Saturday, April 5, 2014

Oregon Coast part 2

I started describing my trip to Newport Oregon in this post here.  I made it through the first day's photos and decided that it was long enough.  I woke up early on Sunday, found a place with sourdough pancakes and went back to the beach.  I wanted to visit Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural area, but wanted to head up the coast a bit more to try and see Wrentits and maybe a King Eider which had been spending the winter in the area. I found the place easy enough and there were plenty of birds in the water.  And the view of the Yaquina head lighthouse was pretty amazing.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Yaquina Head Lighthouse - Newport OR
The light wasn't the best for me to pick out a scoter a "bit warmer than the other females there" and ID the Eider, but I got to watch some good fishing going on none-the-less. 

Surf Scoters
Scoters fishing - Newport OR
I saw lots of Surf Scoters and Black Scoters too.

Black Scoters
Black Scoters (top) and Surf Scoter (bottom) - Newport OR
I never did see the Eider or the Wrentits which were supposed to be nesting near the parking area.  But I did add one lifer there, some Black Oystercatchers were flying around and standing on the rocks as the surf was coming in.

Black Oystercatcher
Black Oystercatcher - Newport OR

Black Oystercatchers
Black Oystercatchers - Newport OR
I also managed to see a Bald Eagle cruising down the beach.
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle - Newport OR
After an hour or so I decided to head down to Yaquina Head Outstanding Area and the Lighthouse there.  I saw huge flocks of birds from the Eider spot and wanted to get a closer look.  They ended up being Common Murre by the hundreds.  I thought that they looked like flying penguins, it was amazing to see so many medium size birds flying around in flocks.
Common Murre
Common Murre - Yaquina Head OR
There were also lots of Cormorants flying around.  We watched Pelagic Cormorants flying to the rocks with nesting material and some Brandt's Cormorants were also nesting nearby.
Pelagic Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant - Yaquina Head OR
I also saw some Pigeon Guillemots floating down below the cliffs.
Pigeon Guilletmots
Pigeon Guillemots - Yaquina Head OR
     There were a few people out standing around the base of the Lighthouse looking for migrating Grey Whales.  I missed the first one that the other's saw, but then there it was, some spray from a passing whale breathing!

Grey Whale
Grey Whale Breath - Yaquina Head OR
     Not much to see, but another first for me.  I was hoping to see one breach, but it wouldn't be that day.  Seeing the whale I decided to move on and drove down to the visitor's center of the natural area. I saw some guys with cameras and binoculars all standing together and all looking at the same spot on the cliffs above the parking area, typical signs of the North American Birder, a very common species found in varied habitats throughout the world.  Almost as prevalent as House Sparrows.
Turns out they were watching a Peregrine Falcon resting near her scrape. 

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon - Yaquina Head OR
     The locals filled me in the details.  The female was very randy and ready to start the season's family, but the male would seem to not be too interested.  They were on the lookout for copulation displays, as infrequent as they appeared to be.  We stood there and watched a Northern Harrier fly right over her and she didn't do anything.  The Falcon that I'm familiar with in Pittsburgh would have been escorting any raptors out of the area post-haste, so this was odd behavior to me.
     Another thing that the locals mentioned were that Wrentits were common down in town by the South Jetty, where I had been the night before.  They gave me directions and told me that they could be pshht out if I worked hard enough at it. These little birds are very shy, as expected with something with "wren" in it's name.  So I drove back down to the jetty and drove towards the middle and parked.
     I found some paths into the chaparral-type vegetation opposite of the road from the water.  I saw some Song Sparrows and even some White-Crowned Sparrows, but no Wrentits.  I kept at it for over half an hour, crouched down in thick shrubs to no avail. And then I heard some calling a way's off, which sounded like their songs on the Sibley app. So I hurried over to that area, psssht some more and then there they were.  But they were so fast, and so spastic, that I wasn't able to get any photos.  But I ended up seeing 3 of them and got great looks at their long tails and their electric looking eyes.  Great birds to see and the highlight of my Sunday there.  I made my way back to the road and decided to see what was in the water.  I saw a yellow bird which flew into some bushes, a Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark - South Jetty Newport OR
I made my way to the rocks and it saw that it was high tide, or close to it.  It was low tide the night before when I was there.  The strip of rocks that the seals were laying on was now under water and even the raft of Scaup under the bridge was dispersed.  I noticed some Harlequin Ducks hanging out on some rocks and they let me get pretty close to them.

Harlequin Duck
Harlequin Duck - South Jetty, Newport OR

Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Ducks - South Jetty, Newport OR

Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Ducks - South Jetty, Newport OR
As I looked further up the rocks, I noticed a bit more where there, along with some sleeping Western Grebes.

Western Grebes and Harlequin Ducks
Western Grebes and Harlequin Ducks - South Jetty, Newport OR
And some Common Loons were floating nearby too.  I had seen both a Common Loon and a Pacific Loon in the same week back in New Mexico, both rare birds there.  And both were in their drab winter plumage.  But the Loons here were getting into their beautiful breeding plumages.

Common Loon
Common Loon - South Jetty, Newport OR
Walking along I saw a Bufflehead sitting on a rock.  I'm not sure if I've ever seen them on dry ground before.  But I was able to get a pretty good shot of it sitting there.

Bufflehead - South Jetty, Newport OR
I've never noticed the iridescent sheen on their heads before either, such great little ducks to see, and they appear to be everywhere here in Oregon.  There were some in New Mexico, but I don't think they were as widespread.
At this point I was feeling pretty good about seeing the Wrentits and adding so many other birds to my list.  But there was one last duck that I had hoped to see, a Long-Tailed Duck.  They were being reported and everyone had said that they were around, but I hadn't noticed any today.  But a fisherman who was along the jetty said that he had seen an "Old Squaw" earlier, which is their old name.  So I kept scanning the channel, as far out as I could with just my binoculars (I really need a scope), when I saw a white shape bobbing along.  I looked figuring to see another gull, but it wasn't.  Finally a Long-Tailed Duck, and the last of my target birds for the weekend.

Long-Tailded Duck
Long-Tailed Duck - South Jetty, Newport OR
Sure the photo is crap and I didn't get the looks that I was hoping.  But that head coloration is unmistakable, and it was really far out in the water.  This duck gave me my 12th lifer for the weekend, but just 40 total species.  But all in all a great trip, and a great break. 

Trip details:
I stayed at the Inn at Yaquina Bay, a nice place withing walking distance to the fishing pier and the South Jetty, and right across the street from Rogue's Brewery on the Bay, which has a kitchen and a very nice gift shop.  
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area has tide pools, an awesome Lighthouse and Peregrine Falcons that you can see from your car.
Here is ebird's hotspot information on the South Jetty at Yaquina Bay, where you can get directions from anywhere, but is a relatively short 2 hour drive from Portland. 

I just heard that the Puffins are back at Cannon Beach, so it looks like I need to make one more trip to the coast.  And my family and I want to visit Tillamook before we leave, so hopefully we get to do that.  Plus a trip East to the falls and Mount Hood.


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