Oregon then

Our birding vacations in recent years tend to be one week long and to somewhere within 4-5 hours of travel. This year, 2014, they had also been restricted to the ABA recording area to maximise my ABA year list and to try to push on to that milestone, 600 ABA birds. Given unlimited finance and time, I am certain that I would be tempted to try to do a 700 ABA year, but you cut your cloth and so our last jaunt of the year would be to somewhere USA.

In planning, we considered a few options. Arizona is an obvious possibility but our June trip with the in-laws had already taken us there and, for now, somewhere previously unexplored was our preference. Southern California was also a possibility but the planets did not quite align or that one. A factor for any trip would be the opportunity to do a pelagic trip but they are fewer than you would think and the content of any such trip would also be important. For that reason we discarded an east coast trip. Not because they don’t get the pelagic birds, especially off the Carolinas, but because it is near enough to do without taking a week off to do it.

When people think birding the west coast they don’t immediately think of Oregon, especially with ‘big brother’ California to the south, but Oregon has much to offer and it soon became clear to us that we could have a good time there, even if a week would not even scratch the surface. There was also a pelagic on offer, one with a very tasty selection of predicted sea birds and even the chance of a rarity, such is October offshore.

eBird is an invaluable reference but obviously limited to the data that you can actually access and the quality of the information entered. I take it as a good guide line, a starting point for places to look rather than a site bible, you might say I take everything in there with a pinch of salt. I found a couple of relevant site finding guides on the web and bought them but I couldn’t find a ‘Birds of Oregon’ at a reasonable price and so couldn’t really gen-up as I would have liked to.

Once the pelagic spots had been reserved we picked out a hotel in the town of Newport and set to sorting out our birding itinerary. An rfi to the Oregon listserv was generously responded too and our choice of routes became finalised. We flew into Portland, nice town, lousy traffic, and made our way to Newport via a wide selection of road works. Initially bird life was nil but once we broke out of urban area a few short stops populated the embryonic trip list.

We arrived in Newport late afternoon and checked in. The nice lady on the counter looked at our reservation and immediately knocked $50 off, they were having a special that weekend and she though we should be included. There was enough light to sit on the balcony and scan the sea and beach. Mew Gull and Glaucous-winged Gulls became the only year list additions but, as a larid fan, I was quite happy to see them again.

Our first full day saw us up before dawn and on the headland at Boiler Bay, just north of Newport. The sun shone and the birds flew past and a pleasant time was had by all until we met a local chap. Initially he just chatted, birds, fish – he was a Tuna fisherman – the weather, then he made the alarm bells statement, “how can you be surrounded by so much wildlife and not believe in god” (lower case, many people believe in more than one!). Suddenly an amiable chat turned into something else and no amount of respecting other people’s belief while retaining the right to choose what you believe yourself was going to deflect him.

Many topics were aired such as Global Warming (god’s will), religious extremism (only his club seemed to be deemed not extreme) and the bible (written by god but, as I kept pointing out, using pens held by men). It was harmless enough, just a bit irritating when you only want to watch your first Grey Whales in peace. I also have a habit of poking the Hornet’s nest and so steered the talk to the disparity between the sexes, and the thorny topic of, why do religious teachings hold women as inferior to men? His answer was enough to send Sandra off to the loo and me packing up the scope. “Because that is how god wants it to be” he said. Sadly millions of people think this way too and, in nine words, holy Joe summed up exactly why our species is so screwed.

The rest of the day we spent moving between sites looking for birds. We ended the day on a dead end road looking out over the Siletz Estuary where gulls and shorebirds entertained us. The shorebirds were mostly distant but active and we managed to pick out Pacific Golden Plover amongst the Black-bellied flock plus a few more year birds.

Photographic opportunities were not too many, but I got a few snaps to decorate the page.

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Not a Northwest Crow but a crow in the Northwest.

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Glaucous-winged Gull – pure I hope.

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Black Oystercatcher hiding.

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At the risk of stating the obvious – the western form of White-crowned Sparrow.

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