Take stock of nature at Ferbache/Monte Brady

What: Wildlife and bird watching at Ferbache/Monte Brady, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife site near the Chehalis River near Elma in Grays Harbor County. This outing is a 75-mile round trip from Olympia. Fish and Wildlife calls this access site Chehalis River Ferbache.

To do: This early fall outing is fun before you even get to Ferbache. The drive through the extensive farmlands - the corn fields look like Iowa - is a lot of fun. Consider stopping by the Chapman Farms produce stand and corn maze, which is just off Brady Loop Road. The farm has freshly picked sweet corn. In fact, you get a discount if you pick the succulent ears yourself. There's also a pumpkin patch.

Once you reach Ferbache, you're smack in the middle of great wildlife watching. The combination of corn fields, hay fields and abundant woods and thickets bordering the farmland attracts tons of birds and wildlife. This access spot also has ponds and access to the Chehalis River, so waterfowl - including shorebirds such as dunlins and plovers - mix right in with ducks, geese, swans, songbirds and raptors. Bald eagles, Cooper's hawks and an osprey were sighted this week. This land shows how farms bordering woods and wild land make such a good combination for animals and birds. Deer - some of the biggest, fattest blacktail deer in Western Washington - lope around the land. Know that you'll be walking on private farmland, so stick to paths and don't leave any trash. This is lush, gorgeous country that is worth visiting any time of year - but this is the best time. This area also has pheasant hunting in season. If you don't like hunting, stay away from this site on weekends through Nov. 30. Pheasant hunters tend to stay well away from wildlife watchers.

Directions: From Olympia, take U.S. Highway 101 to state Highway 8. State Highway 8 transforms into U.S. Highway 12 at Elma. Continue on Highway 12 to the Monte Brady Road. Turn left onto Monte Brady Road. Turn left onto Brady Loop Road. Follow Brady Loop Road as it winds through farm fields - this is where you can stop at Chapman Farms - until it reaches Foster Road. Turn left onto Foster Road. Follow Foster Road until you see the Department of Fish and Wildlife Fishing Access signs.

Parking: There is plenty of parking, but visitors must display a state Department of Fish and Wildlife Vehicle Use Permit if they park at the area. The permits come with fishing or hunting licenses or cost $10 if purchased without a license. For a list of permit sellers, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov.

Comforts: There is a outhouse-style toilet.

Equipment: Food, rain gear, binoculars, spotting scopes, bird and wildlife guides, warm clothes, sunglasses, sturdy walking shoes, water and sunscreen.

More information: go to http://wdfw.wa.gov

Chester Allen is outdoors reporter for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-4226 or callen@theolympian.com.