Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oregon Shorebird Festival: Part Two

So eager was I to tell the story of the canoe trip in Part One of this saga, I forgot about The Restaurant Incident, which happened Friday night. So, since this is my journal and I like to be reminded of the stupid things I've done, here it is... The restaurant was crowded and noisy so we opted to eat outdoors on the deck. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that the chairs tipped forward at the tables were safer to sit on than the ones not tipped forward. I sat in the latter... and a pool of water on the seat. I leaped up but it was too late: I was soaked. I replaced my chair with a tipped up one that did not have a pool of water in the seat. And sat on my napkin.

I put on a dry pair of pants for the evening program Friday night, where we were given information about the upcoming field trips and a talk by bird rehabilitators. They had brought some of their education birds for us to meet: a Great Horned Owl who had a lot to say, a Peregrine Falcon, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Turkey Vulture. All these birds had been rehabilitated but were unable, for one reason or another, to be returned to the wild.

We walked back to our cars or dorm in pitch black, but I had brought a flashlight, as instructed. I was staying in a dorm on the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, where the Festival was centered. Here is my dorm during daylight hours, with the dining hall below. The Institute is in a lovely, quiet setting.

My jeans dried overnight and were ready for the morning canoe trip, where they only got moderately wet and muddy. After returning from the canoe trip (described in Part One), I wandered down to the docks where fisherman were cleaning tuna and throwing the scraps to waiting, barking sea lions below.

Saturday evening we had a wonderful seafood buffet... tuna, as that was what was in season and in plenitude at the nearby dock... with rice and veggies and salads and desserts. Then came the evening program with a compilation of birds seen on the field trips of the day, a photo report on the recovery of 400 acres of the Bandon Marsh and a very impressive presentation by a grad student on migration patterns of shorebirds. Too bad I remember little of it except it was very well done and interesting and surprising.

Sometime during this day I talked to Johnny and learned that he had taken photos of a shorebird on our pond but he didn't know what it was. It turned out to be, near as I can tell after blowing the picture up a gazillion times, a Snipe. He also took a blurry photo of a Green Heron taking flight... also on our pond and at the same time as the Snipe was there. As far as I know, no one at the Shorebird Festival saw a Snipe. Or a Green Heron. I think Johnny was wondering why I'd bothered to go.

At the first stop on my Sunday field trip, I was beginning to wonder the same thing. At the Bandon Marsh there were many shorebirds... about a mile away. All the big guns of the birding world at the festival were debating whether the Golden Plover they'd found out there was an American or a Pacific. Near as I can tell the difference comes down to the length of a couple of tail feathers. At that distance, even with my scope, I couldn't have told you if the bird had a tail. Later, when I looked in my ancient Peterson's field guide at home, I discovered that back in 1961, there was no such thing as an American or a Pacific Golden Plover. They were all Golden Plovers. I think that's how it should be. The bird they were discussing was in an intermediate stage of molt and rather drab. I much preferred the bright Pacific Golden Plover that no one argued over that I had photographed earlier in the month at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. I posted that photo on my Birds blog. http://lindafink-birdnotes.blogspot.com/2011/08/mid-summer-bird-photos.html

We drove from birding spot to birding spot in the Bandon area and did see some cool birds. Snowy Plovers were a first for me. Alas, I did not get photos. Tufted Puffins were fun to see on a distant rock... but too far for my camera. A Snowy Egret kindly sat in a tree by a small pond right next to the road. Below him was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron masquerading as a lichen covered branch.

After a bit, the sleepy Night-Heron woke up enough to look around... and look a bit more like a bird.

But the best was yet to come. At the Coast Guard Station, we were allowed into the fenced and gated back yard. Just across the fence was a pier and boat loading platform, coated with rust and bird excrement and covered in Black Turnstones. Plus one Surfbird. And two Wandering Tattlers. Shorebirds! Close up and needing no scope! Love that Turnstone wing pattern in flight.

The Wandering Tattlers, unlike the Turnstones and Surfbird, had to be viewed through a tall, rusty, chain link fence. But they were very close and easy to see... although a challenge to photograph through that fence, since getting close enough to stick the lens through a hole would have scared the birds away.

Next stop was lunch where three Red-necked Phalaropes were kind enough to perform on the water in front of us. Phalaropes are odd for shorebirds since they swim quite well.

Our last stop of the day was Bandon Marsh where the sun finally shone brightly for us and we saw in person what we had seen in photos the night before... (and where I discovered the second thing I'd forgotten to bring: sunscreen.) Already the newly undiked land is returning to its estuarine state with salmon smolt swimming up the channel that had been closed off for over 100 years. Tiny Least Sandpipers worked the mud nearly at our feet as we listened to the explanation of what has been accomplished there and how important it is. Well, we listened while looking for birds.

So now I know where Charleston, Oregon, is and what one does at a bird festival: see some birds, learn about birds, meet people of like interests, and have fun doing it. Would I go again? You bet. I'm already looking forward to next year's Oregon Shorebird Festival and yes, to another canoe trip. It can't be that windy every year, can it?

1 comment:

  1. Your stories about the festival are great! Never been but hope to try it next year - maybe we'll see you there.