Previous Tours - COASTAL OREGON
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
COASTAL OREGON & KLAMATH BASIN TOUR:
29 September - 8 October 2006
1) WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER
2) Sabine's Gull
3) Tufted Puffin
4) Ferruginous Hawk
5) Black Oystercatcher
6) Red-breasted Sapsucker
7) Harlequin Duck
8) Prairie Falcon
9) Black-footed Albatross
10) White-tailed Kite
COASTAL OREGON & KLAMATH BASIN
29 September - 8 October 2006
Leaders John Puschock & Bob Schutsky
Trip Report by John Puschock
After assembling in Portland, our anxious group of birders headed to the coast. Our first stop was Miami Bay in the town of Garibaldi. There were good numbers of gulls that included six different species. We had our introduction to the hybrid "Olympic Gull", a mix of Western and Glaucous-winged gulls. There's enough variation in these guys that it takes the normal confusion of identifying gulls to a whole new level, enough so that I prefer to find a "typical" Western Gull and a "typical" Glaucous-winged Gull, and then just call it a day as far as those two species are concerned!
We made a few more stops, but the weather was a little unpleasant. Fog and moderately strong winds met us near the coast, so we headed south toward our hotel in Lincoln City. We did, however, see a pair of White-tailed Kites hunting over a field as sunset approached, a nice bonus to end the day.
On the second day of the tour, we explored the coast south of Lincoln City, with stops at Siletz Bay, Depoe Bay, Boiler Bay, Seal Rocks, and Yaquina Head State Park, plus a few other areas. As you can imagine, waterbirds were the focus of the day. Siletz Bay was full of puddle ducks. A possible Eurasian Wigeon got away before the entire group could see it. It simply disappeared into a large flock of American Wigeon. We saw our first alcids - Marbled Murrelets and Common Murres - at Boiler Bay, but the biggest (literally) attraction here were Gray Whales. They were swimming just beyond the breakers. A few other highlights were Black Oystercatchers at Depoe Bay, all three West Coast cormorants (Brandt's, Pelagic, and Double-crested) at Yaquina Head, and Surfbirds at Seal Rocks.
Day 3 was devoted to our pelagic trip organized by Greg Gillson. I had high hopes for Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, one of the few "usual" North American birds that I still haven't seen. A trip the previous day found a flock of about 1400 of these birds, plus more than 20 South Polar Skuas. However, things can change dramatically from one day to the next at sea. A few people spotted one or two storm-petrels on our pelagic trip. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them. But despite that, we still had a great day. We saw large numbers of all three jaeger species. Neither Bob nor I ever recalled seeing that many jaegers in one day. A few South Polar Skuas were also seen which, along with the jaegers, completed the "skua grand slam". A Tufted Puffin was also spotted. It was very cooperative, and we were able to circle it with the boat at least three times. We observed more than 20 Black-footed Albatross that were following a fishing boat. Three species of shearwaters (Pink-footed, Buller's, and Sooty) and six species of alcids (Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, along with the Tufted Puffin) rounded out the day.
We traveled from Lincoln City to Eugene the next day. We made a stop in some coastal rainforest habitat, looking for Spotted Owl. We failed on that count but did manage to get a Varied Thrush in the spotting scope. Another stop at Siletz Bay to examine the wigeon flock paid off. We found several female Eurasian Wigeon, and everyone was able to see them this time. Fern Ridge Reservoir, our first stop away from the coast, added a number of birds to our trip list, including a good variety of shorebirds.
On the fifth day, we continued on to Klamath Falls by way of Crater Lake National Park. In the conifer forests in the higher elevations, we found Red Crossbills, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Clark's Nutcrackers. The nutcrackers were somewhat tame at Crater Lake, but not compared to the Gray Jays that came right up to us. I'm sure they'd land on your hand if you had food. We added Prairie Falcon to the trip list at Crater Lake when one of our participants made a great spot. We also had our first Cassin's Finches and Golden-crowned Sparrows here.
