Friday, September 5, 2014

Sept 4 (Day 247) - Incredible Oregon coast ride, Plan for West Coast

The next big battle that needs to be fought is with Mountain quail. There are some very good areas for this bird around Corvallis and Eugene. These areas are south and inland of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. I will ride down the coast to Newport, and then cut east to reach Corvallis on Saturday. I decided to split the ~110 mile ride from Cannon Beach to Newport into 2 days. There is no rush right now, and, with Sooty grouse joining the party yesterday, I can take my time and enjoy my time on the coast.  

Today's ride moved me just 40 miles south from Cannon Beach, OR to Tillamook. This was a spectacular ride. It was right up there with the days in Monumet Valley, UT and the North Cascades in Washington. Tough climbs up coastal drainages were rewarded with stunning views of the rocky coastline below. White sand beaches periodically interrupted the steep cliffs, and picturesque bays poked placid fingers into the convoluted, rugged coastline. Particularly daring trees perched precariously on rocks otherwise surrounded by constantly churning ocean waters. In select instances, these roiling seas had cut arches into the rocks above. These functioned as windows not only to the horizon beyond, but also the prolonged geologic time it took to crate them. It was truly breathtaking. 

I spent a few hours sea watching during the late morning and early afternoon. I did not note anything outside of the usual scoters, alcids, gull, cormorants, and such. Once the light deteriorated as the sun moved west and the wind picked up from the northeast, I called it quits to head towards Tillamook.

The best scenery of the day, however, might have been the Tillamook Cheese Factory at the end of my ride. While mainly advertised as a cheese facility, the factory also houses the ice cream arm of the brand. This would be my focus today. I skipped lunch and went straight to desert. Two triple-scoop cones later, I staggered back onto the bike to pay off the steep metabolic debt that I accrued at during my visit. 

After my ice cream lunch, I headed to my place of lodging where I promptly fell asleep for the next hour. After my snooze I headed out for a bit of birding on the western side of Tillamook Bay. The wind had increased steadily while I was gorging and subsequently napping, and by the time I hit the beach it was cranking at 20-25 MPH. This wind made birding tough. The lack of birds made it even tougher. It turned out to be a nice ride, and I did see a single Whimbrel and a lone Merlin. 

OK, let's switch gears and look ahead a bit. Here is the list of birds I need to find in the next 6-8 weeks between here and San Diego. Italicized species will be sought during a 5-8 day sea watch in Monterey, CA from (approx) Sept 23-30 or so. There might also be some kayaking out into the bay, but we'll see what the seas do! All of the non-pelagic birds should be relatively straightforward with the exception of Black rail. Spotted dove could be a headache, but I will get it somewhere. If I am too early for the first 3 species, I can get these in AZ, NM or TX in Nov/Dec.  It's really the pelagic species that will require the most effort and could prove the most important.  I am not counting on getting any storm-petrels at this time. Sabine's gull is probably not likely either. These assumptions could change if I can get off shore a bit.

Snow goose
Ross’s goose
Greater white-fronted goose
Mountain quail
Pacific loon
Black-footed albatross - will be very tough
Northern fulmar - will be very tough
Buller’s shearwater - decent chance
Pink-footed shearwater - will get
Black-vented shearwater - will get
Ridgeway’s rail
Black rail - Hardest bird. Will try around the Bay Area - Yuma, AZ as backup.
Pacific golden-plover
Red phalarope - decent chance
Pomarine jaeger - will get
Yellow-footed gull
Spotted dove
Allen’s hummingbird
Red-breasted sapsucker
Nuttall’s woodpecker
Yellow-billed magpie
Oak titmouse
California gnatcatcher
California thrasher
Le Conte’s thrasher
California towhee
Golden-crowned sparrow
Bell’s sparrow
Tricolored blackbird
Lawrence’s goldfinch
Purple finch
Nutmeg mannakin

There are 33 species on this list, 7 of which are italicized as "pelagics". So, of the non-pelagics, I think I will get 25/26 (assuming a miss on Black rail). Of these 25, Pacific golden-plover and Mountain quail are key. I will certainly get 3 of the pelagics (noted above), and if I am lucky and I have the right eyes helping me scan the seas, maybe I can get 2 of the remaining 4. This would mean I could get 30 species out of these 33. This would put me at 576 since I am at 546 now. Even if I miss 1 or 2 birds on the list, I might be able to make these up unexpectedly as described below.

ANYTHING can show up in California in the fall - particularly in this mini El Nino year. Unexpected rarities will be chased as possible, particularly in Southern California after I have nailed down what pelagics I can in Monterey. I am sure I will be able to add at least an unexpected bird or two in the next few months. Yellow-green vireo, Sharp-tailed sandpiper, Red-throated pipit, boobies, who knows?!?!? I am also wondering if I could make it out to Santa Cruz Island to get the Scrub jay. It would be a LONG kayak trip! This is what is going to make California so much fun. I said that  needed to leave the state with 575 species to have a shot a real shot at 600, so I'll have to bird really hard to make that happen. The run to the end of the year is going to be really exciting! I am hoping the Oregon/California birding communities are excited to participate and to to help!!!! Many people have sent me notes about specific birds, but please, resend them or send new info as I search for specific species. 

Mountain quail and Red-breasted sapsucker around Corvallis/Eugene are the first targets the day after tomorrow. The ride to Newport tomorrow will be scenery-centric as I do not expect to add any new birds.....well maybe an early Pacific loon!


  1. Re Mountain Quail: Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that you might only hear this bird and not see it. They are kind of like Rails in that respect.

  2. You never know. My MOQU sighting was a pure surprise. We were looking for a reported black-chinned sparrow, and up popped two MOQUs. We watched them foraging a few minutes, then as we turned, up popped the BCSP. Two lifers in one spot, without even having to walk 10 feet. That's the joy -- and frustration -- of birding. The two MOQUs we saw never made a sound; we were alerted by the movement. The location was Big Oak Flat Road in Mariposa Co., CA. GPS coordinates: approximately 37.715569,-119.7382736. Date 30 May 2013.

  3. The language in the 2nd paragraph almost sounds a little...forced. We're an easy audience, feel free to just be yourself :-)

  4. Keep it up Dorian.
    As for boobies, you certainly have some chances around the SF bay area, and probably more further south as well. 3 species (plus a very lonely Northern Gannet) have been spotted in waters west or southwest of San Francisco. Some of the regulars are too far (on the Farallons), but there are indications of a close-to-shore Brown Booby an hour ride south of SF.

    I'm not sure Black Rail is really your hardest bird. There are some decent populations in the bay area that could yield success given a full day's serious effort. That said, I'm not sure exactly which approach you're taking into San Francisco, so you may end up away from some of the most prime areas.

  5. Hey, Dorian, I think that you're going to get 600 as hard as you're working at it. Just a note on the last bird on your list. It's no longer Nutmeg Manakin, but is now Scaly-breasted Munia. I was really happy to see that change so that it's consistent with the name in all the Asian books.


  6. Dorian, re your comment on how long a kayak ride it would be to Santa Cruz Island. What about a sailboat? Any sailors who are also birders? Might even be able to get to the Farallons or Santa Catalina if you can hook up with a sailor.