Shorebird Confusion at the Coast

We no longer live 1 hour from the coast. It’s more like 2 hours now, so we have yet to make the trip since we moved north. In late January, we decided to head to Cannon Beach, the birthplace of our PNW love.

We started (birding of course) at Ecola State Park, which was a new stop for both of us. It was mostly be accident. When we entered the town of Cannon Beach, we turned right at some point, then drove down a very long road through an enchanting forest to Ecola State Park.

This park is breathtaking, and I’m happy that it’s the closest part of the coast to our house.

I need to visit the coast more often because my shorebird ID needs some work. Almost every time I see shorebirds, it’s like I’m starting over in bird ID. I guess that keeps things interesting, and I’m glad I have a decent camera that allows me to bring home bird ID homework.

Surfbirds that I originally thought were Black Turnstones.
But there were a few Black Turnstones! They just were not ALL BLTUs. Compare this individual’s bill colour to the Surfbird’s in the previous photograph. Eh? The Surfbird’s bill has orange at the base. This guy? All black.
Medley of both Black Turnstones and Surfbirds.
I believe these are mostly Surfbirds taking off because they lack the white stripe on their backs (that Black Turnstones have).
Some Surf Scoters getting testy with each other.
Black Oystercatchers looking ridiculous as always
I do love the Oregon Coast.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.
Harlequin Ducks, always a pleasure.

January 28, 2018

When not surprisingly showing up along the Oregon coast, the Steller’s Eider, a wee sea duck, spends its time much further north, breeding in freshwater tundra ponds and spending its non-breeding hours in nearshore, shallow marine waters. Their worldwide range is coastal Alaska, northern Russia, and northeastern Europe. Sadly, the species is in decline, and the Steller’s Eider is federally listed as threatened.

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game[1]:

Almost all Steller’s eiders nest in northeastern Siberia, with less than 1% of the population breeding in North America … In the winter, most of the world’s Steller’s eiders are found in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.

This winter 2018, a female Steller’s Eider showed up in Seaside Cove, Oregon, in nearshore waters. This is the fourth time in birding-recorded history[2] that this species has shown up in Oregon. Looking back at my rarebird emails, Ms. Eider was first recorded at Seaside this year on or near January 13, 2018. She has been sticking around this area for weeks now and has been very cooperative for birders. Few if any days have gone by since January 13 where the eider doesn’t show up on the daily rare birds reports.

For various reasons, I did not get out to see Ms. Eider until this past weekend. She was incredibly cooperative for us, and even flew closer to shore to provide me with a spectacular view. She also did not mind the surfers who swam quite close to her. With just my binoculars, I could see her chunky bill and the white borders or her speculum. We spent a little more than 1 hour here at Seaside Cove, appreciating this rare sighting and catching some more species. How on earth did she end up down here? Would she find her way back to Alaska? I felt a bit sad while I watched this little brown nugget of a duck and pondered her fate.

Seaside Cove Highlights:

Steller’s Eider* (lifer!)
Harlequin Duck* (lifer!)
Surf Scoter*
Horned Grebe*
Pelagic Cormorant* (lifer!)
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull*

Other highlights from these past two weeks include Golden-crowned Sparrows* at Riverside Park in Salem, Oregon, and a Mute Swan* (likely a domestic escapee; counting it for now) in the Willamette Slough at Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem, Oregon.

STEI

Steller’s Eider; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Landscape

Surfers; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

SFSC

Surf Scoters; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

PLCO

Pelagic Cormorant;  Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

HRGL

Herring Gull; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

HLDC

Harlequin Ducks; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

landscape2

Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

HRGB

Horned Grebe (with a fish!); Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

musw

Mute Swan; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; January 15, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 8
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 76

[1] Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2018. Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri). Species Profile. Available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=stellerseider.main. Accessed January 29, 2018.
[2] Oregon Birding Association. 2017. The Records of the Oregon Birds Records Committee.  Available at: http://orbirds.org/recordsdec2017.pdf. Accessed January 29, 2018.