Friday, October 26, 2018

Oregon Coast: Yachats to Newport

On our second and final morning at the coast, Jacob and I drove north from Yachats with our bellies full of sweet treats from the Green Salmon Cafe.  Our first stop was Seal Rock State Wayside where things were feeling a bit more like Oregon.

Cloudy and misty

I spent some time annoying a Black Phoebe while Jacob went exploring up the beach.


  People can't not touch everything.

Next we drove north to South Beach State Park where we walked the beach up to the south jetty of the Yaquina River.  The best birds there were one or two Rhinoceros Auklets relatively close in, super loud Common Murres, and Common and Pacific Loons still in breeding-ish plumage.

Terrible photo parade.

We took the trail back through the pines where a boisterous mixed flock of primarily robins and yellow-rumpeds were feeding.  A Wrentit started singing and even popped into view a couple times.  I was trying to take its picture when two women out on a walk came up, and one creepily whispered directly behind me "serious birders."


That one time a Pacific Wren was easy to see

After making it back to the car we headed to Nye Beach in Newport for tasty pesto grilled cheeses at the Deep End Cafe.  Afterwards it was time to hit the Hatfield Marine Science Center nature trail to check for a Tropical Kingbird reported the day before.

Random scaup super close to shore

We came across a big flock of Yellow-rumpeds and noticed this bird lounging on a rock:


Palm Warbler!  One had been reported here earlier in the month but I hadn't seen any super recent reports.  Lifer for Jacob!  It seemed injured and never used its legs to stand, though it seemed to fly around and eat just fine.  Jacob noticed there was a second Palm in the flock too.

Standing is easy!

No. Standing is hard.

The sun came out while we were there but it did not shine on any kingbirds.


We ran into Chuck Philo who had just found a Black Phoebe and we were able to re-find it on our way out.


Next up was driving the road along the south jetty in case of a random Long-tailed Duck or something.  Instead we found adorable harbor seals:


Our last stop was Yaquina Head for low tide because I remembered the tide pools being awesome.  We could see a gray whale not too far out when we arrived.


We kept waiting for the tide pools to be revealed but it never really happened.  After a quick google search we realized that the low tide wasn't that low after all.  Sad face.

Tiny shore crab in a rock wall


From there we headed home but decided to stop in Philomath to try for the reported Dickcissel.  We picked up a lot of Benton County birds, plus our Benton County Hipster Birders, but no Dick that day.  We weren't too disappointed since Jacob had already seen one in Texas this year, and I had already seen one in Oregon a few years back.

 Sewage pond friends


 Sunset on the drive home

All in all it was a very satisfying trip to the coast with tons of fun birds, mammals, and plants.  Our dog-sitter survived two nights with three crazy dogs so fingers crossed things go well while we're in Mexico!  Good times!!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Oregon Coast: Newport to Yachats

This week Jacob and I took a quick two-night trip to the coast to try out a new dog-sitter we will be using next month when we go to Baja Sur.  We planned this way in advance so it was amazing that it coincided with a round of great weather and great birds.  Our plan was to arrive in Newport in time for dinner, before heading the rest of the way south to the Fireside Motel in Yachats.


Lapland Longspurs had been seen on the north jetty of the Yaquina River that morning so we decided to make a quick stop to look for them.  We walked the sandy trail to the jetty and quickly flushed four or five birds.  They landed somewhere behind us so we walked back and more flushed.


Eventually we were able to not flush them and spent awhile watching them meander about on the sand.


Before this I had seen exactly three longspurs, and only one well, so to see at least ten was exciting.  After spending some time with this flock we continued our walk down towards the jetty where we found yet another longspur, this one teed up on a big rock. 


 There were a ton of gulls standing by the water which we went to check out.  A bright white one stood out.

A little smaller than those Herring Gulls

 And next to a California

 
I'm guessing leucistic Ring-billed but I am curious what others think.

After watching the sunset we headed back to the car and to the Rogue Public House for dinner.   Good day! 

The next morning we had delicious breakfast bagel sandwiches at the Green Salmon Cafe in Yachats, then headed south, stopping for a roadside Canada Jay. 


Apparently this is not uncommon in this area but I was still surprised to see one on Highway 101.  We made stops at Toketee Klootchman State Park and Strawberry Hill, hoping to see a recently reported Long-tailed Duck.  No luck there but plenty of harbor seals were around to entertain.


We drove back north to Cape Perpetua to check out Thor's Well and all the other geological features. 


We headed back north to Yachats for low tide since it is an area known for its abundance of tide pools, but once there we had trouble finding any good ones.  We did find a ton of Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, and Sanderlings pretending to be rockpipers.



Eventually we did find a good area of tide pools but the tide was already coming in so we didn't have much time to look. 


Purple sea urchins were pleasantly common.


There were shore crabs everywhere and Jacob just pointed out this one is missing one of its front claws.


We also found this kelp crab walking around in a tide pool, attacking other crabs and looking bossy.


There were some confiding Black Oystercatchers relaxing on the rocks.


