Monday, May 04, 2015

Bayocean Spit

Day one of our three day stay in Tillamook and we spent the morning at Bayocean Spit. Unlike our drive down from Seattle yesterday in glorious sunshine the weather today was overcast with occasional clear periods and a high of 14C.

Long-billed Dowicher feeding just of road - Dee Yates
Bayocean Spit is only around 8 miles from the hotel and during  the drive down we came across around twenty or so Long-billed Dowicher, which were feeding in a small off-road pool. The route passes through meadows and along the edge of Tillamook Bay so it's worth keeping an eye out for any hunting raptors, on this occasion a couple of Turkey Vulture were busy scouring. Before parking we took a slow drive along the waters edge and here at least a dozen Great Blue Heron, over 100 Double-crested Cormorant at rest and a couple of Spotted Sandpiper, which were pretty close in.

Spotted Sandpiper - Bayocean Spit
To truly appreciate the variation in habitat there is an eight mile circular walk, locally called 'The Tillamook Death March' so Dee and I decided on a more comfortable approach with a sedate four mile hike. This took us north along the bay shore and provided good views of the bay and access to the woods and salal thickets. Orange-crowned Warbler and White-crowned Sparrow appeared in small numbers but by far the most prolific species was the Rufous Hummingbird, with over thirty recorded during our walk. Another Swallow to add to our list with Tree Swallow and a single Swift Sp. flew through high overhead, most likely a Vaux's Swift.

Record shot of Western Grebe in the morning gloom
A first scan Off-shore produced (2) Pigeon Guillemot, (5) Common Loon, (9) Western Grebe, various numbers of Surf Scoter, Scaup, Bufflehead, and a single Great Egret. We were lucky enough to meet a couple of local birders, always a great source of information and enjoyed around a half hours birding together with: Western Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, a single Ring-billed Gull, (2) Bald Eagle and (3) Caspian Terns.

A young Bald Eagle - sadly the gloomy sky and +3 on the camera doesn't help the image!
They were good enough to tip us off about a Pacific-slope Flycatcher they'd heard in the wooded area ahead and as we approached a Northern Flicker flew high into the canopy. About a half way through the wood the Flycatcher could clearly be heard calling from within the thick cover but the best we could manage were a couple of very brief views as it flitted around. Despite our attempts, disappointingly we never did quite make a decent contact. As we reached the end of the wood a commotion alerted us to a young Bald Eagle, which literally landed in the dead tree directly above us offering some stunning views!

Rufous Hummingbird - It seemed like one was perched on top of every branch - Dee Yates
More Rufous Hummingbirds, including display flight, on the return route to the car, along with Song Sparrow, Wilson's Warbler and Pacific Wren. With the tide now almost fully in we began to see several flocks of Western Sandpiper and also of note was a large flock of circa 200 Brant Geese. A bird we'd especially wanted to see was the White-tailed Kite, a lifer for us and a speciality in the area. So we were delighted when one drifted over as we approached the parking area, an amazing ghostly looking bird that hovers while looking for prey. Finally, the drive back along the causeway produced a single Black Phoebe, a pair of Canvasback and Coopers Hawk.