Two of my kids in bike helmets, looking over a railing at a great blue heron in a small swamp, with houses in the background

Wild animals we sometimes see on our commute

Published 2023-01-26
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Coyotes
  • Great horned owls
  • Great blue herons
  • Snowy egrets
  • River otters
  • Muskrats
  • Nutria*
  • Beavers*
  • Cormorants
  • White tail deer
  • Red tail hawks
  • Mandarin ducks
  • Bald eagles
  • Canada geese
  • Mallard ducks
  • Small fry of many species, so frequent they generally pass without comment:
    • Squirrels (Dougie and Fox)
    • Jays (Steller and scrub)
    • Red-wing blackbirds
    • Thrushes
    • Towhees
    • Robins
    • Woodpeckers
    • Pigeons (rock doves)
    • Mourning doves
    • Crows
    • Starlings or grackles
    • Small brown sparrowy birds, you know the kind

*Might be muskrats

Rare is the day in which we don’t see some interesting animal while riding our bikes to school. (Today: raccoons. Tuesday: owls. Monday and yesterday: bald eagle.) We see so many bald eagles in fact that the kids are kind of blasé about them, which feels a little like Christmas Every Day to me. In the spring we get the treat of traveling past baby ducks and geese.

My middle kid in a bike helmet walking past a manmade pond with many many ducklings on it

Over the years our various school routes have taken us over or through:

  • Tryon Creek State Park
  • Riverview Cemetery
  • lightly-wooded parts of the west hills (e.g. along Terwilliger Drive)
  • Council Crest Park
  • either side of the Willamette River
  • Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
  • Johnson Creek
  • Crystal Springs
  • Mt. Tabor

We have always lived entirely within the Portland City limits. These are not especially wild or inaccessible places. In particular: they are surrounded by roads and highways. How many times, while driving along these routes, have I spotted an owl or otter? (Answer: zero.)