I had a nice conversation with this crow:


Eventually the tide came in too high so we gave up on tidepooling and walked back towards our motel.  A kingfisher came and hovered near us for a few seconds.


The last bird on our walk around Yachats was a Red-throated Loon right outside our motel. 



After a little break we went into town to check out the super-hyped Yachats Brewing.  I decided to splurge on the $18 mac and cheese, plus a pint of the Camp One IPA.  Jacob had some chicken thing plus the Especial.  We both agreed our beers were delicious, but when it came to the food... I'd say skip it.  If you have the balls to charge almost 20 bucks for mac and cheese I expect it to be freaking delicious.  Instead I was given a soupy bowl of macaroni with some blue cheese mixed in.  Lesson learned.  Come for the beer, head elsewhere for food.

From there we decided to check out the short trail through the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.  There were probably tons of plants we didn't notice though a couple big ones really stood out as cool and unusual.  First there was the enormous rhododendrons:


Then there was this plant:

Jacob for scale. 

That evening we walked back out on the rocks outside the motel for the sunset. 

The Fireside Motel
 
 Black Oystercatchers

Black Turnstone



That's it from our trip for now, more to come from our last day!  Good times!!!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fall birding: Larch Mountain and the 5MR

Jacob and I recently went up to Larch Mountain to watch the sunrise and maybe see a few birds.  Success.


We heard a pygmy-owl hooting at first, and while I was off going to the bathroom Jacob heard a saw-whet.  Grr.  I never heard it.  The fog was thickening below which was pretty cool to watch.


Our county Townsend's Solitaire was hawking insects downslope, but it took off before we could get a photo.  After the sunrise we watched a Northern Harrier zip by us which gave us the idea that we should get a little higher and try some hawk-watching. 

We found a rocky slope we could scramble up, and on the scramble we watched an accipiter zoom by at eye level, then two more got in a scuffle over the next hill.  Tons of robins were flying over, plus one or two more solitaires.

Larch Mountain summit beyond the hill in front of us, Mount Hood directly behind us.  

Bad solitaire pic

 Everything seemed so promising until that awesome view turned into this:


Hmm.  The clouds and fog never cleared so the decision was made to try again on a clear day.

Round 2. 

We drove back up the same sketchy roads, climbed back up the same rocky scramble, past the pika poop to our little flat ledge.


A sharpie flew by soon after we arrived, then a flock of Western Bluebirds!

Mountain Bluebird.  (Not Western.  Thanks, Steve!)
 
The birds came slowly but steadily, sometimes flying directly over us and sometimes over the valley between our ridge line and Silver Star Mountain.  We had sharpies, a couple Red-taileds, and two Osprey during the first hour or so.

Osprey

 Jacob was most excited when his county Merlin came flying almost straight over us.


Soon after a big flock of Band-tailed Pigeons came flying over the hill and banked south,

Portland, top right

The last raptor to fly over was a young Bald Eagle who thoroughly checked us out.


At this point I became too cold to function and we decided to climb down and back up the hill on the opposite side of where we parked.  From there we could see our little stone seats:

Chilly seats, bottom right

So we didn't see a ton of birds nor did we find anything rare, but I had never really tried hawk watching before away from a known site.  I'd call it a success!

Now back to the 5-mile Radius!  I've been thinking about it a lot lately and decided I wanted to encourage the concept a little by giving it its own Instagram!  I figure once people see how much cool stuff I can find in my own radius then they will want to try their own.  Right?  I dunno.  TBD.

Anyway, I have been birding along the river quite a bit lately, hoping for some of the random birds that can appear in fall.   A couple weeks ago I lucked into a dog flushing some birds from the beach near Wintler Park...


Oh snap, that's a Parasitic Jaeger!  I might not have noticed it if the dog hadn't flushed it into the air along with a few gulls.  Instead of flying away like I expected, it continued to circle with the gulls, gaining altitude until I lost sight of it.

Inland jaegers are the best jaegers.

Horned Grebes and Mew Gulls made their first fall appearances that morning as well.  Solid birding!


One afternoon Jacob and I went to Marine Park and he noticed a smaller duck had infiltrated the Mallard flock.  A Blue-winged Teal!


This is not a common Columbia River bird, but after looking at eBird I noticed most of the river sightings (including all the ones from Broughton Beach) are in September.  That means something but I'm not sure what.

We walked the trail to Tidewater Cove where we found a trio of ducks on the water:  two (first of fall) Lesser Scaup and a Surf Scoter!


Though it doesn't come up as rare, Surf Scoter is still a quality bird in the county.

Tidewater Cove is surrounded by million dollar condo buildings that have their own little pond which is only barely visible from the bike path.  On this day we noticed something white through the reeds.


Mute Swans!  Not countable, and kind of weird, but good to know...

And some more birds from Marine Park...

 One of three Red-breasted Sapsuckers


 Leucistic robin


 Mew Gull and friend


 Steller's Jay and acorn


White-breasted Nuthatch


5 of 56 migrating Turkey Vultures that day

The 5-mile radius has been good to me this fall!  Yay fall!  Good times!!