Friday, September 12, 2014

Sept 11 (Day 254) - Very sceneic ride, old friends, photography distractions

I returned to Bandon Marsh and the Bandon South Jetty this morning around low tide. While yesterday's cranking winds made birding a real slog, conditions this morning were just perfect. The balance between the sun's warm rays and the cool north breeze was just perfect. At the jetty, I found the usual cormorants, gulls, and oystercatchers. There were also several Wandering tattlers floating around the rocks. These were the best looks I have had at this "rockpiper" this year, and I was able to manage something between a record shot and a keeper photograph of one of them.

Lighhouse on North Jetty. I took this with my 400mm
from 1/2 a mile away!

Wandering tattler with sea spray on south jetty

A view south from the South Jetty

Bandon Marsh was as dead today as it was yesterday. I quickly folded my hand on it and returned to the the hotel to sort out some logistics. I actually returned to the marsh 3 hours later to bird the top 2 hours of tide (~12-2pm) but all of the mudflats had already been flooded. Folks had said 2 hours before high tide can be productive, but with no mudflats still exposed, this wasn't the case today. UGH - I just could not figure this place out. I am sure it is great at times, but I must have hit it during a down cycle. The decision to stay in Bandon this morning to bird the incoming tide (versus just hitting the road after the early morning session) was a bad one as I will explain in a moment. 

I got onto the road south towards Gold Beach around 1pm. The ride was scheduled for about 55 miles. Just 5 miles into this ride a pickup towing a camper pulled over, and a man and a woman jumped out. I immediately recognized them as Vince and Kylee, a birding/traveling couple I had met in Arizona earlier this year. They maneuvered their rig off the road, and we spent the next 20 minutes catching up. It turns out they have actually followed a remarkably similar route to me. However, they have been able to spend multiple days in most places, a luxury I haven't had this year. They said they had been wondering all summer if they would recognize me if they were ever to pass me on the road. I guess their got their answer today! They actually live in New Hampshire, so I hope to look them up at some point next year.

Me, Kylee, Vince

The first half of today's ride was fairly boring as Highway 101 ran inland through trees for ~25 miles. However, as soon as I reached Port Orford, all of this changed. The rest of the ride placed me on high cliffs overlooking the Pacific. The views were really incredible. However, around 3pm, the wind switched directions and really started pounding from the south - right in my face. I wish I had canned the second visit to the marsh and made more distance before this wind shift happened. I was gassed by the time I reached Gold Beach at 5:30pm. I collapsed into bed and relaxed for the the next hour. 

54.5 miles + 7.5 around Bandon for 62 total

Pics from the ride today!

Bridge into Gold Beach, OR

After my hour rest, I dragged myself out of bed to do some sundown birding. I walked down to the beach thinking I might be able to tack on Pacific loon. However, I was immediately distracted by several Brewer's blackbirds that were perching nicely on the beach driftwood. I have been trying to photograph this species for months. The problem is that they are most often on moved lawns, fence posts, or cattle pens. None of these backdrops lends themselves to pretty, natural looking pictures. When I saw these blackbirds, I immediately abandoned my birding plan and flipped into photography mode. My half hour session produced some really nice shots of the often under-appreciated icterid!

***click for full-sized images***

Female Brewer's blackbird

Male Brewer's blackbird

Male Brewer's blackbird

Yesterday, I was crucified by a blog commenter for my pessimistic attitude after my afternoon visit to Bandon Marsh. What this person fails to realize is the incredible amount of effort it took me to reach that spot on that day. I was understandably frustrated with the complete absence of birds, and the fact that the wind was pumping at 25 MPH did not help the situation. Anyone who thought that this year was going to be all "kittens, rainbows, and gumdrops" was seriously deluded. Much of what happens this year is a slog, and quite a bit of it straight-up sucks. Expressing frustrations like those that I experienced yesterday is all part of it. I know that the good will ultimately far outweigh the bad, and that's what matters. Hopefully this clarifies things a bit.

Tomorrow's ride will take me 55 more miles to the south to reach Crescent City, CA! State #28 is just down the coast!


  1. Hey, haters... This effort isn't about scenery and aesthetics. The slog is what makes this Big Year epic, and DA has more right to complain about birding spots sucking than most birders do.

    Winds tomorrow "light and variable" -- eat it up man...

  2. Ditto, the blog would be a crappy read if you weren't honest. Keep it real and keep speaking your mind Dorian. I think everyone can relate to going to a birding hotspot and getting skunked.

  3. Incredible coincidence that you ran into Vince and Kylie again; it's almost assuredly good karma. Don't let negative commenters get you down, Dorian; yours is an enviable undertaking and I'm a little bit jealous. (When I told my wife about your journey, she said, "Don't get any ideas!" I know my limits and I know my knees wouldn't be up to a ride like yours, so I'm living vicariously through your posts.)