Sunday, January 30, 2011

BLOY Winter Survey: Day One, Road's End

What a beautiful day for hanging out at the coast: sun, no wind, and warm (for January). Johnny and I hiked up to the top of The Thumb at Road's End to look down on the site of three BLOY (Black Oystercatcher) nests. I hiked it twice, at least part way. At the top of the first hill I realized I had not locked the car, so down I went, locked it and went back up. Three quarters of the way I realized I had left the spotting scope in the car. Sigh. But my binoculars are very good and my legs were already weary and I'd forgotten my knee supports. I continued up scopeless.

At the top, two BLOY soon screamed and flew into view on a rock with barnacles uncovered by the falling tide. The two birds stayed there, feeding and hanging out for hours (too far away for a good picture). But the other two pairs who should have been visible from our elevated perch were not.

I decided to hike north to Crescent Cove to see if any BLOY were feeding in there. Johnny stayed to keep an eye on the BLOY below. I really did not want to bushwhack as I had the last time, so I took a path through the big Sitka Spruce forest and hoped that it would lead me close to, but not trespassing on, Camp Westwind property, who own everything above the high tide line of Crescent Cove. It was a lovely trail and some of those Sitka Spruces were huge.

Of course, I got lost. Suddenly the sun was on my right instead of my left. How that happened I don't know. The sound of the ocean had stopped entirely. Then I ran into the Camp Westwind closed gate and No Trespassing sign. I redirected my route toward the afternoon sun, taking an elk trail. Elk do not bother to move branches out of their path. I was bushwhacking without a clear idea of where I was going. Finally, however, the ocean roared again and I even caught glimpses of it through the trees, but I never did get within view of Crescent Cove.

Tired, I headed back to The Thumb and Johnny. We trekked to the car and I considered hoofing it up the beach to look from there. But the beach walk is a long one. Instead we drove south to Nelscott, where I'd heard BLOY are sometimes seen. That turned out to be a good decision.

The minus tide was way out now and rocks that are usually below the ocean's surface were uncovered and full of beachcombers and gulls. But no BLOY. Hiking south on the beach while Johnny kept watch on a bench above, I found a flotilla of Surf Scoters riding the waves, lots of uncovered rocks, but no BLOY.

Heading north again I walked about a mile past where Johnny was still keeping a bench warm and preserving his arthritic back until I came to a stretch of newly uncovered rocks and barnacles and heard the welcome scream of Black Oystercatchers. Five of them were feeding here. In the distance, I could see Road's End, so my theory is that these were my missing Road's End pairs, plus one of their youngsters from a previous year. I can't prove it, of course, but they had to be somewhere and this was the best foraging area near Road's End that wasn't littered with people and dogs.

As I was watching the BLOY through my binoculars, I heard a resounding crack near me. I looked around but did not see the cause. With my binoculars raised again, I heard the crack louder and closer. This time I saw a gull standing nearby with some sort of shellfish hanging from its mouth. As I watched, the gull flew high into the air with its prize and dropped it onto the rocks. CRACK! After a few more drops from on high, the shell was sufficiently shattered to expose the meat inside for the gull's dinner.

Dinner by now was sounding like a great idea. And dinner is Johnny's favorite part of my bird surveys on the coast. We ate, as usual, at Jasmine Thai restaurant in Lincoln City. Seven BLOY seen plus a delicious meal that we didn't have to cook equals a good day on the Oregon coast.

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