Yaquina Bay, at the town of Newport, is one of the more productive sites on the Oregon coast. On this visit, high winds reduced the number of birds that were out and about, but there was still a lot to see.
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.
The ocean side of Bayocean Spit usually has far fewer birds than the bay side, but it is a nice stretch of secluded beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a recent visit to the Charleston boat basin (Birding Oregon, p. 142) I enjoyed watching a flock of Brown Pelicans feeding close to shore.
After plunging into the water, the birds would swim with their bills submerged, slowly letting the water out as they strained out whatever fish they had captured in the dive.
Later in the summer, the Brown Pelicans will be accompanied by Heerman’s Gulls. These beautiful dark gulls make their living stealing fish from Brown Pelicans. The Heerman’s are currently on their nesting grounds in California, so for now, the pelicans can eat in peace.