Sunday, October 20, 2013

Black Oystercatcher Season Finale

Last week we finished up the last two known Black Oystercatcher nest sites that we monitor: Road's End and Cape Kiwanda.

First we went to Cape Kiwanda at high tide, hoping that the pair with two fledglings we had found on August 28 would again be resting on the cape on the south flats where we had seen them that day. And where we have seen BLOY with fledglings in the past. Those birds nest, we are fairly certain, on a ledge on the east side of Haystack Rock. For years I have suspected a second pair nested on Haystack Rock but had only circumstantial evidence: birds flying to and from the northwest side of the Rock.

Luck was with us on October 15. A BLOY family was resting on the south side of the cape when we arrived. While Johnny kept a vigil with the scope on those two adults and one fledgling (second fledgling not in evidence), I climbed over to the north side of the dune to see if there were any BLOY in evidence. And there were! The north pair had fledged one chick and were resting where I have seen a pair rest in years past. We now know, after many years of patiently watching and waiting (and radioing our observations back and forth to each other on opposite sides of the dune), that the pair we see rest on the north side is a different pair from the south birds. And those north birds almost certainly nest where we have seen BLOY fly from the northwest side of the Rock to the north side of the cape.

Here is their scenic resting spot with Cape Lookout way off in the distance...

 And the family...

Junior is the one with the bill partially black and the eye not yet as red as the parents'.

Happy to finally know that there really are two BLOY pairs nesting at Cape Kiwanda and thrilled that each pair fledged at least one chick this year, we headed south to Road's End.

We already knew that two of the three nests at Road's End had ultimately failed: one without hatching chicks and the other without fledging the two chicks that hatched. But the third nest had two chicks in September close to fledging and we had been hopeful. On October 3, we had climbed The Thumb and found the pair on a rock near the nest rock with no sign of chicks anywhere. However it was possible the chicks were still on the nest rock in hiding so we climbed The Thumb again on the 15th, after our successful Cape Kiwanda findings.

A pair were foraging on a rock south of the nest rock with no fledglings in evidence. After a short time, they disappeared. We waited and watched for nearly two hours. Well, one of us watched for two hours. Another watched a long time and then he took a nap. It was a warm and sunny day.

Eventually, we gave up and hiked down. We could see some rocks exposed to the south so parked at the Road's End park and hiked down the beach. It was much farther than it looked to those rocks. Here they are. That headland in the distance is where we had been.

 We did find a pair of BLOY, probably our disappearing pair from below The Thumb.

They and Western Gulls were foraging on the newly exposed shellfish covering those rocks at this very low tide.

This gull looked to be hoping we would give it an easier meal.

Johnny kindly hiked all the way back to the car and drove to meet me. His reward was supper at Jasmine Thai restaurant in Lincoln City. We love their Tom Kha soup.

Black Oystercatcher monitoring is pretty well over for the season now, although I could not resist one more trip to Cape Lookout, futilely searching for a better viewpoint to the offshore rock we think a pair nested on this year. They disappeared after a month or so and we assume their nest failed, but our viewpoint is through trees from a long way away.

My friend Nancy agreed to go with me to try to find a closer spot. We did not succeed, but it was a lovely day anyway. Here Nancy stands at the top of one of the "trails" we hoped would get us in sight of the rock.

It's great to have a friend willing to participate in my crazy schemes. And look, she's even smiling!

Just beyond the sheer cliff in this photo lies the rock I'd like to get closer to. My usual viewpoint is from the other side... through a forest of branches. But no matter which side you look from, the cliffs are sheer drops. And even Nancy and I are not crazy enough to risk those.

Cascade Head is another of my monitoring areas. It has one known nest site and several other maybes. Access is restricted most of the year, making my exploratories even more difficult. Perhaps Nancy would agree to yet another crazy trek while the road is still open...

Here is Cascade Head as seen from The Thumb, looking north. Such a lovely place to hike and sit and stare at the ocean and its rugged coastline. And maybe find where Black Oystercatchers nest... if not this year, then maybe next...

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