Saturday, May 18, 2013

Three Capes Scenic Loop

Three Capes Scenic Loop includes Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. All three are Black Oystercatcher sites, so Johnny and I surveyed them last Tuesday and Wednesday.

As usual, one pair was easy to find on the cliff they like to hang out on at Cape Kiwanda.

Another was feeding on an exposed tidal flat. Then Johnny spotted one way over on Haystack Rock itself. But after a bit, the two on the cliff I was watching became three, then two of those flew leaving one, but another returned making two again. 

It is always difficult to figure out what's going on at Cape Kiwanda. The only nest we have ever found is half a mile offshore on the east side of the 100 meter high Haystack Rock. We think the birds still nest on the same ledge but have moved their nesting area out of our sight. Where the second pair nests is still a mystery.
After climbing back down the dune, we ate lunch at a tiny, but very good, cafe nearby, then continued on the scenic loop road to Cape Lookout. The 2 1/2 mile hike to the end of the cape is on a very well-maintained trail: very unlike that trail was 30 plus years ago, the last time Johnny hiked it, when it was a muddy mess. (I hiked it last fall with friend Carol.) This time we had a beautiful day with beautiful viewpoints all along the trail.

 A natural bench from tree roots made a handy resting spot.

 We stopped to glass the rocky flats by a cove on the north side where I always hope to, but never do, see Black Oystercatchers.

 From a side trail going up, I could see all the way north to Cape Meares, the third cape on the loop, and, with the camera zoomed in, the three arch rocks off its coast.

Johnny took a photo of me on my perch above the trail, admiring the view northward.

However, while I looked for BLOY, Johnny watched the ocean and suddenly cried, "A whale! And she has a calf!" Sure enough, a cow and calf whale were swimming slowly north along the shore line in the cove. I tried to get a photo but was too slow to get them when their backs were nearly out of the water. They were about to disappear into the white froth when my shutter clicked. You'll have to take my word for it that the green smudge in the photo below is part of the mama whale's back. The lighter green smudge behind and beside her is the calf. I don't know what the green is but it was on part of both their backs.

Even zoomed in, it still just looks like a green smudge.

When the trail wandered to the south side of the cape, the vistas were so lovely I took a zillion photos of, basically, the same thing. In the distance is Cape Kiwanda, where we had been earlier, and Haystack Rock off its shore, both looking very tiny from the much higher Cape Lookout.

 Eventually, we made it to the end of the cape.

Our target bird, a Black Oystercatcher, screamed and flew out from the rocky flats below and then returned. If there was more than one, we did not see it.

 After the 2 1/2 mile hike back to the trailhead, I decided to hike the north trail as far as our customary vista point to see the two offshore rocks that are possible BLOY hang-outs, although we've yet to find them hanging out there. Johnny drove the car to meet me. I thought I might be able to at least hear BLOY from the trail but I was wrong. I could not even hear the ocean until I was almost to our vista point. But it was a lovely trail with huge sitka spruce. My walking stick is 4 1/2 feet long. This tree must be nearly three times that at the base.

Several trees made cool archways over the trail.

At one point, there were Giant Trilliums that were bigger than any I've ever seen. I put my foot in the photo to give an idea of just how big this trillium is. It bloomed earlier in the spring. I would like to have seen the flower!

It's a good thing the mile plus trail was so intriguing, because this is the view I finally had of the rock through the trees. Our view from our usual vista point is just as good. Johnny had the scope set up and was looking at the rock when I came dragging in. Five miles on the cape trail and then a mile or more on this one was a bit much. And we saw only one BLOY all afternoon. But the whale and calf and the views were well worth the trip... and the sore muscles.

 The following day we traveled north to the third cape, Cape Meares, via Oceanside and Short Beach. That tale next time.


  1. Ah, I was walking right along with you - great report! I walked the Cape Lookout trail just a couple of years ago, fell on a root and broke my finger. Wonder when it got upgraded? I'll have to go back!

    1. There are still roots to trip on the last half of the trail, but they are exposed and visible. The first half is graveled now. Looks pretty new.