Beach Birds

I spent a few days on the north Oregon coast to escape the New Year’s fireworks in Portland. As expected this time of year, there was plenty of wind and rain. But there were enough breaks in the weather to get out and enjoy some coastal birds.

Sanderlings are always a treat. This bird was squinting into the howling wind.

A blurry photo of typical Sanderling wave-running

This time of year, the largest shorebird flocks are made up of Dunlin.

This gull caught my eye. The marbled pattern on the bill indicates a third-cycle bird. The dark mantle and black wing tips suggest Western Gull. The heavy mottled hood suggests some Glaucous-winged Gull in this bird’s ancestry.

I ran into a small flock of Snowy Plovers. This species is making a great comeback on the Oregon Coast after nearly being extirpated.

A flock of Snow Buntings was a special treat. The high winds kept the birds moving around and usually hunkered down in the beach grass, so I couldn’t get a clear photo.

A washed-up log hosted a colony of Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacles. These were actually quite lovely despite the strong fishy smell. The gulls were delighted to find these tasty snacks.

Bodhi and Nala love a good romp on the beach, despite the weather.

We play hard, we rest hard. Happy New Year


mountain 1
I went to South Beach State Park, just south of Newport, to see the Mountain Plover that has been spending the winter there. I have seen this species in Kansas, but it is a special treat to see one in Oregon. Newport is beyond my normal chase radius, but this particular bird has been unusually reliable and cooperative, so I felt I needed to seize this opportunity.

mountain 2As plovers go, Mountain Plovers are pretty plain. They don’t have the flashy bands or patches of color found on other species. But their drab colors match the drab habitats of their normal range, and their scarcity greatly enhances their attractiveness to birders. If Killdeer were rare, we would be dazzled by their gaudy plumage. But since they are common and noisy, we tend to pass them by.

mountain 3Mountain Plover, giving a subtle “come hither” look.

snowy 1The Mountain Plover has been hanging out with a small flock of Snowy Plovers. This species nests from the central Oregon coast south, but is hard to find further north. These birds were even more accommodating than the Mountain Plover, walking right by me at close range. As with most shorebirds, these birds will get very close if you lie down on the sand and let them come to you. If you are lying down, you are no longer a large upright predator, you are a seal and pose no threat.

snowy 2Snowy Plover, taking a break

snowy 3Some of the Snowies were marked with colored leg bands. I appreciate the efforts being made to study and protect this threatened species, but I feel bad for birds who have to wear this jewelry their entire lives. The bands don’t seem to hinder the birds.

I spent a little time on the beach enjoying the show before the rains returned. While the six hours of driving were no fun, my little plover party on the beach was worth the trip.