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.
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.
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.
The town of Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121) is an interesting sandwich, great birding spots on the edges and touristy stuff in the middle. On the south side of town is The Cove, a pebble beached cove teaming with gulls, seabirds, rock-loving shorebirds, and marine mammals. To the north is the Necanicum River Esturary, a feeding and resting area for gulls, terns, and sand and mud-loving shorebirds. The Seaside area is a great spot to study gulls, with a diversity of species and age groups.
In mid to late summer, large numbers of Heeman’s Gulls hang out at The Cove. These birds are stunning, even in their winter plumage. Even the most devout Laridaephobe must appreciate these gray velvet beauties with the crimson bills.
“It’s exhausting being this beautiful!”
This gull is also primarily gray, but doesn’t quite have the rich color saturation of a Heerman’s. This is a first cycle Western Gull.
Here is a distant shot of an adult Western Gull tackling a very large crab. The gull is either very ambitious or very hungry.
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.