Below is my report for last Saturday's Birdathon trip:
On Saturday, May 2nd, “The Murre the Merrier” Birdathon team spent thirteen hours seeking as many species of birds as possible while traveling from Hillsboro to the Coast and back. It rained during much of the day and the species total was smaller than that of the previous year, but the number of "exciting" species was high and everyone had a great time. We began the day at Dawson Creek Park, where we found reliable birds such as Acorn Woodpeckers and Ring-necked Ducks, in addition to Anna’s Hummingbird and Lesser Goldfinch, which had been missed on our previous Birdathons.
After loading into our vehicles, we entered the coast range and stopped at a rest area near the Nehalem River. As we walked along a forest trail, we listened to singing Varied Thrushes and Black-throated Gray Warblers. We “enticed” one of the warblers in for a closer view before moving on to the next stop. After a pause at Klootchy Creek, we arrived in Cannon Beach and marched straight for Haystack Rock.
We quickly spotted Tufted Puffins near their nesting burrows. A small flock of Brown Pelicans passed by and we moved to the other side of the rock in search of Harlequin Ducks.
They turned out to be five male Harlequins chasing around a single hen! The males were in brilliant breeding plumage and made for the most memorable sighting of the day.
We moved on to the Cannon Beach Settling Ponds where we spent a few minutes spotting ducks and listening to singing Marsh Wrens and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Our next stop was the Nehalem treatment ponds which held flocks of Northern Shovelers and Red-necked Phalaropes swimming in circles to stir up food. As the sun emerged, a Bald Eagle chased a pair of Osprey and a Northern Harrier hunted a field east of the ponds. We ate lunch at Wheeler, then moved on to Tillamook Bay. We pulled off of the road at a cluster of rocks known as the Three Graces.
The rain had resumed, but we found several new birds including Purple Finches, Brandt’s Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Loons, and, most surprising of all, a Red-throated Loon in breeding plumage.
We found Black Turnstones and Western Tanagers at the Pacific Oyster Company dock, stopped for coffee in Tillamook, then birded Bayocean Spit. The tide was low and the birds were far from shore, but we were able to find a few Northern Pintails and a single Brant in the bay. We drove uphill to Cape Meares and were greeted by wind gusts that threatened to blow us back down to the bay. Cliff-nesting birds, such as pelagic cormorants hugged the rocks for protection from the wind.
As it neared 7:00 pm, we began the drive home. We stopped at the Tillamook River rest area where we found our 100th bird the year before. We added a Brown Creeper to our list and later spotted some Common Mergansers along the Wilson River. At our last stop, we topped off our species list at 86 with a flock of Cliff Swallows east of Banks. Those who finished the trip at Hillsboro said their goodbyes and we look forward to seeing each other again at the Birdathon banquet next month.
Birds seen or heard:
Great Blue Heron
Western Scrub Jay
Black-throated Gray Warblers