honeyman Road to connect to Dike Road and you should see a nice array of birds.
Every birder knows Sauvie Island and the CZ Trail portion of the Scappoose Bottoms, but this reminds us that there are other nearby wildlife destinations that can be enjoyed with a bit less traffic.
Santosh Wildlife Area at a glance
What: nature trail, birdwatching
Where: In Scappoose turn east off Highway 30 onto the Crown Zellerbach Road across from Scappoose-Vernonia Highway. In 0.4 miles turn left onto West Lane Road, then in 0.9 miles turn right onto North Honeyman Road. In 1.3 miles you’ll reach the CalPortland office at Hogan Ranch Road, where you’ll sign a release form. Return to N Honeyman and drive another 1.0 miles to park at the gate on the gravel road immediately north of the gravel pits at 45.79334, -122.83816. Don’t block access to the pits!
Hiking: Over a mile of dirt roads and trails, at least half of which is difficult or impossible to access due to blackberry encroachment.
Notable Wildlife: Black-tailed Deer, Belted Kingfisher, mergansers, wading birds, Wilson’s Snipe, songbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, Bald Eagle, Barn Owl, garter snakes
Property status: CalPortland