Beach birding bonuses

December was an extremely slow month of birding for us, so we couldn't wait to get out for a three-day New Year's Weekend at the coast. The weather was nearly perfect on the first two days of the year, so we got to spend some quality time with the birds.

We scoped some Surfbirds at the north jetty of Tillamook Bay,

found a harlequin duck upstream near the Three Graces,

and sneaked up on a female Kestrel at Nehalem Sewage Ponds.

While walking the beach at Manzanita, we found an interesting character in the driftwood.

It was a big, pale first-winter Glaucous Gull, feasting on a dead seal. 

After filling its belly with seal meat, the gull flew down to the surf to wash up, and then stood on the beach, ready to chase away any other birds that showed interest in the carcass. Apparently this species doesn't share.

We'd planned to go Newport on the 3rd to look for the Mountain Plover that's hanging out with Snowy Plovers, but found ourselves iced-in at Pacific City. We learned that Portland was still encased in ice, so we had to spend an extra day at the coast. The roads thawed overnight, so on the 4th we had no problem getting to Newport and finding the plovers.

 The Mountain Plover pecked at things in the sand while showing off its lovely toasted marshmallow color and plush tummy. Watching it explore the wrack line was definitely more fun than going to work.

Next, we looked for an apparent Orchard Oriole at the Hatfield Science Center. Again we had no problem finding our bird. At least its tail-end.

And its head-end too.
There's some debate, however, about whether this is an Orchard Oriole, a Bullock's Oriole, or a hybrid.  For now we're remembering it as a sharp-looking youngster that we enjoyed watching.

The last bird that we'd hoped to see was a Long-tailed Duck at the south jetty of Yaquina Bay. Again, we found it easily. But getting it in the scope was tricky because it kept diving on us.

It eventually surfaced long enough for a photo.

 Behind us, a Western Meadowlark kept a wary eye on a marauding harrier.
We saw some great bird behavior and have already found several species that we missed in 2015, so the weekend was the perfect antidote to the long dark December we endured. Wishing all of you you a very happy and birdy New Year!


  1. Fun post! Jealous of all your "odd" birds. The plover is adorable, as plovers are.


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