Using the fine publication, Birding Oregon, by fellow birder and blogger, John Rakestraw, we explored Siletz Bay, Boiler Bay and Newport Bay. I knew most of the spots already, but was happy to read about the very pleasant trail at Salishan Lodge that skirts the south end of Siletz Bay. Thanks, John!
Western Gulls outside Mo's at Siletz Bay. That's what they are, right? I need all the help I can get with gulls.
At the end of the nice trail at Salishan Lodge lies The Beach. The waves were high and mighty and this baby kelp couldn't hang on. I've never seen a washed up kelpling before......just the mighty Indiana Jones Bullwhip kind (scientific term) .
Then it was on to Boiler Bay Wayside. It's a prominent headland offering great views of birds below on the water as well as a few on the rocks. We saw both.
It even got sunny enough for a shadow! No, he's not trying to brain me with the scope.
The birds we saw on the rocks just beyond the protective fence were Black Turnstones, one of several species of "rockpipers". Three of them loafed about the rocks then decided it was bathtime.
As we scoped the rolling waters of the bay we found lots of birds.....Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Western Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Pelagic Cormorant, and Surf Scoter. One brownish duck caught our eye.
She wasn't a female scoter.
Then her male counterpart showed up...... and I tried to capture him in the rocking scope view......what do you think he is?
Oh what lovely chestnut sides......
Look at that striking face!
Yes, it was a pair of Harlequin Ducks! I don't often get to see these unusual ducks. They nest inland at higher elevation along swift rivers and winter on the ocean. The Cascades are at the very southern end of their breeding range but their wintering range extends south to coastal California.
Dang....that is one handsome duck.
Finally, once the waves had moved the ducks out of comfortable viewing range, we tore ourselves away and continued to Newport. There we drove out the South Jetty and looked for Long-tailed Ducks but I think it's too early for them. Well, it'll be an excuse for another trip later in winter! We did have nice late afternoon lighting on more Loons, Pelicans, Grebes and Cormorants. My birding associate, a proud Minnesotan, was not pleased with these drab winter plumaged Loons. Fortunately, one Common Loon had not entirely molted out of its breeding plumage so it was a striking black and white treat on the water.
Our last stop in the fading light was the trail behind the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center. Out on the bay we saw a flock of 200 Double-crested Cormorants feeding on the water, many gulls resting on the sand then flying up to wheel around the sky, loads of Surf Scoters and a passing Bald Eagle. The treat here was a flock of Marbled Godwits actively feeding and calling. The light was so low that digiscoping them was difficult and this is the best I could do. Big bird, big bicolored bill. Beautiful.
The Oregon coast is great for birding in winter so pull on the rainsuit and get out there!