Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coastal Oregon Day I and II: Cannon Beach - Newport

 After checking various locations in and around Cannon Beach when reaching the Pacific coast I checked into the idyllic Haystack Rock Inn at Cannon Beach for the night.
 Unfortunately, the weather was not very conducive to photography while staying at Cannon Beach. I guess they wouldn't have temperate rainforests growing in Oregon if it was dry and sunny all year.

View of Ecola State Park from the beach:
 A Common Murre heading back to the ocean after feeding young at Haystack Rock:
 One of 17 bachelor Harlequin Duck drakes, non-breeding yearling males, on summer break at Haystack Rock:
 After satisfying close views of Tufted Puffins and other seabirds at the beach I headed into the remnants of the ancient rainforest in Ecola State Park.The remaining massive old conifers still standing hosts nesting Marbled Murrelets, Bald Eagles, woodpeckers, thrushes, and many warblers. This trunk was easily 2 meters in diameter: 
 The trail led out to a spectacular viewing point by a steep cliff overlooking the ocean and this lighthouse rock that serves as a breeding site for hundreds of sealions:
 View towards Cannon Beach:
 The newly recognized Pacific Wren, formerly considered a sub-species of the Winter Wren:
A curious Douglas's Squirrel posing for a portrait in the deep Sitka forests at Ecola Park:

A pretty Iris growing in Ecola State Park:
 All the older tree were covered in moss, lichen and ferns:
 After finishing the Clatsop Loop trail at Ecola, I ate lunch while scanning the ocean for Western Grebes, Pacific Loons, Red-throated Loons, Bald Eagles, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Heermann's Gull, and various alcids.
With the cloud-veiled skies I decided to head south and aimed at reaching the city of Newport before nightfall, to be in a more strategic position for exploring other coastal forest parks and beaches.

The view from a rest stop overlooking Nehalem Bay:
A stop at Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint yielded a few nice photo opportunities in the nice evening light as the skies slowly cleared up as I drove south along the coast. A male American Robin (above) and a immature Glaucous-winged Gull waiting for the next meal in the form of junk food left behind by passing visitors.
A male White-crowned Sparrow (likely) of the western nutallii sub-species.

Supposedly, Elegant Terns from California visit Newport frequently throughout the summer months so I spent the last couple of hours of daylight checking the bay and beach around Yaquina Bay:
However, I only found Caspian Terns:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birding is hard work but someone has to do it!

Okay, admittedly my plan to post daily blogs when you're out birding pre-dawn to dusk, taking about 20 Gb of photos, and driving more than 300 km (200 miles) every day was a bit over-ambitious. Most of the remote areas I birded (which is most of Oregon) did not have cellphone coverage, let alone Wi-Fi availability. I will therefore post daily summaries from my amazing trip as I find the time to sort through and edit pictures. Here are a few tastes of what's to come just to keep you interested;-)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Needles in the Haystack and 100 miles of Scenic Pacific Coastline

A fantastic day to be out! I spent the early morning at low tide by Haystack Rock and had close encounters with all its tenants. When the tide forced me closer to shore I moved on to the forest trails at Ecola State Park where I found more lifers missed yesterday. Back at the car around noon, I took an extended lunch break at the picnic tables overlooking the ocean so that I could empty all  the full memory cards onto my laptop before moving on.
The skies cleared as I started driving south along highway 101 and I kept going until I reached Newport where I am now.

The list of birds is way too long to mention all, but some of the MANY highlights are:
Harlequin Duck, Pigeon Guillemot (lifer #5), Marbled Murrelet (lifer #6), Rufous Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler (lifer #7), Varied Thrush, Steller's Jay, Black-headed Grosbeak, Red Crossbill.
Tomorrow I hope to make it all the way to Crater Lake National Park, but I suspect there will be many distractions underway that will slow me down. What can you do.........:o)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Here we go!

I landed in Portland, Oregon on time and was quickly on the road heading W out of town. Even before I left Portland I could tick off the first lifer of the trip; a flyover Lewis's Woodpecker! Along the way west I picked up a few western birds, like Western Shrub-jay and Brewer's Blackbird but also American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures. About an hour along the way I got twitchy and stopped along the highway to check for some forest birds. In a matter of minutes I heard the first HERMIT WARBLER singing! Life bird # 2!! After half an hour I could note down 2 Hermit Warblers, 5+ Wilson's Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Warbling Vireo, 4 Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Brown Creeper, 3 Swainson's Thrushes, 5 Band-tailed Pigeons, Oregon Junco and White-crowned Sparrow.
After a three hour scenic drive I finally arrived at Cannon Beach by the Pacific Ocean and the famous Haystack Rock, known for its large nesting colonies of Horned Puffins, Common Murres, and gulls. A quick scan with the scope picked up two Horned Puffins flying in from the sea; lifer # three of the day! While scanning the ocean from the public beach I spotted some flyby Caspian Terns and a Black Oystercatcher.

A evening visit to nearby Ecola State Park provided spectacular views of thousands of Common Murres along with Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants and Brown Pelicans swarming the coastline. On the water I also spotted a Common Loon and two Rhinocerous Auklets. Sitting next to some Pelicans was my very first (adult) Glaucous-winged Gull; lifer # 4!

This is gonna be fun!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Missing the outdoors

I've been stuck indoor for the last week or so working on revising an NSF research grant proposal, writing on a new manuscript, reviewing another manuscript for Conservation Genetics, and preparing a slide show for my upcoming talk at the Evolution Meetings in Portland, OR at the end of this month. In the meantime, here are some recent photos that I never got around to posting.

Red Admiral:
 Eastern Comma:
Cabbage White:
Northern Mockingbird:
A very sick (possibly rabid) Woodchuck (a.k.a groundhog):
A recently fledged American Robin in our front yard:
A pair of Carolina Chickadees nested in the neighbors nest box on our shared fence: