Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon, July 15, 2018
The Tufted Puffin is a seabird that nests on sea cliffs and sea rocks along the Pacific Coast at varying densities from northern California up to near-northern Alaska. It also nests along the coast of northern Asia. They are the largest puffin species! One reliable and accessible breeding spot in Oregon is Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. When visiting Haystack Rock in late-June and early July, the adults make roundtrips between the ocean and their nests to feed their chick. Seeing them in flight is best because they typically disappear into their burrows once making contact with the ground. Low tide is also best, and so is early morning before the summer crowds arrive (for many good reasons, Cannon Beach is a very popular beach town spot on the Oregon Coast; arrive after noon and you will not find parking in this town).
Although most visitors to Cannon Beach are not interested in the puffins, and many are not even aware of them (I enthusiastically told the bartender at the local pub that I had “just seen the puffins,” and I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I was talking about), the town itself does give a lot of foxes about their puffins. The City of Cannon Beach Haystack Awareness Program, which through things like stewardship and education, promotes the preservation of Haystack Rock and the fauna that depend on it. Also, because Haystack Rock is a designated Marine Garden and National Wildlife Refuge, protections are in place to prevent people from messin’ about in ways that might negatively affect the flora and fauna on the rock (no climbing, collecting, or harassing).
The Tufted Puffin broke me out of my stuck-at-200-species rut. I also saw three additional new species at Haystack Rock that day: Pigeon Guillemots, Brown Pelicans, and Heermann’s Gull. After a month of beings stuck at 200, I was back in the game.
New Birds for 2018: 4
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 204!
It also didn’t help that I was out of Oregon for almost half of July in the Canadian Maritimes. Cue the Atlantic Puffin! Yes, I saw TWO puffin species in July! That’s 50% of the world’s puffin species (my Dad informed me of this!).
BONUS TRACK: Bird Islands IBA; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada; July 2, 2018
We flew out to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in late June, for a 1.5-week Maritimes trip with my family from Ontario, Canada. I think I heard White-throated Sparrows at every place we stopped in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. “Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.” I also reacquainted myself with my eastern warbler pals, e.g., the Northern Parula and American Restart. The highlight was the puffins, though. I managed to convince a few of my family members to accompany me on a pelagic trip out to Bird Islands, off the coast of Cape Breton, to see the Atlantic Puffins. This was my first pelagic trip, and it was wonderful. There are a few companies that offer these short pelagic trips to see the puffins, and I’m sure they are all awesome. We chose Donelda’s Puffin Tour, and I highly recommend it. Also, contrary to the Tufted Puffin, the Atlantic Puffin is the smallest puffin species!