Bayocean Spit

I spent the last day of the dry season walking Bayocean Spit on Tillamook Bay (Birding Oregon p. 128). On a day trip from Portland, it is tempting to try to cover all the hotspots around the bay, but spending the day exploring Bayocean Spit provides access to all the major habitats of the area along with a nice hike.

Although the shorebird migration is winding down, there were still some birds on the bay side of the spit. Black-bellied Plovers were the most obvious and vocal, joined by Western Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, a Semipalmated Plover, and the first Dunlin of the season.

Brown Pelican near the jetty at the mouth of the bay

The ocean side of Bayocean Spit usually has far fewer birds than the bay side, but it is a nice stretch of secluded beach.

Judging from the size, I am guessing these shorebird tracks were from a Black-bellied Plover.

After walking on the beach a while, I cut across the wooded section of the spit to return to the bay side.

The woods on the spit attract a nice variety of songbirds, including Fox Sparrows, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, both kinglets, and Wrentits.

This Townsend’s Chipmunk was busy eating these little red fruits.

The North Coast

I made two trips to the northern Oregon Coast for my recent shorebird class. The “autumn” migration is well underway.

The Seaside Cove has a nice gathering of gulls. This California Gull is undergoing a rather extensive molt, I believe from second cycle to third. The severity of feather loss has actually created some interesting patterns.

This adult California Gull is showing a little wear, but nothing like the previous individual.

The Cove is a favorite hang-out for Heerman’s Gulls.

Young Heerman’s Gulls are a rich chocolate brown. I believe this is a second-cycle bird, given the smattering of gray feathers coming in.

This female Harlequin Duck was near the southern end of The Cove both days.

Black Turnstones, which spend the winter here, are back.

The best bird of the day Thursday was this Ruddy Turnstone, an uncommon migrant along the coast. Unfortunately, he did not stick around for my shorebird class field trip on Saturday.

Caspian Terns, seen here with California Gulls, were common on the beaches. Note the young tern in the center of the photo.

More Caspian Terns with Brown Pelicans and a Western Gull

These Elk tracks were on the beach near the south jetty of the Columbia River at Fort Stevens State Park.

At high tide, the Hammond Boat Basin has been hosting large flocks of Marbled Godwits and Whimbrels (and an unidentified dowitcher species in the middle of this image). Similar roosts in Washington attract rare migrants every year. I hope the same is true for the Oregon side of the river.

Ft. Stevens, 11-10-2011


I spent a warm sunny November day at Ft. Stevens (Birding Oregon p. 119). The tide and winds were both high, so the sea was too rough to find any birds on the water near the south jetty at parking lot C.


The best birds of the trip were a flock of five Snow Buntings, a species that has eluded me in Oregon until now. They appeared on the beach near the jetty, then quickly moved on.


This image shows three Snow Buntings in flight. No, really.


There were hundreds of California Sea Lions in the area, both on the jetty and in the surf.


A flock of at least 35 Semipalmated Plovers were working the wrack line. There are ten in this image. No, really.


Here’s a better view of a Semipalmated Plover.


This Palm Warbler was a nice surprise. This species is rare along the coast in autumn.


Brown Pelicans were very common. The Heerman’s Gulls that harass them during the summer have already moved south for the winter, so the pelicans can feed in relative peace.


An adult (left) and juvenile Brown Pelican


Western Gull (left) and Herring Gull. The gulls on the beach are much more wary than those that spend the winter in Portland.


Sanderlings and Mew Gulls

Other goodies that escaped the camera were a Peregrine Falcon on the beach, a Northern Shrike, and three Western Meadowlarks. It was a great day to enjoy the sun before the cold wet weather settles in to stay.

Tillamook Bay, 9/24/11


I took my Portland Audubon class to Tillamook Bay (Birding Oregon p. 125). We found strong winds, high tides, and rough seas, but the weather was warm and mostly sunny. This photo was taken on the bayside of Bayocean Spit. The water was high enough to cover the mudflats, so we didn’t find any shorebirds, but we did find good numbers of gulls loafing in the shallow water.


Here is a first-cycle California Gull with two adult Western Gulls and a probable third-cycle Western Gull.


The largest concentration of birds was at the Bay City Oyster Plant. This little jetty was covered with gulls, Brown Pelicans, and Black Turnstones.


Western Gull, two Heerman’s Gulls, and a California Gull


Brown Pelicans


juvenile Brown Pelican and Heerman’s Gull


We found at least four Black Oystercatchers at the Three Graces Tidal Area.


At Barview Jetty, the rough seas and howling winds kept the expected seabirds out of the channel. But the big waves did reveal lots of Ochre Sea Stars.


This lone Black Turnstone was the only shorebird we found braving the rough conditions.

Bayocean Spit

It had been a while since I had walked all the way around Bayocean Spit (Birding Oregon p. 128). This is a great walk which takes about four hours, assuming you stop and look at birds along the way.

This morning was one of those misty gray days when the sky blends into the ocean. The fog and drizzle make photography rather difficult, giving everything a blurry grainy look. The dark line on the horizon is the south jetty. The crane in the distance is working on the end of the north jetty.


Shorebirds were few and far between this day. This is an adult Black-bellied Plover.


Western Gulls


California Gulls


The rocks of the jetty are home to many Ochre Sea Stars.


Brown Pelicans are constantly being harassed by other birds, especially Heerman’s Gulls, which make their living stealing fish from the pelicans. In this photo we see a young Western Gull, three Heerman’s Gulls, a Glaucous-winged Gull, and a Pelagic Cormorant, all hoping the Brown Pelican drops his fish. Notice the Heerman’s Gull hanging on to the pelican’s feet.


Brown Pelican with his posse.


The woods and brushy areas on Bayocean Spit are home to Wrentits. These birds tend to remain hidden in heavy cover, but their loud and unique vocalizations are heard throughout the year. This bird sat still just long enough for my point-and-shoot camera to get off one shot at 1/13th of a second.

Winchuck River Mouth

winchuck river
Less than a mile from the California border, the Winchuck River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Along with a lovely beach area, the site has a nice visitor center (bathroom!) with information about the surrounding National Forest.

brown pelicans
Brown Pelicans were feeding just offshore.

long-billed curlew
Two Long-billed Curlews were feeding near the river mouth, probing their long bills into the sand. The crisp pattern on the wing coverts (dark stripes with no cross bars) identifies this individual as a juvenile.

double-crested cormorant
This Double-crested Cormorant  fished  in the river while other fished offshore.

eurasian collared dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves can be expected just about anywhere in Oregon after a massive range expansion over the past few years.

western fence lizard 1
Western Fence Lizards were basking on the abundant driftwood. This one has recently shed, evidenced by the little patch of dead skin left on the tail. The one below has a less dramatic pattern, but with little blue flecks.

western fence lizard 2

A Day at the Beach

I took a client to the Necanicum Estuary (Birding Oregon p.122) last week. Shorebirds were surprisingly scarce on the mudflats. But the sand bars were covered with Caspian Terns. There was a huge concentration of these beautiful noisy birds resting, preening, diving for fish, and feeding their young. Here is a very small part of the flock.

Offshore, Brown Pelicans were actively feeding. The smaller dark birds are Heerman’s Gulls, which make their living stealing fish from Brown Pelicans.