We spent most of Day 6 in the extreme northern part of California. The water at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge was covered with birds. American Coots were the most numerous species. It looked like you could walk across the lake on their backs without getting your feet wet. Grebes and ducks were also present in large numbers. We saw six species of grebes - all of the species of grebes you can expect to find in the United States except Least. Canvasback, Redhead, and Lesser Scaup were some of the ducks we added to the trip list. There were also a few large flocks of geese, including Greater White-fronted, Canada, and Cackling. California Towhee, Townsend's Solitaire, and Rock and Canyon Wrens were some of the landbird highlights. Just after crossing back over the Oregon border on our return to Klamath Falls, Bob spotted a speck in the sky that began to look like a Ferruginous Hawk. We jumped out of the van, and as the speck got closer and larger, it became clear that it was, in fact, a Ferruginous Hawk. As we watched, it appeared to spot something it thought would be good to eat, and it went into a dive that ended with it landing in a nearby field, giving us the opportunity to put a spotting scope on it. We got lucky with this one - often those specks in the sky just ended up getting smaller and smaller as they fly away.
Much of the seventh day of the tour was spent exploring the forests and open country around Fort Klamath. We never did find the hoped-for Great Gray Owl, but several Great Horned Owls were seen throughout the day. Mountain Bluebirds were a nice (and expected) find along a fence line through some pastureland. White-headed Woodpecker was one of our major targets of the trip. We searched the woods near a roadside rest after lunch. Bob had seen them at this spot on previous tours. I was starting to sweat after about 15 minutes, but I finally heard some calling. The only problem was that I was by myself. Bob was with the group several hundred yards away, so I had to run back and get everyone. In the meantime, the birds had started to move. For a moment, I thought we had lost them, but fortunately they called again, so we were able to catch up to them and watch them through the scope.
We continued on to Upper Klamath Lake, where we stumbled into a flock of warblers and chickadees. This flock contained both Townsend's and Hermit Warblers, plus one or two hybrids of those species. We also ticked off all three of Oregon's chickadees: Chestnut-backed, Black-capped, and Mountain. We ended the day by heading back to Fort Klamath for another (but unsuccessful) try for Great Gray Owl. During the drive through the woods, I happened to notice the profile of a Ruffed Grouse just off the road. From the back of the van, I yelled for Bob to stop and back up. Luckily, the grouse was still sitting in the same spot when we returned. It was a great view.
We made our way back to Portland the next day, picking up a few birds along the way, primarily at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge in the Willamette Valley. Acorn Woodpecker, an apparent hybrid Red-shafted X Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, and our best looks at Western Scrub-Jay were some of the highlights here. Once back in Portland, we had to make a decision. A Red-necked Stint was seen over the previous several days at Siuslaw River Estuary, a spot where we had been earlier in the tour, but before the stint was found. We put a vote to the group whether they wanted to stick with the original itinerary or to make the drive back to the coast to look for the stint. The stint won, so for the last full day of the tour, we got up early and started driving.
We arrived at the estuary to find several other birders already looking. The bad news was that it wasn't seen yet that day. Long story short, an all-day vigil did not yield a stint. We did, however, get great close-up looks at a Wrentit while we waited. In the afternoon, Bob took the group to the jetties to look for Wandering Tattler. They were successful. While they were gone, another birder and I noticed a raptor heading north toward us. It turned out to be a Rough-legged Hawk, which would be a great bird for the tour. The only problem was that Bob and the group were still at the jetties. Fortunately, we both had cell phones, so I was able to call and tell Bob that a Rough-legged was headed his way. He scrambled everyone back to the van, and they headed back to a good vantage point. I was able to describe the bird's movements and position to Bob, and he managed to spot it. It was our last new bird of the tour, and a great one seen in quite an interesting way.
19-27 October 2000
1) LAYSAN ALBATROSS: great looks on the pelagic trip
2) Great Gray Owl: quick but awesome
3) Ferruginous Hawk: a big surprise
4) White-headed Woodpecker: finally!
5) Williamson's Sapsucker: thanks to Hawkeye Jo
6) Harlequin Duck: the drakes at the jetty.....
7) Merlin: on our final morning
8) Leach's Storm-Petrel: good bird so close to shore
9) California Quail: lots of nice looks
10) Short-tailed Albatross: WOW!
Additional highlights included barking California Sea Lions, howling Coyotes, and a silent California Newt. We also enjoyed the rare and unique Mare's Eggs.
COASTAL OREGON & the KLAMATH VALLEY:
1-9 October 1999
1) Williamson's Sapsucker
2) White-headed Woodpecker
3) Western Grebe
4) Harlequin Duck
5) American White Pelican
6) Mountain Bluebird
7) Virginia Rail
8) Three-toed Woodpecker
9) Steller's Jay
10) Short-tailed Shearwater tied with Red Crossbill
Some of the favorite mammals included Gray Whales feeding, Harbor Seals basking on the rocks, Elk drinking from a river, and a close look at a Yellow-bellied Marmot.