Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let plovers nest in peace! Save the snowy plovers.... (#278-279)

We are nearing the end of the journey (well, it kept going, but the birding slowed down a bit as we hit urban centres and finally arrived at our ultimate destination). We stayed in a log cabin in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and hit the dunes in the morning. I wasn't sure what to expect, but had seen some images of this unique area. I was a little annoyed by the gazillion dune buggies---I just don't get it!

The dunes are a long area of the Oregon Coast and we accessed them near Coos Bay. We did the long walk down the dunes (knowing it would be a fun climb back up again). When we came back up again, two rangers had set up a little table and had information on the dunes and ...birds! The one ranger was a university student and so helpful--I asked her what birds I could be seeing at that time and what I might have missed and she mentioned that there were western snowy plovers around. These tiny birds are threatened and long sections of the beach have been roped off, as well as signs and warnings indicating that motorized vehicles are not allowed in the beach during certain times (it's a bit odd...everybody drives their trucks on the beach there). Dogs are also a huge threat, scaring the birds away from their nest and wasting precious energy. Apparently, there were as few as 28 nesting birds in 1992 but they are now up to at least 231--a step in the right direction, for sure! She pointed me to a location where we might see them.

We drove there and walked a long ways down the shore not really seeing anything. First of all, it was really foggy and you couldn't really see all that far, and secondly because there were no birds! And also no people. It's crazy how much shoreline there is, and how few people are on it. Just at some at the main stops, but there are just not enough people to fill up all that beach, plus it's really too cold to do any sunbathing or swimming, so everyone just walks the beach and checks out the rocks and beachcombs generally.

Knowing chances would be really slim of seeing this bird anywhere else, we walked all the way down the beach as far as we could, at least 30 minutes. Finally, Matt yells my name quite urgently and laughs--pointing out this bird that is so tiny...so tiny this little bird weighs only 1.4 oz--scurrying along the beach. Scurrying, stopping in its tracks, scurrying some more. So sweet. And so white and fluffy. That tiny little bird totally won my heart.

You can check out this site for more information on the snowy plover and conservation efforts at http://www.westernsnowyplover.org/. I'd recommend you read up on this special little bird.

#278: Snowy Plover, Oregon Dunes, August 2013
I swear little snowy you are not just a number to me!
Check out the teeny tiny bands on its legs
After we noticed the plover, we started to see a few other birds, including some gnarly terns nearby, a few gulls eating dead crabs on the beach and a small sandpiper, that I almost thought was another plover.
Gull with Caspian Terns

Western sandpiper

Our last section before heading into Portland was Seaside to Astoria. We spent an extra day there than we had planned, hanging out with some amazing Warm Showers/Couchsurfing people we had met, relaxing, cooking, going to a karaoke bar, and for me at least, shooting the hummingbirds through the kitchen window. :)
Yes. It's sticking it's tongue out. At me?
I headed back to the archives for a better look and I'm glad I didn't delete this shot because this is the confirmation I need that these were rufous humingbirds :)

#278: Rufous Hummingbird; Seaside, Oregon, August 2013
Little bird playing peekabo shows the white tips of his tail. YES!
Another angle
On that note--more developments on the redwoods hummingbirds. here's proof that Matt did see Anna's. I went back and found this among the pics from that day....but none of them turned out, sadly--either super over or underexposed. But I think we can safely agree that the previous posted bird wasn't an Anna's and this one is--they are pretty clearly different!
You can find friends anywhere. I love that these experiences are so short but so intense.
I love you Oregon.
This was on all the cars in OR. I think I know why.

It's nice taking a while before doing these posts after a trip (I'm justifying my slacker habits here) because it's been nice to revisit the trip. I think just one more west coast post to come. It will be a familiar bird but a funny one. See you soon :)

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