Sunday, January 24, 2010

BLOY Watching

No, that's not a misprint. BLOY are Black Oystercatchers, a shorebird on the Pacific coast of North America. Volunteers, including Johnny and I, monitor these black birds with long red bills once a week from May until August. It's a lovely excuse to go to the beach every week. This year, for the first time, a wintering survey is being taken.

Yesterday, the first day of the one week survey, was one of those incredible warm and sunny days we occasionally get in the winter. The coast was lovely, almost windless. Johnny dropped me off at a little park north of Cape Kiwanda so I could hike in from that direction. He drove south to the Cape parking lot and hiked up the dune from the south. There are two different locations we have seen BLOY on the Cape and they are a long way apart.

It would have been a beautiful day on the beach even if we had not found our birds, but we did. A pair was foraging and resting on my side of the Cape. I climbed up so I could look down on them. On the way I couldn't resist taking photos of the incredible sky, ocean, Haystack Rock offshore, and a tenuous natural bridge formation.Johnny found no BLOY on his side, but enjoyed watching a lone Brown Pelican glide right past him. After leaving our respective posts, we rendezvoused in the middle and hiked down the dune on the south side. From the foot of the dune, we surveyed the exposed flat rocks, not visible from above, and discovered a second pair of BLOY.

From Cape Kiwanda we drove south to Neskowin, where we were assigned to look for BLOY on Proposal Rock and southern headlands. This is not my favorite spot because one has to wade a wide stream to get to the south side. In the winter, this stream is a very cold, fast river. We shed our boots (the water was well over them), rolled up our pant legs, and walked across. Nothing like ice water to make you wonder why you volunteered for this job. We found no BLOY here... and we usually don't. Johnny walked back across the river while I hiked out another, much longer way, overstressing my knee in the process.

Since I was now incapable of long hikes, we forgo our 3rd site, Road's End, which another volunteer is supposed to be covering anyway, and drove to Fishing Rock, south of Lincoln City, a site we had only recently learned about. We found one BLOY there (photo at top). The tide was coming in now and the weather changing. Those pretty white clouds on the horizon were bringing wind and the promise of rain.
Skirting Lincoln City on our way home, we came across a lovely Great Egret by the side of the road. I took this photo through the windshield. After a meal at our favorite restaurant, the Otis Cafe, we drove through the coast range, hitting rain in the mountains. It's been raining ever since. But what a great day it was on the lovely Oregon coast yesterday!

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