The Coast

March 6, 2015 0 By Audrey

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,