Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BLOY Winter Survey: Day Four, Cascade Head

Today, I hiked Cascade Head, my last planned survey for the week. I am neglecting Neskowin which used to be in my survey area, given up because it takes access into a gated community to be able to look down on potential Black Oystercatcher sites. I had been given the combination to the gate but they seem to change it frequently and it's too much of a hassle to keep up with the changes. Plus I rarely see BLOY there. Those are my excuses.

Not that Cascade Head is exactly easy to survey. We used to canoe across the Salmon River at very low tide, then hike out the beach to scope 3 Rocks and South Cascade Head, where we seldom found BLOY. We have also gone through the private and gated Camp Westwind, with permission, to access the beach, but that walk is just as long and the BLOY just as scarce.

Last year, I discovered that I could see 3 Rocks from the Nature Conservancy trail up Cascade Head, and also look northward from the Head where there are quite a few offshore rocks: potential BLOY territory. Once I even saw a BLOY on one of those rocks.
During the summer, the road to Hart's Cove gives me a way to access the Cascade Head trail from the top, a much shorter and more level hike. But that road is closed this time of year. So today I hiked from the trailhead near Knight's Park (our canoe launch site), through giant Sitka Spruces to the open meadow on top in glorious sunshine. The trail is long and steep but civilized and well-maintained, with stairs and bridges, even wood planks over marshy areas... but a rigorous hike. Sometimes the "stairs" are tree roots. A volunteer Peregrine monitor I met last year hikes it every morning, just for exercise. I kept reminding myself of that as I puffed and panted my way up. My photos are of the more level areas... I was breathing too hard to hold the camera steady on the steeper portions.

Along the way, a very cute squirrel happily posed for a photo... while I happily took a breather while taking his picture.

Out on the meadow at last, I found no BLOY but did see two Peregrine Falcons. And a herd of about 40 elk grazing on the very edge of the Head with the ocean behind and far below.

And, perhaps the best encounter of all, I met a fellow hiker who proved to be interested in Black Oystercatcher surveying... and has access to the gated community at Neskowin! Here's hoping she decides to take over that area... and ease my guilt for deserting it. Much as I love having an excuse to visit the coast often, I do have other interests... and work... waiting for my attention.

The hike down was easier and quicker. Johnny had driven me to the trailhead for my hike up and met me there on my return, cutting a good half mile of steep terrain off the route to Knight's Park where he had waited... there is no parking at the trailhead. Then, of course, we headed for Otis Cafe, our traditional dinner stop after a Cascade Head/3 Rocks excursion. A welcome finish for our 2011 Black Oystercatcher Winter Survey.

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