Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bird Survey Madness, Day Two

Our follow-up survey of Cape Kiwanda, we thought, would be a snap (on Wed., May 21). One pair of BLOY would be resting on the side of the sandstone cliff, as it had been on our first survey day, May 11. I would sit and watch them to see if they flew and if so, which direction they went. Johnny, meanwhile, would hike to the end of the cape as usual to scan the Rock and look for BLOY in tidal areas on the south side of the cape. We arrived early enough that lighting was excellent on the Rock (above).

Good plan. Didn't work. The BLOY were not on the cliff.

Nor could I see them on the tidal flats on the north side of the cape that Johnny was hiking along.

 Johnny could find none on either side of the cape nor on the Rock. He is the dot on the skyline in the middle of the photo below.

So I trudged up and over to the north side of the dune, where our cliff-resting BLOY often forage. On the way I stopped to take photos of the Rock as I climbed higher and higher.

And I zoomed in on the former nest ledge, hoping my camera would pick out a BLOY that I could not.

But if they were there, they were hiding behind a ridge of stone.

As it turned out, my usual path from the top of the dune down to the north side observation point, where I can see the tidal areas below, was gone. It had slid down the mountain with already-dead trees and still living sand dune plants.

I had to walk partway down the dune on the east side to climb back up the dune on the north side. When I arrived and scanned the tidal areas below, I saw no BLOY. I called on my radio to ask if Johnny was seeing anything. He was not. While I was on the air with him, one BLOY walked into my view on the rocks below. A second followed. Hallelujah!

They foraged for awhile, then flew to a rock just exposed in the falling tide.

I headed back to the beach, which meant going down, then back up, then down again. Of course, I stopped to take photos of flowers that had found a sheltered spot in the shifting sands.

We rendezvoused on the beach and drove to the Mexican restaurant in Pacific City for lunch. Then it was on to Cape Lookout, crazy people that we are.

There are two trails at Cape Lookout that lead to ocean views. One goes down the south side to the beach an impossibly long way below. Part way along that trail is a wonderful lookout point where the entire south wall of the cape can be viewed (from a comfy bench). We went that way first.

No BLOY could we see, so we hiked back up to the trail that goes to the end of the cape. We only went halfway this time, to the cove on the north side where we had seen a pair of BLOY on our original survey day. I heard one or more screaming and saw one fly out of view, hugging the shore line.

Although I also had a good view of the south side of the cove, that side is a sheer cliff with no habitat for our Black Oystercatchers.

Johnny had hiked farther on the path to where he could look back from the west side of the cove at the rocky outcropping. From there he could see rocks beyond where I could see but no BLOY were in view.

We did not continue on to the end of the cape as we can see very little habitat from there (at least for Black Oystercatchers). It was a tired walk back to the car, then a short drive to our last observation point where we peek through trees to catch a glimpse of two huge offshore rocks that we have seen and heard BLOY on in the past. But not this day.

It was 5 p.m. and time to drive home. I was thinking what a lot of work this BLOY surveying was when I remembered the cars in the Cape Lookout trail head parking lot. As always, there were a lot of them. And the license plates were from all over the United States. Amazing to think how many people hike Cape Lookout just for the view and the chance of seeing whales. I realized how lucky I was to have an opportunity not only to hike and have beautiful views, sometimes see whales, but to participate at the same time in citizen science.

Black Oystercatchers are fairly rare birds that are dependent on mussels and other rock creatures for food. By keeping long term records on population numbers of BLOY, plus nest records that will show if their chicks are surviving, we will have an indication of the health of our seashore ecosystems. All while enjoying some pretty wonderful scenery on the Oregon coast. Maybe we're not so crazy, after all.

1 comment:

  1. I'd say definitely not crazy - great pix, wonderful weather too :o) Sounds like a very good day.