One winter, many years ago, I was up on the OSU campus in Corvallis. I’d just gotten into my car and was starting to head home when a humongous flock of Canada geese flew over head. In awe, I pulled my car over, rolled down my windows and watched. I had never seen so many geese before, and I couldn’t understand how everyone around me was going about their business as if nothing extraordinary was happening.
Fast forward roughly 15 years and I still find the huge flocks amazing. I’ve also learned that they are a more common event in Corvallis because of the wildlife refuges, especially Finley National Wildlife Refuge just to the south of town off of Highway 99. These refuges were created to provide wintering habitat for dusky Canada geese.
We first visited Finley back in 2014, and my goal is to get up there at least once every winter. I love seeing the flocks of Canada geese, which are usually somewhere around McFadden’s March.
I don’t have the best camera for wildlife photography, and I think that if I lived closer to Finley, I’d probably find a way to get one of those big lenses that I see people walking around with up there. But I do enjoy trying for a good shot.
I also use my camera to help with our informal birding. Between my camera and my partner’s binoculars, we racked up a pretty good amateur bird list, including several bald eagles, lots of northern pintail ducks, swans, some fun northern shovelers, green winged teal, and a northern harrier hawk.
William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge can be reached off of Highway 99W just 4 miles north of Monroe, in all about an hour drive from Cottage Grove. Signs are limited. Look for Bruce Road on your left, just before the RFP Family Store. Once up there, our strategy is pretty simple — we drive the loop, either starting at Bruce Road or Finley Road (further to the north). There’s lots to see just from the car, which makes a great moving bird blind. But it’s also fun to get out to walk or hike. To protect the geese, not all trails are open in the winter, so this map might be helpful when planning your trip.