Thursday, December 6, 2018

Seabirds and Shorebirds on the Shores of Seaside

I now take you on a short break from our trip to Europe this summer to present you some fun times at the coast. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we are totally in love with the Oregon coast – the rocky shores, the scenery, the marine mammals, and, of course, the birds.

Astoria-Megler Bridge

A large flock of Dunlin as we look over Young's Bay


Northern Harrier

Our most recent long weekend trip was to Astoria, one of my favorite (maybe my #1?) spot on the Oregon coast with it’s great natural areas, stunning views, and delicious food. (Plus, Goonies never die). And one of the best parts about the drive up are the stops along the way, including Cannon Beach and Seaside. Seaside has a couple of real gems for birding, including a water treatment facility and a little cove that is always busy with surfers.

Big cobblestones line the shore at Seaside Cove

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Glaucous-Winged Gull

There’s a nice little trail (although, maybe a little smelly at times) around the sewage treatment plant. I guess birds love stinky places. We have had luck finding Black Phoebes there, and this time, we found two Palm Warblers! Once a regular in our East Coast days, now it’s a treat to see these little golden, tail-pumping cuties in Oregon. These guys were especially posing for photos as it approached sweet light time.

Palm Warlber being cute

I mean, really cute

Now he's playing peek-a-boo?!

What a darling!

What we would call a field guide photo of a Palm Warbler

Give me some of that sweet light warbling

At Seaside Cove, we have had luck finding alcids and other great birds, including a rare and lovely female Steller’s Eider earlier this year. This time, we stumbled upon a Rock Sandpiper! This was only our second sighting of this species in Oregon. The first time was earlier this year, as well, when we spotted two in Newport. This little guy was hanging out with a gang of Black Turnstones and Surfbirds.

Where's the Rock Sandpiper?

There he is!

Rock Sandpiper

We were taking a quick little car nap when I was awoken by all of the shorebird chatter right outside the car. And lo and behold, this Rock Sandpiper was just chilling out in the middle of all of this silly squeaks and squabbles going on with the turnstones. He’s been there for a few weeks even now, despite getting some grief from the Surfbirds. And oh, we saw our first Harbor Porpoises! There was at least one, but maybe 2 or 3 of them in the harbor. We could see their little dark dorsal fins, and it was really exciting!

Rock Sandpiper

Surfbird playing nice with a Rock Sandpiper 

Oops! Maybe not...

In Astoria, we found our new little favorite spot for ducks. Hundreds of them speckled the water as we watched the gorgeous sunset behind one of the bridges. We went back again each morning, too.

Sunset in Astoria

Sunset at Young's Bay

Firey oranges at sunset

On the beach, there was not too much stirring except for the small flocks of Sanderlings that anxiously run back and forth in the surf, feeding on the little invertebrates but then avoiding the tiny rushes of water at all cost if possible. They are hilarious to watch, and it never gets old!

Chow time!

Run, run, run!

The mighty Pacific and tiny Sanderlings

This pic makes me laugh!


No paparazzi!

Single Standing Sanderling

Double Standing Sanderlings

On our way back home, we decided to stop at Seaside Cove again. The shorebirds, including the Rock Sandpiper were still there. They were down the shoreline and hanging near a group of Harlequin Ducks. There were 19 of them – the most we’d ever seen all together! I scooched my way down the cobblestone beach to get a closer look at all of the birds, but still staying quite distant. Nick stayed up higher to let me try to sneak some photos. I perched myself and snapped some photos, waiting for maybe the Harlequins to swim by me.

Black Turnstone

Rock Sandpiper

Surfbird and Black Turnstone

Then suddenly, the flock of shorebirds flew directly in front of me! They were probably about 35 ft just carrying on, chattering as before and jumping around nervously when the waves crashed. I giggled to myself at such luck! Of all the places along the shore to land, they came right in front of me.

Black Turnstone


Black Turnstone tucked in

A little bit of preening

Oh, and then what’s this? The Harlequin Ducks soon followed. First two, then four, then all of them came right near me, swimming by just past the shorebirds. And then the group eventually mostly settled in maybe about 70 feet away just off to the side of the shorebirds, swimming around the bigger rocks, hopping up on the rocks, stretching their wings, and just plain looking gorgeous!

I just can’t get enough of these ducks. They are just quite stunning. No one, and I mean NO one, can deny their beauty. The females are definitely much more subdued, but still pretty stinking cute.

I took this time to really soak it all in, observing these beautiful ducks and noticing how the light would hit their chestnutty flanks and that little bit of metallic, cornflower blue in their wings. Their striking pattern is like no other. And man, when they are facing you and then bend their head down and you see that wild pattern on their head with more chestnut and two bold white spots on the side of their head, it’s just crazy.

I must have sat there for at least an hour, looking back and forth from the shorebirds to the Harlequins, just basking in my birdy fortune. Nick patiently sat behind me keeping an eye on the birds farther out and yelling things out to make sure I saw them, too. Bonaparte’s Gulls! Heermann’s Gulls! He wouldn’t dream of making me leave, so I eventually just had to pull myself away and say farewell to these beauties. I hope you enjoy the great looks I got just as much as I did.

Here I am in action!


  1. CRIPPLING. I have seen a lot of Harlequin Ducks but never as close as that, awesome.

    1. Right?! It was such a joy to have them so close to me! :)

  2. Really great ducks! Cool that there were so many so close.

  3. Wow, they are pretty awesome-looking ducks! Thanks for sharing your amazing pics!

    1. Thanks, Emma! Glad you enjoyed the pics. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. How amazing! What a treat for you -- and for us vicariously! :)

  5. I just love harlequins and surfbirds great shots and write up