Bird Eat Bird World

I originally scheduled the day after my Birdathon trip as a rest day. But the promising weather and my large cup of coffee made me to drive 3 hours southwest to Yaquina Head Lighthouse on the Oregon coast instead.

There were recent reports of an active Peregrine Falcon nest and it was just too tempting to resist.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

I arrived at the lighthouse natural area, but not knowing exactly where the nest was, I looked around and found a surprising scene.

Masacre

It was a massacre. Bald Eagles, followed by scavenging Western Gulls had decimated what looked like hundreds of Common Murre eggs.

Evidence

Evidence

Partners in crime

Partners in crime

This one had a taste for crow

This one had a taste for crow

Bald Eagle

One of these birds is not like the other

One of these birds is not like the other

Nature can be brutal. Volunteers at the lighthouse have U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service pamphlets for the visiting public that explain the phenomenon further.

Pamphlet

Adapting Anew to an Old Foe: Recently, Bald Eagle have moved into places they haven’t been seen in years. Common Murre in these areas have little experience with Bald Eagle predation and often flee when eagles approach. Some murres are readapting to this historic predator. Instead of abandoning their nests they sit tight and wait for the danger to pass.”

Unfortunately for the murres, the eagles got the upper hand this day. This article is also a great read about the recent rebalancing.

It was hopeful to see some rocks still piled with healthy and live Common Murre.

Common Murre

Still no signs of the peregrines, so I followed the stairs down to the tidal pools to visit Harlequin Ducks and Black Oystercatcher.

Harlequin Duck

Black Oystercatcher

I looked to my right to see a pair of Pelagic Cormorant acting lovey dovey on their nest.

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Aw, so sweet. And here’s a Western Gull for good measure.

Western Gull

At this point I realized the peregrine nest was possibly on the cliff-face near the visitor center. Indeed it was. As I drove closer, I saw the group of cameras, tripods, and long lenses and knew I had found the right place.

Peregrine nestlings

Yep. Peregrine Falcon chicks!

Peregrine family

Ferociously sweet. And the Common Murres aren’t the only ones tormented by eagles. So too was this brave falcon parent.

Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon

With prey gripped in her talons she flew toward her nest, when suddenly three juvenile Bald Eagles swarmed her and she dropped the prey in the parking lot. Used to the drama, a Yaquina Head Interpretive center employee promptly came outside to escort the spectators to look at the dropped meal before barricading it off.

Falcon food- any guesses?

Falcon food- any guesses?

Wildlife protection

For the next hour the falcon zoomed back and forth in the sky defending her territory from eagles and now Turkey Vultures that entered the scene thanks to the dropped goodies.

Turkey Vulture

Being a Peregrine parent is hard work.

Peregrine Falcon

Things quieted down before a second, male falcon (according to the crowd), brought in fresh prey and the pair switched off.

Peregrine Falcon

Good bird.

The latest word on the fledglings:

Be brave little murres, the peregrines are coming!

Tweets and Chirps,

Audrey

Crescent City. Redwoods. Birthday Birds Part I

The redwood forests are my favorite. There’s nothing like giant, 2000 yr old trees to make a person feel small and young. An appropriate destination to celebrate another revolution around the sun, see some birds, and hug some trees. I drove down to Crescent City, California, to first visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Redwoods

Boy Scout Tree Trail

Redwoods

Magic fairly land

Skyscrapers

The original skyscrapers

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

The park is gorgeous, surreal, and amazing. And quiet this day for birds aside from the occasional squawking Common Raven or twittering Pacific Wren.

I didn't step on this Rough-skinned Newt

I did not step on this Rough-skinned Newt.

 

From the forest to the sea. The next day, I checked out Crescent City’s coastline. The quiet seaside town has a few good birding spots. I had the best luck at the Crescent City Harbor.

Crescent City Harbor

Marbled Godwit! What a stunner.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

It would be fun to check out Godwit Days in Arcata next year.

Less stunning perhaps, but still cool, (especially in flight), were the Black Turnstones.

Black Turnstone

I also found Black-bellied Plovers (with deceptive “not black belllies,” their non-breeding plumage).

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

I spotted a Sanderling in the mix of Black-bellied Plovers.

Sanderling

Too cute.

Sanderling

There were way more Sanderlings on the beach moments before something spooked them.

Sanderlings, plovers, gulls

Not guilty.

Sanderlings, plovers

Certainly elegant were the Elegant Terns.

Elegant Tern

I find the shape of their curves pleasant and I think they pull off the spikey feathered head look pretty well.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

I did my best identifying the gulls.

I watched Brown Pelicans bathe in the bay.

Brown Pelican

While Black Oystercatchers scouted the shore.

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

A variety of birds were visible in the distance from the dock at Lighthouse and Anchor Way:

Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loons

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann's Gulls

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann’s Gulls

Harbor cats.

Harbor Cats

Harbor cats

And Harbor Seals with faces I’m programmed to love.

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

It was pretty thrilling to explore a new place surrounded by so many new-to-me birds. I think I need more of that in my life.

Sunset at Castle Rock

Next day, back to the forest!

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