3 Days at Cape Lookout
After 19 days straight of rain in Portland, I was itching for sunshine. My chance came last week when the forecast promised “sunny and nice.” So I ditched work and headed for the coast. Thanks to the Blue Heron French Cheese Company’s generosity, I parked my car at their Tillamook location and biked the remaining 13 miles to Cape Lookout State Park.
I can’t say enough about the hiker/biker campground at Cape Lookout.
It’s so damn wonderful. There is one drawback though to camping on the Oregon coast that I forgot about: crafty raccoons (is there any other kind?). I awoke to suspicious noises at 3:30am, looked outside the tent, and saw the burglars going through my bike buckets. I shooed them away and went back to sleep.
The pattern repeated several times over the next few hours until I finally got up to look at the damage. They’d stolen my organic saltine rounds and punctured a hole in my water bladder and a couple of other food bags. Could have been worse. This incident reminded me there are new food lockers installed on site, so I used them over the remaining days to safely store my goodies.
I could have spent three days hanging in the hammock, listening to Brown Creepers, Steller’s Jays, and Downy Woodpeckers at the campground, but now I had a good excuse to bike the 10 miles to Netarts for duct tape. And to bird along Netarts Bay.
I easily picked up Bufflehead, Horned Grebe, and Common Goldeneye along the way…but hey, what’s that sleeping bird in the corner?
This sleeping beauty is a White-winged Scoter! Sweet, a new bird!
About this time, an older gentleman hopped out of a parked truck across the street, and crossed over to chat with me about birds. He was looking for a White-winged Scoter (he actually pronounced it “Skoo-ter” – glad I’m not the only one!). I pointed the bird out to him and he was pretty excited. In turn, he told me about an (immature) Bald Eagle perched in a fir tree farther up the road.
Nice. A good ol’ fashioned bird exchange.
I continued along the bay, and got my best ever look at a (non-breeding) Eared Grebe. Dark cheek, dusky neck, peak over the eye, fluffy backside.
I still struggle remembering the differences between Eared (above) and Horned (below) – white cheek, white neck, whitish tip on bill, peak behind the eye, less fluffy backside.
I find this photo comparison from Cornell Lab of Ornithology helpful.
I also saw more than a couple of loons.
Common Loons that is. One looked like it was even still wearing a bit of breeding plumage. Such a pretty bird.
A few of the other birds I saw along the bay included Surf Scoter, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, and Pelagic Cormorant.
The next day, I hiked from the campground to Cape Lookout Hike and back, looking for whales and birds and such. No whales this time, but I did see Common Murres swimming far below.
And the most exciting part of the hike was getting buzzed by my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year! I saw three total, including this lovely lady.
What a cool place to find them. Later, at the campground I saw two more. I was rich in rufous.
While on the hike, I also saw Fox Sparrows, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Flicker, Varied Thrush, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, and a Peregrine Falcon that zoomed by too fast for a picture. Here’s a cooperative Fox Sparrow instead:
I forgot how long the hike is from the campground (10 miles round trip!). My sore feet told me to lay around like a walrus, but there was something surprisingly lacking from this trip. Gulls. Where were they?
Granted, there was less beach due to high water, but still, I expected more than Western Gulls, especially since last time in September I’d seen such a variety. Apparently I did it right the first time, because late summer/early fall is the best time to see multiple gull species on the Oregon coast.
But that’s okay, because I saw the happiest Western Gull ever.
While looking for gulls, I also saw a pair of Bald Eagles.
Wait, why are they screaming?
The final morning, I left the coast early enough to hear Great Horned Owls hoot and for minimal traffic to pass me on the road. I had enough time before I had to get back to Portland for one stop, so I aimed for Fenk Road along the south side of Tillamook Bay near the Trask River.
I traveled down the creepy farm road, past the cattle, and the guard dog.
Then I parked next to the pile of garbage, got out and wandered across the levee road, and trudged through a marshy field. It was all worth it, because far across the pasture, perched on a Douglas-fir, I saw the white blob I was looking for.
A White-tailed Kite!
The bird “hover-soared” kind of like a Kestrel, while it hunted above the nearby field. Too bad it was too dark for decent pictures. But it didn’t matter, because after a weekend of sunshine, hummingbirds, hiking and biking, followed by a White-tailed Kite?
I didn’t even care that the rain was back.
Tweets and chirps!