Saturday, April 23, 2016

Extolling the Virtues of Bandon

I know I should be posting photos from our trip to Malheur last weekend, and I will shortly, but first I wanted to quickly extol the virtues of Bandon while the weather temporarily keeps me indoors. Maureen has Audubon business to attend to this weekend, which has brought us down to Coos County, the farthest south along the Oregon coast we've yet visited.

Maureen says this looks like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. She's not wrong

After a brief stop at Tugman State Park for fleeting, partial glimpses of a Wrentit (is there any other way to see them?), we drove the rest of the way to Bandon, where our motel overlooks some of the most beautiful coastline we've ever seen, just in time for the most gorgeous sunset we've ever seen.

Western Gull feeding frenzy in the distance

The view was no less spectacular in the daylight, and at low tide we were able to inspect some invertebrates, like the velella velellas and leaf barnacles, while nearby oystercatcher picked at whatever else it could find.

Velella velella

Leaf Barnacles

After dropping Maureen off I wandered the beaches hoping I wouldn't find anything too spectacular without her, and failing miserably. We had seen a Whimbrel together in the early morning (year bird!), but now I spied a flock of nine about half a mile up. I gambled that the tide wouldn't suddenly cut off my retreat and started sprinting in their direction. "Do you see whales?" queried as I flashed by them. "Curlews!" I returned, and looking to see the utter confusion I wrought before turning back to my prize.


Once I got within photo ranged, I noticed that one of these things was not like the others. It turned out there were only eight Whimbrels, and a lone Marbled Godwit. Every once and a while a wave would overwhelm them and they'd fly off together, leading me like so many Pied Pipers away from shelter.

Whimbrels and a Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

I eventually managed to turn back, when I just as easily could have followed them south until I found myself in California. I was eager to get back now as it had started sprinkling, but now I came across a pair of Caspian Terns - another awesome bird that would would waylay me as the tide inched relentlessly higher and higher. One other sighting on the return trip was a Surf Scoter commingling with a Red-breasted Merganser right at the shoreline. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down pretty hard by now.

Caspian Terns

They didn't particularly like being strafed by a crow

The mounds of volcanic rock that made for such a glorious sunset last night looked increasingly violent as the winds picked up, looking more like a Winslow Homer painting now.

But a little while later, the weather calmed and I was able to go out in search of Black Oystercatchers. I could see some way off to the north, and prayed they would stay put. We've had some great close encounters with this species lately, but always sans camera. Not today. Not now.

Black Oystercatchers

Before I wrap up, I should note that there are some crazy seabird colonies here. Every one of those rock mounds hosts thousands of Common Murres, Western Gulls, and Pelagic Cormorants. I've got the lowdown on where to look for Tufted Puffins later, with some luck this post will need some updating.

Seabird colony - mostly Common Murres


  1. Great birds! I can't get enough of Whimbrels. The best sunset I ever saw was also in Bandon. Must be something about those rocks.

    1. These rocks! I can't get enough. There are too many places in Oregon that I want to be all the time.

  2. Damn, I need to go there! This has been excellent inspiration. "There are too many places in Oregon that I want to be all the time." should be our state motto or your tagline or something.

    1. You won't regret the trip! The area around Face Rock, where we saw the Puffin, might be my favorite stretch of coast so far. As for the state motto, Oregon's already thinking along the right lines (I just looked this up) - "Alis volt propriis" meaning "She flies with her own wings". Nice.

  3. Ahhh yeah. Oregon trip. Stoked.
    Black Oystercatchers. Stoked.

    Kinda lame to be saying stoke. Still stoked

    1. Stoke away, my friend. You're going to have a great time - Oregon won't disappoint!

  4. All your photos are excellent Nicholas! Those rocks in the sunset are just beautiful -- what camera/lens are you using? I love all the shorebirds, but out of all of them, I've seen only Marbled Godwits.

    1. Thanks, Charlotte! It's a special place, that I'm definitely looking forward to going back to. Godwits are great birds - I wish we got to see them more often. I was using Maureen's Canon EOS 60D w/ Canon EF 100-400mm.