I took my shorebird class to the north coast. We ended the day with 14 species of shorebirds, plus one that got away unidentified. Our first stop was The Cove in Seaside. The tide was very low so the birds were far away, but we still found a nice selection of rockpipers. Here is a large flock of Black Turnstones with a couple of Surfbirds.
Stanley Lake hosted two Pectoral Sandpipers.
Semipalmated Plover, also at Stanley Lake
We visited the Hammond Boat Basin, hoping for Whimbels and Marbled Godwits. Instead, we had to “settle” for several hundred Heerman’s Gulls (above), along with Brown Pelicans and Elegant Terns. It was a lovely sunny day at the 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.
Here are a few more images from a recent trip to the coast.
Black Turnstone at The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121)
Surfbirds blend in with the rocks very well until someone opens their wings.
California Gull in extremely worn plumage. Notice how the primaries have worn down almost to the shaft.
Dragonfly on the water, Neawanna Wetlands
Hooded Mergansers, Neawanna Wetlands
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
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.
I spent the day birding sites around Seaside, OR (Birding Oregon p. 121).
The tide was the lowest I have seen at The Cove, revealing its sandy bottom.
The low tide allowed lots of beach-combers to wander along the rocky edges, so the only shorebirds present was a small flock of Black Turnstones.
This is a Western Gull in very worn plumage. Note the black-tipped primary just starting to grow in. The lumpy neck on this bird was caused by the large sea star he had just swallowed.
Heerman’s Gulls are normally one of the most beautiful gull species, but this individual was also extremely worn.
These birds were in better shape.
California Gulls are starting to gather along the Oregon coast. This juvenile was keeping company with an adult Western Gull.
At the north end of town is the Necanicum Estuary, also at very low tide. The exposed mud and aquatic vegetation attracted nice numbers of shorebirds.
The rarest bird of the day was this Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Notice on these shorebird tracks that the toes are partially webbed, or semipalmated. So these tracks were made by either a Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, or Semipalmated Sandpiper.
These tracks don’t show any sign of webbing, so they were probably made by a Least Sandpiper.
The estuary is a favorite hang-out for Caspian Terns, here joined by California Gulls.
I made two trips to the coast for my shorebird class last week. Migration is picking up, and the sun is actually making occasional appearances.
Three Arch Rocks, viewed from Cape Meares (Birding Oregon p. 129) This is the site of large seabird nesting colonies, but the rocks are too far out to see much. The small rock on the far left is a favorite haul out site for Steller’s Sea Lions, which you can see with a decent scope.
Two Coyotes were hunting in a meadow along Tillamook Bay. There is no shoulder along much of Bayocean Road, so I had to make a brief stop in the middle of the road to snap a couple of photos. I was struck by how dark these animals were, compared to Coyotes I see inland.
Keeping an eye on me. Coyotes are right to be nervous whenever a vehicle slows down nearby. Luckily, this human was only pointing a camera.
Black Oystercatcher on Barview Jetty (Birding Oregon p. 125) This jetty was recently rebuilt. As a result, the surface is smooth and easy to walk on, allowing you to go out much farther than before. But please don’t get the impression that it is EVER safe to walk out on a jetty. Even though you don’t have to hop from rock to rock, sneaker waves can still knock you onto the rocks or into the ocean. The jetty might have to age a bit before it attracts as many birds as before, since newer rocks don’t have as much sea life encrusted onto them.
Black Turnstones and Surfbirds at The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121) These birds put on a great show for my shorebird class.
The Cove at Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121) is a reliable winter site for Black Turnstones and Surfbirds. When the tide is high, these birds will come fairly close to the parking area, so you can sit on a log and enjoy good views.
Surfbirds blending in with the gray cobbles
The rocky shore of The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121) is a favorite loafing spot for Heerman’s Gulls. The gray stones match the velvety gray of the gulls, and make the flash of brilliant red from the gulls’ bills even more stunning. Heerman’s Gulls are certainly among the most beautiful birds in North America.
Black Turnstones also blend in with the rocky shore.
Two of the more common rock-loving shorebirds along the coast are Black Oystercatcher and Black Turnstone. Both species hang out on rocky shorelines in the intertidal zone, probing the wave-splashed rocks for mollusks.
Black Oystercatchers would be very hard to see against the dark rocks if it weren’t for their bright red bills.
Black Turnstones nest in Alaska, but spend the winter along the west coast from Canada to Baja California. Their backs blend in with the rocks, but their underparts are bright white.
Limpets are among these birds’ prey species. The shorebirds use their stout bills to pry the animals off the rocks to reveal the soft underparts.
I birded Fort Stevens and Seaside on the coast today. I met a birder from the east who asked me when the shorebirds would be coming through. I explained that shorebirds were on the move now, but they tended to trickle through. The northern part of the Oregon coast doesn’t currently have any big shorebird staging areas. The birds stage at Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay in Washington, then tend to head straight for California. Oregon gets its share of migrants, but you have to be at the right place at just the right time to see them.
I found a few shorebirds today.
This Western Sandpiper had an injured right wing and foot. The line of rusty-fringed scapular feathers is part of this specie’s juvenal plumage.
Here are two species in the “rockpiper” group of shorebirds, named for their preferred habitat. The bird on the left is a Black Turnstone. On the right is a Surfbird.