Monday, January 31, 2011

BLOY Winter Survey: Day Two, Tillamook Area

We went north this time, joining friends John and Barbara for a tour of the BLOY spots near Tillamook. This was an unofficial survey since Tillamook is not in my survey area. But the BLOY areas up there can all be reached by car, no hiking over mountains or dunes or trekking for miles on beaches necessary. And it's fun to do it with birding friends. We traditionally go out for lunch on our treks with John and Barbara. In fact, sometimes lunch is of primary interest... and it was today. We had had a busy morning.

Besides the usual chores of feeding and milking and cleaning barns, I readied a kidding pen since I seem to have quite a few goats due to kid soon... none of which I bred. (But that's another story for another time.) Johnny, meanwhile, had to make a quick trip to McMinnville and back (45 minutes each way) to meet a deadline. So we left home late and hungry.

It was another lovely day, cloudy but warm. We ate lunch with John and Barbara at a favorite restaurant in Tillamook, Kendra's Kitchen. Then we were off to The Three Graces, just north of Garibaldi. The Three Graces are three rocks. Why they have that name I have no idea, especially since there are more than three.

We found four BLOY there, two adults and two juveniles, foraging on the intertidal rocks. There were many other birds in the bay which we were able to see up close thanks to John's excellent scope. But I did not get any decent bird photos.

We drove south, then, heading for Cape Meares. I couldn't resist stopping along the bay when I saw this young Bald Eagle in a tree. (They don't get their white heads until their fourth year.) Eagles seem to be plentiful on this part of the Oregon coast.

We found two pairs of Black Oystercatchers at Cape Meares. Our friends John and Barbara keep track of the BLOY and also the peregrines that nest there. During spring and summer, three pair of BLOY have territories in the cove that can be seen from a wonderful viewing platform right next to the parking lot. The peregrine nest is usually visible from that platform, too... no hiking required... and there are even benches to sit on. Such luxury! Okay, so it's a distant view of the cliffs where BLOY and peregrines nest. John's scope brings things up close. Interpretive signs on the viewing platform tell about the Black Oystercatchers and the Peregrines. I only took a photo of the BLOY sign.

Notice that pointed rock in the far distance in the Cape Meares photo above? Look closely at the zoomed up picture below and you'll see two full adult, white-headed, Bald Eagles on the top of that rock. Common Murres used to nest on the rocks off the cove until eagles began harassing them. I guess these two eagles are waiting for the Murres to come back.

A short drive south from Cape Meares brought us to Short Beach, so named because Short Creek runs into it. I wrote an earlier blog about BLOY at Short Beach. None were bathing today in the fresh water that flows to the sea, but we saw four flying and foraging nearby.

While the others stayed up by the road (pictured in my telephoto are John and Johnny), I climbed down the long staircase (no bushwhacking necessary!) and then clambered onto rocks where I could see up and down the coastline and look for BLOY.

On top of a rock was this poor crab, upside down and missing all claws except the two big pincers in front. Some gull had no doubt pulled off the legs, then dropped it onto the rock to try to break its shell. What was left of the crab wiggled its claws at me helplessly. So I turned it over. It quickly backed into a crevice in the rock with its pincers up and ready for battle. Can crabs regrow legs?

Other creatures were being dismantled... or dissolved... on the rocks exposed at high tide. Here a lovely starfish is wrapped around a hapless mussel that is being slowly digested. Makes a person glad to not be an intertidal creature.

Homeward bound, we pulled over a few miles south of Tillamook to gaze at the amazing sight of roughly two hundred Roosevelt Elk and fifty White-fronted Geese grazing in a field by the road. A fence between the road and the field kept me from getting a good photo. It was an amazing sight. Some of the younger elk were curious about the geese and kept creeping closer until the geese took flight, scaring the elk into a stampede. Soon all settled down again, geese and elk, to eat the green grass.

What a fun day with great friends, good food, and fascinating wildlife.

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