Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sept 2 (Day 245) - Recovery, Photography, and future plans

After the big Tufted puffin triumph yesterday evening, I was not sure what to do with today; I had outstripped my logistics and planning! I therefore decided to stay put, rest my legs after a very long day, and sort out plans for the next few days. I did spent the morning out birding and photographing at Haystack Rock. I headed down there at sunrise with hopes of getting some nice landscape shots of the rock formations. It was cloudy and misty for the better part of the morning. I was hoping to get some nice colors in my shots but the flat light prohibited this until later. I did walk away with one shot with which I am happy. Although there isn't much color, I like the calming mood and simplicity of it.

It was pointed out to me that Haystack Rock is featured 
prominently featured in the 80's classic movie "Goonies"!
You can see the rock in the background in both of these images.

The tide was falling during my visit to the beach and the rock this morning. While I originally thought I'd watch the high cliffs for more puffins, the falling tide exposed the rock/sand bar that connects the beach to Haystack Rock. I could not resist the photographic possibilities, and I quickly abandoned the puffin search to take a few pictures. I locked onto two Black oystercatchers, and I slowly and deliberately stalked these birds. Over 45 minutes I gained their complete trust and managed to get some really outstanding shots of these guys working the rocky shoreline. Almost all of these are full framers - not bad for 400mm. Can't wait to get my 500/1.4/1DIV back in action when this trip is done!

Wing stretch after a quick preen

Eating a recently extracted mussel

 Savoring the above snack

Wider shot showing a touch more habitat.
There is so much cool stuff living on the rock!

I have recently been trying to find more interesting ways to portray the common west coast gulls I am seeing on a daily basis. I won't photograph (for real photographs anyway) birds standing on posts, docks, parking lots, roofs, boats etc. I want to avoid anything man made or artificial in my shots. When I saw this guy on this rocks today he had my full attention. I think shots like this make gulls look like actual wild animals versus winged rats that conveniently inhabit anywhere they can find food scraps.

Western gull on more cool rocks!
The flat light really helped to control exposure.

Yesterday I noted that I saw a handful of Harlequin ducks floating around Haystack. Today there were upwards of 20 of them bobbing in the surf just off the beach. I had a hard time getting any really interesting shots, but I did get a few nice standard shots showing them in their eclipse plumage.

I also knocked into Astoria birder Mike Patterson. We actually spoke on the phone yesterday. He gave me some nice tips for birds along the Oregon coast. He actually took a few photos of me stalking the oystercatchers an hour earlier. Mike actually saw 2-3 puffins this morning while I was photographing. It was so much easier to see the birds this morning with the light shining on the rock from the east. Yesterday I was looking into the light and everything was backlit. Today it was easy to see the colors on the birds, and although I did not see any puffins, it would have been much easier to see them today. With the falling tide it was also possible to walk to the base of the rock. This put me over 100 yards closer to the birds than yesterday. Bottom line for Haystack Rock: Try to visit on a morning when the tide is falling. It will make your birding much more productive! The sun finally came out in full force and threw some nice light on the rock. The beach was by this time filled with people. This did not lend itself to actual photography, so I just grabbed a quick snap to show the rock in all its glory.

Me and Mike

See what good light does!?!?!

Tomorrow I am going to take a full day trip to Saddle Mountain State Park, a supposedly "reliable" location for Sooty grouse. It is actually about 20 miles from where I am. My host has said I can stay here tomorrow as well which means I can do this as a day trip. I could also find Hermit warbler, Purple finch, and maybe Mountain quail. You read that right, I do not have Purple finch yet! 

I originally thought that I would head inland to Portland, but I now think it might make more sense just to follow the coast south to Corvallis and then cut east to deal with some remaining land birds. It would be a much shorter distance east than riding to Portland, and it would require less climbing to. I could bird the Corvallis and Eugene areas for Grouse/Quail and then cut back to the coast for good at Coos Bay (where a Sharp-tailed sandpiper was found today - too far to chase, but maybe it will stay for a week!)

Being that I have such a loyal readership already established,  I hope to keep this blog going well beyond the end of this year. Not sure exactly what form it will take, but I can promise you that it will very birding and photograph heavy!

Mike took this photo of me stalking the oystercatchers. The light was really bad so I had to use tripod with a slower than normal shutter speed of ~1/400 (at f/5.6, ISO 640). This lens needs to be shot at < 1/1000 to be handheld.  And yes, I am standing in water up to lower thigh. It was quite pleasant!


  1. Nice symmetrical primary molt in focus on that adult oystercatcher!

  2. Hey Dorian...for those days where you are asking yourself "what should I write about?", I would love your explanation on photography terms. Like what does "~1/400 (at f/5.6, ISO 640" mean? I'm sure a google search would reveal it...but I like your writing style better than others and using bird pictures as examples would be 100% more interesting than anything else...thanks for considering it!

  3. Sometimes you deserve to have a day just to enjoy yourself and the birds.