Three Hours in the Woods

Granted beautiful weather and a free afternoon, I headed over to the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary, on the west side of town, yesterday.  Lying adjacent to and connected with the Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary, this refuge is characterized by rolling terrain, carpeted with forested ravines and wooded meadows; it is an excellent area for birding.

Accessed by a fine network of wide, grassy trails, the preserve lies along a tributary of Hinkson Creek which, itself, is a branch of the Perche Creek watershed.  During my three hour visit, which included many stops on the rustic trailside benches, I encountered 24 avian species, including 930 snow geese that passed overhead in five flocks.  Among the other highlights were a pileated woodpecker, a sharp-shinned hawk, red-headed woodpeckers, a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a lone, male purple finch.  The most abundant species proved to be black-capped chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice and Carolina wrens.

Though it was a warm, sunny afternoon, almost all of the human activity was confined to the paved path that runs along the outer edge of the refuges; since dogs and bikes are not permitted on the earthen trails, they remained relatively empty and I only encountered a few other hikers during my lengthy stay.  What can be better for a naturalist: pleasant weather, beautiful natural habitat, a well designed trail network and solitude!