Friday, June 27, 2014

Johnny's Homecoming

Johnny came home from his week away on Thursday, June 19. Naturally, we spent Friday surveying birds. First there was the Beached Bird Survey where we canoed across the Salmon River, watching an eagle soar overhead. As we hiked the beach looking for dead birds, we found a dead sea lion first. About fifteen Turkey Vultures and one Bald Eagle were either feasting on the carcass or waiting their turn to do so.

I have this dream that someday, it will be California Condors feasting on dead sea mammals, as there was years ago... But this day, it was Turkey Vultures.

On our lunch break at the end of the beach before turning around for our return trip, Johnny spotted a Black Oystercatcher foraging on a tidal rock... probably one of our Road's End North Nest Rock birds, gathering food for a chick or chicks. It was time for the eggs to hatch. Our next stop would be Road's End where I hoped to see a chick. (That tiny black dot silhouetted against the surf is the BLOY.)

On our return trip up the beach we found, for once, a beached bird that was not a gull. Johnny found one wing, then searched until he found the second. The vultures had been spreading our bird carcasses all over the place. Here is our first beached Pigeon Guillemot, or what was left of it: two wings.

The wind was blowing onshore as we canoed back to Knight Park and our van. I made a sail with my coat and two paddles. Johnny had only to use his paddle as a rudder. Fun!

Then we were off to Road's End and our hikes up to BLOY observation points: Johnny on The Thumb, watching the South and Middle Rock nest areas; I to the North post, looking down on the North Nest Rock... and, I hoped, new chicks.

The adults certainly acted like they had chicks, one standing guard while the other went off to forage, chasing away interlopers... but no chicks could I see... for two hours. Finally, a parent brought food and a single chick came out of hiding. Parents are top right and bottom left with the tiny chick about halfway between them, heading left.

The little family then marched down to a pool in the rocks. One parent went into the pool, drank and took a bath while the chick stood with its feet in the water and the other parent stayed on shore, standing guard.

After a bit, the chick got brave and splashed like the parent had done.

I don't know what happened to the other two eggs, but this seems to be very common in the Black Oystercatcher nesting world: lay three eggs and, if lucky, fledge one. Hopefully, this chick will survive to fledging.

Before leaving, I admired the view northward, as always, toward the rocky headland between me and Cascade Head. One of the tidal rocks beyond the headland is where Johnny had seen a BLOY when we were doing our beached bird survey. The beach beyond the headland was the beach we surveyed.

Two little black dots on the beach are likely the dead sea lion and its vultures. I like them better at this distance.

We ate supper at our favorite Thai restaurant in Lincoln City and headed home. That night, we sat behind the house and watched fledgling Barn Owls fly in and out of the oak tree, begging for food. How could Johnny ask for a finer first day home?

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