Monday, November 30, 2015

Florence Vacay (Part 2)

This part of the Oregon coast is known for its sand dunes, and on Wednesday morning we set out to find some.  First we tried a trail near Sutton Creek and Holman Vista, but to actually get to the dunes one would have to cross the creek.  Nope.  But there were Varied Thrushes in the parking lot.

We tried and failed on another trail in the Siltcoos area before heading to Jessie Honeyman State Park.  Here we found a completely deserted dune area on Cleawox Lake where the dogs were able to run free for a bit.

After that we took a nice walk around Florence's Old Town area which runs along the Siuslaw River.  A kingfisher was perched on a river-facing balcony and at one point got into a disagreement with an Orange-crowned Warbler.  So random.

 Siuslaw River Bridge

Back at the house we saw one of the Canada Geese we had seen earlier in the morning was in a weird position on a neighboring dock.  I first thought it was dead, but no, just resting.  

We saw the goose later swimming around, and the next morning it was standing in the grass on shore.

Wednesday afternoon we left the dogs home again and went north to look for more tide pools.  First we stopped at Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint, which was indeed scenic.

There were some tide pools but I was more intrigued by this thing:


We drove back south to Bob Creek Wayside and found tons of tide pools.

Thursday, Thanksgiving, was our last morning in Florence.  I bugged the Wrentits by the deck for awhile...

After packing up we decided to check out the South Jetty of the Siuslaw.

Most of the people around seemed to be surfers...

The North Jetty was cool, but it was nice to be on the south side so the birds in the river were not so backlit.

Eared Grebe

 Pelagic Cormorant

Horned Grebe

 Harbor seal

We were walking back along the jetty when a couple of dogs in an SUV parked on the jetty started barking loudly at a small dog walking near them.  I didn't want Jake and Ralph to set them off too so we started walking out towards the beach to give the SUV some space.  That's when my friend yelled "Snowy Owl!"  I thought he was joking because there was a big white styrofoam block on the ground.  Then he yelled "not Snowy Owl, Burrowing Owl!"  I really did not understand the joke at this point.  All I saw was an SUV with barking dogs.

Oh wait.  Look at the sand.  There's a freakin Burrowing Owl sitting there.  My friend had seen it land there though he didn't see where it came from.

After a minute the owl flew over to some dune grass and settled in.  I had never seen a Burrowing Owl in flight before.

I sat there trying to send a quick email to OBOL while holding two leashes and my binoculars, hoping it would stay put.  It did.  It didn't even budge when two beagles and a little puppy came tearing up the jetty.

BUOW on far right in grass, styrofoam block on far left

Burrowing Owls are known to end up on the coast in the winter on occasion, but it is far from a regular sighting.  This was a good bird, and extra sweet since I dipped on the one at Yaquina Head last winter.

After the owl excitement we drove north to Cape Perpetua to see what all the fuss was about with Thor's Well.  Wikipedia describes it as a salt water fountain driven by the power of the ocean tide.  Photos make it look crazy and huge and badass.  In reality it is small and only kind of cool.

The well gets filled, then it drains.  Over and over.

I thought the Spouting Horn nearby was cooler.  They call it an oceanic geyser.

The whole area is pretty cool.  Lots of big splashes and lots of people getting wet, often unintentionally.

And that concludes the trip!  It was great fun exploring a new section of the coast.  I still haven't been south of Coos Bay so there's plenty more to see.  Good times!!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Florence Vacay (Part 1)

Halfway between Newport and Coos Bay is the quaint Oregon coast town of Florence, a place I had never been before this week.  My friend had learned of a bog near Florence filled with carnivorous plants and so the plan was hatched to visit this area.  When we were packing up the car on Monday morning I broke the news that we would be taking the long way thanks to a Cattle Egret in Tillamook.

Our first roadside distraction was Killin Wetlands in Washington County.

A couple of river otters were breaking through the ice, making a racket.

A dead porcupine was showing off its pearly whites...

We made it to Tillamook and started scanning the egret-filled fields along 101 where the Cattle Egret had been seen just hours earlier.  No luck.  We drove around to other egret-filled fields.  No luck.  But a White-tailed Kite was nice to see.

We returned to the original field.  Egrets were moving around constantly and finally we saw a smaller one in flight.  It landed and we were able to see it was indeed the Cattle Egret.  State bird!

Blackbird toupee

 Fuzzy size comparison shot

Relieved to have found the bird we carried on south on 101, where roadkill became the major distraction.  First a Barred Owl...

Can anyone tell me what is going on with that pinkish tongue-looking thing coming out of the side of its bill?

Up next, a Western Screech-Owl...

Tiny feet

From the screech-owl we drove straight down to Florence in an attempt to arrive before dark and the impending rain.  Success.  It poured all night but by morning the rain had thankfully mellowed to scattered showers and we were able to enjoy coffee on the deck with Wrentits and Fox Sparrows.

After breakfast we set out to Darlingtonia, the wayside where the carnivorous plant Darlingtonia californica, also called the cobra lily, grows in a bog protected by boardwalk trails.  It's native to the southwestern part of the state though I'm confused as to whether this spot is part of that range.


From this point on there was no plan really.  We drove towards town and followed signs to Heceta Beach where we found a lone Snow Goose poking around the grass.  Random.

We opted not to explore this spot further when some crazy dogs arrived and instead drove down to the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River.  The long entrance road to the jetty turned out to be a nice place to walk the dogs and see some birds.

Red-throated Loon

The vegetation along the river was thick with Fox Sparrows.

The road ends at the parking area for the jetty and some pretty dunes and stuff.

From the jetty there was a great view of a couple of corgis in the wild.

Black Turnstones were the only rockpipers I could find on the jetty.

Jetty view

Nature's Cafe and Market on 101 in Florence was a great spot to pick up lunch (vegan cheeseburgers and jo-jo's one day, a chipotle tofu burrito and a hummus wrap another day).  We brought lunch back to the house where the mutts proved to be tuckered out, which meant we could leave them behind for the afternoon's explorations.

First up was the Hobbit Trail to Hobbit Beach just north of Florence.  The trail looked like every other coast trail I've ever hiked which is indeed kind of Hobbity.  At the beach we found some cool tide pools which made the trail worthwhile.

After this we headed up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse where we caught the sweet sunset with a bunch of witches.

And that's all I have time for today, stay tuned for the second installment.  Good times!!!