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Grant's Getaways: Where the flocks are

Birdwatching has become even easier with a new wildlife identification book that takes you where the flocks are in the Willamette Valley.

POLK COUNTY, Ore. — Whether you live in a city or the country, it’s easy to find wildness at a wildlife refuge near you. The finding has become even easier with a new wildlife identification book that takes you where the flocks are in the Willamette Valley.

If your daily commute feels hectic, consider 20,000 Canada geese jammed wing to wing, twisting and turning and rising in flight. These big birds soar, land and munch the grass across the lush pastures at Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge, 10 miles west of Salem.

Photographer and wildlife biologist Kelly Warren likes to be where the flocks are, and he says Baskett Slough is one of four easy to reach US Fish and Wildlife Refuges in the Willamette Valley that protect waterfowl habitat.

“You got wetlands, you got oaks (trees) and you have geese…lots of geese,” said Warren. ”Right now, they’re gorging themselves on the grass. They winter in the Willamette Valley because there are food sources and everything they need to succeed.”

Credit: Grant McOmie

Warren’s eye for the wild, plus his camera skills allow him to feed his addiction of shooting wildlife with a long-distance lens, especially the seven sub species of Canada Geese that migrate to Oregon.

His book, the “Identification Field Guide to Geese” documents the Oregon goose story with history, biology and especially photos. So, if you don’t know a Cackler from a Taverner from an Aleutian, Warren’s new book will set you straight.

“My book has been an on-going process, and I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with the overall results. Writing is a hobby that adds to my waterfowl addiction, whether it be hunting or watching wildlife at a refuge or taking photos of the birds.”

Credit: Grant McOmie

Warren’s dad and his granddad drew Kelly to the outdoors when he was a boy! Grandfather Charles Warren was a noted fish and wildlife prof at Oregon State Professor, and he saw something special in the youngster and he bought Kelly his first camera.

“My grandfather said, ‘You’re always in the marsh, always hunting, always doing things so go buy a camera and use it.”

And he did! And they also traveled to wildlife meccas like Klamath and Malheur Wildlife Refuges where a new world opened up to the young Warren.

Credit: Grant McOmie

RELATED: Grant's Getaways: Salmon Feast

“We would take spring bird trips to Malheur and other areas and learn about different species, plus I could see the migration routes and corridors and learn everything possible about birds. So, that started this hobby, this passion for wildlife photography.”

Warren has collected over 150 goose photos in his text, but he averaged 500 photos for each one selected for the book.

“I have lots of extended hard drives,” he added with a chuckle.

Warren’s book has caught on with folks who don’t hunt but like to watch and learn about wildlife and he shares photo tips with anyone who wants to capture the outdoors on their own. 

“Anytime between November to late April can be great times to find waterfowl on the refuges. You want to catch birds when they’re not so wary, so early morning and evening are best times.”

Credit: Grant McOmie

This wildlife biologist also works for Ducks Unlimited, and he said he is often joined in the field by his wife and their youngster.

RELATED: Grant's Getaways: The early bird gets the big fish with First Light Fishing

When it comes to the quality of his shots, Warren says there are several things to keep in mind: “Photo clarity is critical as are composition and contrast too. I try to capture a lot of geese in flight. Stationary gets boring after a while.”

When it comes to advice for newcomers wanting to capture the perfect wildlife photos? 

“Stay in your car! The geese are used to cars driving back and forth so if you get out, they are going to maintain distance and not allow you to get closer.”

Solid advice from a trailblazing pro who will set you on the right path for exciting and thrilling wildlife moments in the great outdoors.

You can order Warren’s book by contacting him at kelly@wildspiritresources.com.

Credit: Grant McOmie

Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:

Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:

"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill

"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill

Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.

My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022.

Watch more Grant's Getaways: