Thankful for the good stuff
In these crazy times, I’m trying hard to focus on the good stuff. Like going outside and taking in the joys of nature. And birds.
Like the good bird that showed up for the first time on the Oregon coast last week. Found by John Gardiner and identified by Paul Sullivan, a sea duck normally found in northern Europe turned up in Lincoln City. This is only the second time this bird has been recorded in the United States (first in Crescent City, CA, 2015). This uncommon visitor is called a Common Scoter. See the map:
It’s pretty amazing this courageous (and/or incredibly lost) sea duck made it all the way to Oregon. What’s even more amazing is someone was able to identify it. Even still, I struggled with the decision to chase it. The bird showed up on a Sunday. The mental games started immediately. I weighed the pros and cons of taking off work, driving five hours round-trip, with the chance the bird would still be there.
I waited a day. The bird stayed. I waited another day while I read the glorious sightings and sat at work debating, and looking out the window at the sunshine. By Friday, the bird was reliably (!) still there and I couldn’t take it anymore. Seems so easy! So I skipped work last-minute, took the gamble, and headed to the coast.
I arrived at Mo’s bright and early.
Then I turned around and looked out to Siletz Bay where I saw the same thing many others did when first seeking the Code 5 rarity. A smattering of sleeping scoters.
Not the most exciting introduction to the rarest bird I’ve ever seen. I watched and waited at the dock with one local birder and another man who flew in from Minnesota to see this bird.
After a couple of hours waiting and nothing but many (albeit decent) gull pictures to show for it, I chanced leaving to get more coffee and to see if I could find a Red Phalarope or two.
I’d only seen them once before on my pukey-pelagic trip last October, and for some reason these birds that typically “migrate and winter in small flocks on open ocean” and are “rarely seen from land or at inland lake-shores and ponds,” have been spotted all along the coast and even farther inland in the valley. Even on golf courses and in parking lot puddles. It’s a phalarope-phenomenon.
Indeed I phound two at the South Jetty in Newport.
After I had my phill of phalaropes (not phunny anymore?) and I got tired of laughing (and cringing) at the gulls stuffed with starfish…
Gah. I headed back north to the rare bird. The tide was up and so was the bird! And more birders had arrived on scene, including my friends, Sarah and Max, and another couple who’d driven down from Seattle.
Collectively, we watched the Common Scoter feed near the rocks, and I was thankful for the shared scope views because it was still a pretty far vantage point.
But it was awake! And identifiable! All dark black plumage, black knob at the base of the bill with a narrow orange patch in the center. Success! It was seen with its regular female friend, Black Scoter (pic below).
And several other scoter species.
Not sunny close-up views, but not a dip either. I watched until moderately satisfied before deciding to drive south to Yachats for another reported rare (for the area) bird, a White-winged Dove.
I thought it would be easy, but the only doves I could find were Eurasian-collared and Mourning. That is until Sarah and Max arrived! Good timing. Together we were able to come up with the target dove nestled in the shadowy limbs of a pine tree. Darker than the Eurasians, and with a long thin bill, it looked a bit ragged (but it had traveled from pretty far southeast).
With two rare birds under my belt, I was half tempted to drive another 2 hours for a Chestnut-sided Warbler in Eugene, but the winter skies turned darker and I decided to give the scoter a third try for better looks.
While driving back towards Siletz Bay along HWY 101, I spotted a large bird on the telephone lines.
Hello Barred Owl!
I quickly made a U-turn and pulled over then watched the owl hunt from the lines before it eventually flew down to some tree branches right next to the car.
Seeing this owl was a nice surprise ending to my trip. The Common Scoter was still stubbornly far away, but I was thankful for all that I got.
Thankful for all the good stuff.
Tweets and thanks,
Yay you don’t hate bird blogs anymore! At least for a day!
Gulls really seem bad at eating sometimes.
The owl encounter is so random and awesome! Your last pic is great but I really like seeing it on the telephone lines looking down. So cool!
I can’t seem to find a Black Skimmer in this post, but perhaps one of those gulls was eating it..
Haha! Dang autocorrect.