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Oregon to Oklahoma

 June 2003

Part 2:  Coos Bay

   

Took off before the crack of dawn towards Coos Bay the next morning, stopping briefly at a little covered bridge wayside station, where I picked up American Goldfinches singing at the top of their lungs, plus a calling Western Wood Pewee, a burbling Purple Finch, and both Violet-green and Cliff Swallows swooping around.  The Oregon bird finding guide mentioned Shore Acres State Park, so that was the primary destination, taking state highway 42 to Coos Bay and then just following the signs. On the way you got a terrific view of the estuary, and since there was a pullout I stopped and dragged the scope out, and I’m glad I did: besides the regular Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls (interesting that I didn’t see any obvious Olympic Gulls) had what I thought was a big flock of Black Scoters, both Great Blue Heron and Great Egret, and the real treat: several Pigeon Guillemot! I later took off Black Scoter from the list cuz at Oregon Dunes we saw what were obviously Surf Scoters upon closer inspection, but at a distance all you could see were orange bills on the young males, and they sure looked like Blacks! A Black-capped Chickadee called in the background of all of this…

Continuing on I saw a sign to South Slough Estuarine Reserve, so we swung in there to check that out. It was a terrific little place (and there was indeed a Brown Bin sign making me wish those Oregon Brown Bin books were still in print), and I wish in hindsight that I had driven down to the trailhead to the estuary (I ended up walking up that killer road after taking the Ten-Minute Trail), because it had boardwalks and looked as though it got right down to the water. But as it was I took a wonderful walk through the woods, picking up tons of Wrentits (kind of an incongruous habitat for them), Black-headed Grosbeak, Winter Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, lots of Rufous Hummingbirds, Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, and Western Tanager. On that aforementioned killer hike up the gravel road added a pair of Vaux’s Swifts overhead, plus a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Back at the interpretive center a Tree Swallow came at me head on and gurgled.

        

Orange-crowned Warbler along the Ten-Minute Trail at South Slough Estuarine Reserve  

There was another trail down the road called the Wasson Creek Trail, where at the head there were bunches of wheezy warblers singing that just wouldn’t come out, but I suspect were Hermit, based on what the bird-finding guide said. Down at the bottom of the creekbed were Marsh Wrens and Yellowthroats, and at the turnaround point had a Band-tailed Pigeon cooing. It was a nice wide creek and very picturesque; we took a quick run down to the canoe launching place and took some pictures at the bridge.

         

Scenes along the Wasson Creek Trail

Since we artists technically didn’t have to start setting up for the ABA Convention until Monday morning, I decided not to worry about getting into Eugene by early afternoon, and instead took my time checking out the coastal parks, seeing as that was what I really wanted to see anyway. There were actually several state parks side by side, but I headed on in to Shore Acres since that was the one that was recommended. You had to pay to get into the botanical garden part of it, but that’s where the spectacular scenery was, and along the great little coastal trail was the best scene of the day: several Pigeon Guillemots on the rocks below just having a big time! Also had great looks at fly-by Pelagic Cormorants, and a Royal Tern flew by over the water (found out later that was a write-in bird; maybe they’re not supposed to be here)!

      

Sunset Bay? (just north of Shore Acres State Park) With close-up of the rock with nesting cormorants

          

View along the Botanical Garden’s Coastal Trail with Pelagic Cormorants—adults have white flanks only in breeding plumage

             

Pigeon Guillemots on the rocks

       

More scenes along the trail

         

       

Iris sp., and Western Gull on “holey” ground 

Headed further south, where another pullout (Simpson Reef) had a view of no less than four species of pinnipeds: California and Steller’s Sea Lions, and Harbor and Elephant Seals! There were also plenty of cormorants way out there, but with the wind shaking the scope I couldn’t tell if they were Brandt’s or not. A string of Brown Pelicans flew by, which the on-site docents were excited about, but I didn’t think anything of it until doing the checklist and discovering they weren’t on it!

Down at the end of the road at Cape Arago was a trail that switchbacked quite steeply down to the cove, but it was worth it: there was a big flock of Western Grebes (and a token Clark’s) floating around in there, as well as several Common Murres and a Red-throated Loon! Talk about hitting the jackpot! There were also lots of Golden-crowned Kinglets singing away, but they wouldn’t come out of course…

       

Simpson Reef, a favorite piniped haul-out joint (yellow arrow points out a Steller's Sea Lion).  At right, various hauled-out pinipeds (mostly California Sea Lions)

        

Trail at Cape Arago 

                        

Western Grebe and Common Murre

Was content to go home after that, with another quick stop at the first cove where someone had put out bread for the gulls, giving great studies of all ages of both species (with some really ratty-looking ones, too). The drive to Eugene was spectacular, especially past Oregon Dunes NRA where I picked up Osprey for the day, and heading east on 126, where I picked up Warbling Vireo in the campground where I took a quick nap, and some Black Terns in the wetland just outside of Eugene.

Finally found the Hilton, where I felt like a wreck but went into the Sales Room after unloading my personal stuff.  Despite feeling and looking (and probably smelling) crummy, I unloaded all the artwork as well and then parked the car in the garage. After changing my shirt I went down to set up, and we had a nice reunion: Doug Pratt had been commissioned to illustrate the new book on Phoebe Snetsinger, and the first thing I saw in the corner was a Philippine Eagle head! Needless to say we made a deal on that one!  Jon Alderfer also joined us; I sure missed the Sills and Lydia!

After finishing that up I came back to the room, showered, and ordered a nice juicy piece of prime rib to chew on for dinner!

     

Gulls on the way out—the above flock consists of Western Gulls, but the jury is still out on the bird at right: a young Glaucous Gull perhaps????

  

A clear Western/Glaucous-winged hybrid, dubbed "Olympic" Gull 

       

Scenes on the way to Eugene...

        

Passing by Oregon Dunes NRA.  At right, the yellow stuff is called gorse: while pretty, it’s an invasive plant from Britain that takes over the clear-cut areas.

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