Monday, September 1, 2014

Aug 31 (Day 243) - Logistical headaches ahead.....

Real fast - the tagged, dead birds on the beach from 2 days ago were part of the COASST program. They keep counts of dead birds on Washington's beaches, among other things. The zip ties were tags so that the birds weren't double counted

Today I birded the greater Westport, WA area. The morning was spent sea watching while the afternoon was dedicated to (not) finding Pacific golden-plover. I am not going to spend too much time discussing the un-events of today as I now face some major logistical challenges. Missing the plover is incredibly painful. Several of these birds were seen on the other side of the inlet again today. The Oyhut Game Range where the birds were seen is only 3 miles from Westport as the crow flies, but at 60 miles around the bay, I didn't have enough time to bike back to see them today. The plover has now been seen on 9 of the last 10 days at Oyhut. The outlier day was the one I chose to visit - UGH. I had lots of other eyes with me that day, so I can say with confidence that we didn't just bird carelessly and miss the plovers.

34 miles around Westport and surrounds

Birders Kyle, Chris, and Eric that I met today

Sooty shearwater feeding frenzy off Westport today. 
There were tens of thousands of bird involved!
Audio is terrible, sorry.....

Here's the dilemma. I have the time and the energy to backtrack back around the bay and spend tomorrow and the next day, if necessary, plover hunting. I could then continue south as I had planned. The problem with this plan is that I am cutting Tufted Puffin at Haystack Rock, OR incredibly close. I do not know if the few lingering puffins have been seen in the last two days. In the next few days, these birds are going to head out to sea and take with them my best (if not only realistic) chance of ticking this species this year. So here are the possibilities:

1) Race the 106 miles to Haystack Rock tomorrow and pray that there are still some puffins hanging around. If they have already left, then I'm chasing a bird that isn't there while simultaneously folding a great chance to tick the plover. I just hope I can do this ride in 1 day.

2) Backtrack to Oyhut tomorrow to try to nail down the plover. I may get it right away, but, if I were to go back, I must be willing to spent at least 2 days to make it worth the return trip. I could then head south down the coast towards the puffins. They could leave during this time though if they haven't left already.

I will certainly have chances at the plover as I move south into California. However, this is exactly the same situation in which I find myself with the Sooty grouse. I can get it further south, it's just going to be a much bigger pain-in-the-ass than had I been able to deal with it sooner. The grouse and plover would both be hanging over my head and require my constant attention. These 2 species could not live in more disparate habitats; This means heading in opposite directions to track them down (coast, mountains).

In a car it's so easy; Drive to Haystack tomorrow, try for Puffin, then come back up to Oyhut and stay there until the plover is found.

Here are two more Surfbird photos from yesterday!

Late afternoon light showing natural coloring

Here the color is provided by the setting sun


  1. No good answer for you, man. The TUPU has already been living (or dying) on borrowed time. I was very surprised already that you detoured to the WA coast for non-essential species prior to the TUPU run. It sucks that you missed the plover, but spending another 2+ days in Ocean Shores sounds like insanity at this point. Take a good shot at the time-sensitive TUPU, and re-tool after that. Just keep an eye out for labor day traffic and be safe no matter what you decide.

  2. You are on a grand adventure that is inspiring hundreds (thousands?) of people around the world. Don't let yourself stress out over the small stuff. Missing one or both of these species would be annoying/frustrating but in the long run should not take away from the overall experience. Head south and see what you see. I suspect that you will run across something totally unexpected or rare that will more than make up for the species you miss. Enjoy the journey. Best of luck!