With my dad retiring from his job this month, it was time to take a trip to Oregon to help celebrate. First stop was at my parents' house in St. Helens, where a skunk visited us on the first night. It's a blurry picture because I didn't want to use flash and scare it, but it's amazing how close we got - pretty much face to face! Skunks are amazingly beautiful animals up close, but a bit oddly shaped: narrow and small up front, and higher and wider in the hind quarters.
My parents' feeders remain very active, with pine siskins, chickadees, juncos, Steller's jays, flickers, nuthatches, squirrels, and rufous hummingbirds:
Next up it was time to head to Happy Camp Beach in Netarts on the Oregon Coast for a long weekend's worth of celebrations with family and close friends. We rented a cabin with space for 12 people overlooking Netarts Bay. During low tides you could see up to 30 harbor seals hauled out on the sand spit, and also visible were common loons, surf scoters, red-breasted mergansers, western gulls, and sometimes large flock of brant (137).
On Saturday two of us hiked the Cape Lookout trail, which winds mostly through the woods but also offers stunning coastal views in places to both the north and the south:
There were probably a dozen or more wildflower species in bloom, including two types of violet, candyflower, twinflower, a paintbrush species, salmonberry, wild ginger and:
|Western trillium (Trillium ovatum)|
|Fairybell species? (Disporum sp.)|
|Oregon oxalis or wood sorrel (Oxalis oregana)|
While we had a bit of everything weather-wise over the course of the weekend, it was warm, clear, and sunny when we got to the end of Cape Lookout.
There was a lot of bird activity, including a raft of 500 or so common murres and one or two hundred Pacific loons, all flying from south to north. A pair of Caspian terns (138) flew by, as did a pair of ravens, and we could hear orange-crowned and Townsends warblers (139) singing. There relative calm was broken up by a cackling commotion that turned out to be a pair of peregrine falcons. It was pretty awesome from such a high vantage point to look down on them from above:
When other people at the lookout left, we were quiet enough that a ground squirrel was bold enough to come out and grab a few flower buds:
We spent about half an hour out there enjoying the sights and sounds and scanning for whales. It's past the peak of the gray whale migration, but it shouldn't be over entirely and Oregon has a small coastal resident population in the summer. I was disappointed not to see any, but I figured it wasn't to be, so we started back up the trail. I stopped at another small overlook and was just framing a picture when I heard the distinct kawoof of a whale taking a breath. There was my gray whale for the day, and it was pretty close! We saw it surface four times before diving. We walked back out to the end thinking we would see it again rounding the point, but it wasn't to be, so I was thankful we saw it at all.
The weather was supposed to be even nicer on Sunday, but instead it was drizzly all day. That didn't stop a group of us from helping my dad with a COASST survey, and unlike on my always empty San Juan Island beach, we found (parts of) five stranded sea birds: one glaucous-winged gull, three western gulls, and the wing of an alcid of some kind. I was also surprised when someone found some mushrooms growing right out of the sand near the grassy high beach. I've never seen that before! I wonder if there was wood or some other organic matter buried beneath?
Another surprise sighting was a brief look at a white-tailed kite (140) cruising the cliffs above!
After lunch a few of us headed over to Cape Meares, one of my favorite state parks along the Oregon Coast. Last time I was there the Cape Meares Lighthouse had just been vandalized and was closed, but it was open again (though with some bullet holes remaining in some of the irreplaceable glass panes) and we got to take a tour to the top.
There were more Caspian terns, common murres, and pelagic cormorants to be seen, and we also found one red-necked grebe. My dad added a whopping seven year birds here since he was still missing a lot of the common oceanic species, but I just added one that I was surprised wasn't on my list already: hairy woodpecker (141).
Inshore of the lighthouse we also took the short trail to see the Octopus Tree, a large Sitka spruce with eight living trunks that is an Oregon Heritage Tree:
The weather was beautiful again on Monday, but after a morning walk on the beach it was time to head back to Portland. We stopped on the way off a tip from a friend at the Tillamook Forest Center, where we found an American dipper (142) right under the suspension bridge just as described.
My parents had somewhere to be in the afternoon, so we spent a lazy couple of hours reading outside in the warm sunshine and enjoying the local wildlife. In addition to all the species I saw when we arrived, there were also mourning doves and band-tailed pigeons, and a single yellow-rumped warbler:
My parents' little pond was also bustling with micro flora and fauna. It's kind of hard to tell in the picture, but this is one of two clumps of frog eggs that I saw, with tadpoles well on their way developing:
In addition to all the great nature sightings, we had a great long weekend filled with fun games, good food, and great company. Thanks to everyone who came, and congrats Dad on your retirement!!!