There's a new way to explore Oregon and this one is really for the birds!
But it's designed for people - especially folks who like to explore new destinations where half the fun is in the getting there.
The first "Willamette Valley Birding Trail" is a new partnership between varied birding groups and Travel Oregon.
It offers people a chance to explore 130 legitimate birding sites in a region that is home to 70 percent of the state's population.
Joel Geier and I recently met at W Finley Refuge where he told me that variety is the spice of his birding life along the new Willamette Birding Trail.
"They're such fascinating creatures; they're feathered and for me, they have a little more variety than mammals."
Geier knows his birding game well! After all, he's a longtime member of the Oregon Field Ornithologists. His organization along with several others including Travel Oregon joined to identify 130 birding trails in the Willamette Valley.
"We've set it up as 12 different loops in the valley so that if you live in one of the communities in the valley, you can go out on a weekend and visit a loop that includes 10 or 12 different sites."
It's easy to locate a trail online. A click of your mouse takes you inside one of the dozen different loops where you'll find directions to the sites plus photos of the species that you'll see along the way.
"On each of those loops," noted Geier, "There will be sites that you never thought about visiting before and you'll be surprised that they are pretty special places."
Sallie Gentry and Molly Monroe agree that the new Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk at William Finley Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis is one of those special places where you can go birding.
"The boardwalk is on pretty level, even terrain and there are two benches along that they can rest if they get tired," said Gentry.
It's an astonishing trail that is wheelchair accessible along 1700 feet of elevated boardwalk that leads to an observation blind that overlooks a small pond that attracts many different birds.
"It is a magnet for wildlife," noted Monroe. "We'll have thousands upon thousands of ducks and geese and swans here within the next few months."
Gentry added, "We're kind of a little known secret right now, but I think we're going to become more well known because there are such excellent wildlife viewing opportunities here and you can get relatively close without disturbing the wildlife."
Not only wintering waterfowl, but also raptor species like bald eagles make the Finley Refuge their winter homes.
"It's one of the easiest birds for most people to identify so it's fun for them.
Often, you just look out on a tree line of snags and say, 'Oh, there's an eagle perched right there.' Eagles are good because they're well known by most people and they're recovery from near extinction is such a success story."
If you're eager to learn more about birding, but you're not sure how to get started, Gentry said that there is good news for the casual first time visitor this Fall season.
"Many people come here and don't realize the wealth of birds that they may find on the refuge and so lack some basic tools. We've developed "family kits" that include everything one would need here. Check out binoculars or a field guide, take it with them out on the hike or drive the auto-route and just bring them back at the end of the day. It's really a great deal!
All agree that wildlife viewing along the new Willamette Birding Trail is just the ticket to see Oregon from a different point of view.
"Oh, I think it's a huge deal," exclaimed Monroe. "Birding is a growing pastime - and it is one that brings a lot of enjoyment to a large variety of people of all ages."