Friday, March 25, 2016

Hello shorebirds, goodbye winter

We've had some periods of rain this winter that made us consider a move from the Pacific Northwest to a desert locale. If there's one benefit of our soggy climate, however, it's that it's mild enough to keep shorebirds around all year.


We were reminded of this when we birded the Oregon Coast last weekend and found a surprising number and variety of shorebirds.

We found our first shorebird at Bayocean Spit on Tillamook Bay.


It was a lone Long-Billed Dowitcher, in appropriately gray plumage. It will be nice and orange when it migrates north in a few months.

Just a few yards north, the ground was crawling with small sandpipers, aka "peeps".


The vast majority were Least Sandpipers, a few were Western Sandpipers, and three were Dunlins. Can you tell which is which in the above photo?

The Least Sandpipers are small, but feisty and charged the Westerns and Dunlins when they got in the way.

On Saturday we scouted Cape Kiwanda near Pacific City for a seabird field trip for the upcoming Birding and Blues Festival. Once again, the shorebirds stole the show, distracting us from the parade of morons and their dogs who were enthusiastically ignoring the fences intended to keep them from the deadlier areas of the cape.


Black Oystercatchers called loudly, chased each other through the air, and did their thing on the sandstone bluffs. They are one of the few shorebirds that will be sticking around to breed on the Oregon Coast, earning them a spot in our book.


Black Turnstones clung to the slippery rocks at the edge of a churning pool, frantically fleeing the occasional tidal surge. Do not attempt.

Un-photographed shorebirds include big flocks of Sanderlings, some black-armpitted Black-bellied Plovers, and a random Killdeer. Nine shorebirds total! Not bad for winter.

We're eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring migrants, but last weekend was a great reminder of what's been here all winter.

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