Cape Lookout State Park

One of my favorite bike-camping destinations along the Oregon coast is Cape Lookout State Park. The hiker-biker campground here is tough to beat: thick stands of sitka-hemlock forest AKA hammock-trees galore, seclusion from car-campers, miles of hiking nearby, and mere steps from the ocean.

Cape Lookout SP

A tip from me to you: Don’t feel like biking 72 miles from Portland to the park? As suggested by the Tillamook Chamber of Commerce, park at the Blue Heron French Cheese Factory (confirm with management), pick up some awesome cheese goodies and check out their petting zoo (complete with emu), then ride the (only slightly harrowing) 14 miles along 131 and Netarts Bay Rd to Cape Lookout. It’s a great way to go camping on busy holiday weekends, no park reservations required. Video demonstration here.

On this trip, we were lucky enough to see whale spouts and breaching along the ocean horizon. It’s incredibly difficult to predict where/when the whales would breach, thus basically impossible to get pictures. My best shot:

Whale

No, really, there’s a whale out there! Black blob = whale. I guess humpback, but there were rumors of grey and even orca. Hmmmm. A little closer.

Whale

And because this is the first time I’ve seen whales along the Oregon coast in the 10 years I’ve lived here, a few more photos. So neat.

When not whale-watching, I got to know the gulls as best I could.

Gulls

I was proud of myself for noticing some of these birds are not like the others. ♪

I noticed the gull with the red toned bill, all grey body, and black feet, a Heermann’s Gull. Interesting fact about Heermann’s, in true gull fashion, they are pirate birds, who coincide their northward migration with Brown Pelicans in order to steal food from the pelican’s gullet.

Pretty pirate.

IMG_1317

With a Western Gull for size comparison.

Heermann's Gull

Heermann's Gull

I also noticed gulls with red and black marks on their bill, yellow-green legs, and dark irises, the California Gull. 

California Gull

California Gull

I noticed gulls with thick yellow bills with a red spot on the lower mandible, pink legs, white heads, and light irises, BEHOLD, the Western Gull.

Western Gull

Ehem…BEHOLD!

Western Gull

I noticed some gulls had a staring problem.

California Gull

Western Gull

Heermann's Gull

California Gull

Western Gull

The more I watched the gulls, the more I appreciated their personality.

I noticed a few other species of birds and mammals.

The longer I observe this natural world the more I notice.

Pelicans and sunset

And the more I fall in love with it.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Lloyd Lunch Walks

Since I work a day job to support my birding habit, the majority of my week is spent indoors. But! That doesn’t mean I can’t go outside for breaks. There are a surprising number of feathered friends co-existing within the Portland urban paradise known as the Lloyd District.

This past week, during just two 30 minute walks, I counted 9 species, including, House Finch, Western Scrub-Jay, Anna’s Hummingbird, American Crow, Bushtit, Pine Siskin, American Robin, and a Black-capped Chickadee.

A Bald Eagle sighting surprised me as I watched it soar high above Holladay Park. There’s rumor of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks nesting nearby, and I hope to find them on a future walk.

These trips are also a great excuse to practice pushing buttons on my camera.

Female House Finch

Female House Finch

Male House Finch

Male House Finch

Well, it is lunch time

Well, it is lunch time

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay with a peanut

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

It’s fun to see the resident birds around me with fresh eyes. It would also be cool to add  new-to-me species while strolling on a break as well. I’ll keep my eyes out!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

The Coast

Last Saturday I took my first birding trip to the Oregon coast of the year! I arrived with binoculars and camera in hand and expectations high.

Ecola State Park was first. The coastline views are stunning! The views of the birds? Not so much. At least during my short visit. A scope might have improved the situation. Most of the seabirds were resting on rocks far beyond the reaches of my binocular’s 8X42 magnification. Also, the trail to the main lookout was closed due to erosion (though someone had bent the closure gate).

So off I went to another stop in Ecola state park, Indian Beach. But I didn’t have much luck here either. By this time more people were hiking the beach and surfing in the waters keeping birds at bay. I did get a good glimpse of a gull here.

Western Gull

Since I’m new to birding, gulls are a huge challenge. It seems easy, right? Aren’t they all seagulls? No. There’s no such thing as a sea gull. In my Sibley guide there are roughly 25 species of gulls that can occur in Oregon and they all have a name (none seagull), subtle field mark differences, and several confusing plumages: juvenile, 1st winter, second winter, summer plumage, adult breeding, non-breeding. Not to mention the hybrids. Still reading?

Because they’re so challenging, I have a strong desire to learn them. They’re the Mt Everest of bird ID. If I can successfully identify gulls, I’ll be able to identify anything. That’s how it works, right? I would love to take a class, but for now, I’ll start with one gull.

Probably the most common gull on the Oregon Coast, the Western Gull. It has a virtually unmarked white head, a heavy yellow bill with some red on the lower mandible, pink legs, a dark grey back, and an iris that varies from dark to pale. According to Sibley, it is the only regularly occurring dark-backed gull in most of its range. Alrighty then.

I left Ecola State Park to try my luck at Cannon Beach. Here, I had more luck indeed…more gulls! Pretty sure there were Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls, Herring Gulls, and of course more Western Gulls. Instead of identifying them, here’s a fun video of them bathing; dipping their heads in the water and vigorously flapping their wings on the water surface.


 
It wasn’t all gulls. Here at Cannon Beach the infamous Haystack Rock hosts a handsome winter visitor, the Harlequin Duck. Seeing these ducks made my day.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin DucksHarlequin Ducks & Scoter

This last photo above is unique in that it’s not all Harlequin Ducks. In the upper right corner, there’s a Surf Scoter! In my head, I called it a Surf “Scooter.” When I researched the pronunciation, I came across Birding is Fun blog, and found I wasn’t alone in the mispronunciation. Disappointingly, it’s pronounced SKOH-ter. Scooter sounds way more fun, but it’s a cool looking bird anyways.

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Other cool (some new!) birds and non-birdy things I saw on this trip:

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

While the coast wasn’t as birdy as I expected (I thought I’d see a shorebird or two), this only gives me more reasons to go back!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey