Thursday, July 10, 2014

At the Coast

Although it has been hot on the farm with too much work to do, we take a weekly break, at least, for our bird and sea star surveys on the coast. July 2 was our sea star and Short Beach Black Oystercatcher survey, plus two bonus surprises at Cape Meares.

Up and down both coasts, sea stars are still dying and no one is sure why. Whatever the pathogen, the warmer ocean waters are suspected to be making it reproduce faster than the stars can fight it off. We are asked to survey the same beach every two weeks to follow progress, or regress. There is worry that all the sea stars will die out. We survey at Short Beach on the same day we try to find the Black Oystercatcher chicks there.

After having to catalog and photograph all those sick and dying sea stars, it's good to look up and see that the view is still lovely.

Although we could see that the Black Oystercatchers were flying to their nest ledge with food, we could not see the chicks. On an offshore rock not far from the beach this BLOY gathered food and flew toward the ledge.

But we were at the wrong angle to see what he delivered it to... A little black bird with red bill is in the center of the following photo. The nest area, we learned last time, is around the corner left. We could only view it from up on the road... very far away.

So with the sea star survey completed, we hiked back up to the road. I saw a BLOY fly up, presumably to feed, but whatever he fed was in the shadows and invisible. That tiny black bird with the red bill is even tinier from this distance, right where he was before but at a different angle. He is on the ledge to the right of the dark hole. The chicks are not out in view... at least I can't see them.

We then drove the two miles from Short Beach to Cape Meares to see if we could find the BLOY that had, from all reports, disappeared from their usual nesting areas.

First we checked the distant Peregrine nest ledge and saw... something... within.

Eventually, the something materialized into a big fluffy white Peregrine chick. Then an adult flew in with prey and a second chick appeared! Johnny took these photos with his camera shooting through a scope.

Meanwhile, I was watching, from a lower viewpoint, an Oystercatcher that Johnny had spotted... hoping it would take me to a nest. After a very long time of watching it standing on the side of the cliff doing nothing, I realized that there was a second BLOY nearby... on a nest! Johnny took this photo of the two birds, after one had moved closer to the nesting bird, through the scope. At one point, the setting bird stood and I was able to see an egg. There were probably more but the bird didn't stay up long enough for me to know.

What a great day of discoveries at Cape Meares! It was made even more fun after we picked up a late lunch at the Netarts deli, met our Tillamook friends the Woodhouses and drove to Cape Lookout State Park to eat... and scope the offshore rocks for BLOY. None found but we did see an eagle chick in the eagle nest visible from the road. It was too camouflaged for a photo. Maybe next time...

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