Notes, birds, nature, meanderings.

Musings about birds, nature, and our meanderings on the Central Oregon Coast

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area

Once a week or so we drive by Fogarty Creek and comment that we really ought to stop there one of these days.  Today was the day.  We drove down in the rain - it was cool (low 40's) and drizzling, but not windy.  We stayed on the East side of the highway (Fogarty Creek runs under Highway 101, with easy access to the ocean side along the creek).

Before we were even parked, I saw a tree full of VARIED THRUSH - we parked, and in my excitement, I immediately stepped in a puddle (and spent the rest of the walk in soggy shoes).


A HERMIT THRUSH flashed past us, then reappeared several times, posing on various stumps, branches and posts.  We commented that he sure seemed to want to have his picture taken (I obliged).

Three wooden bridges cross the creek at various intervals, the habitat is lush and quite diverse.  Paved paths curve through the terrain, making the walk easy.

We followed the small flock to a grassy area with picnic tables.  Two large white flashes announced the presence of NORTHERN FLICKER.

Around the same area, we saw SPOTTED TOWHEE - first one appeared out of some tall grass, then two others joined the birds in the grass. 


We heard the flock of chickadees before we saw them, high in the fir trees flitting from treetop to treetop.  The majority appeared to be CHESTNUT BACKED CHICKADEE, but I'm sure there were other visitors in the large flock.

A shy BEWICK'S WREN worked its way around the back of a tree in dense underbrush - my very blurry shot was enough to verify ID, but not good enough to post - wrens are always a treat!

As we neared the last bridge before the parking lot, my husband stopped me in the path to keep me from stepping on this colorful salamander.
As we crossed the bridge, a flock of DARK EYED JUNCO and a couple of SONG SPARROW entertained us.  Our last treat was a DOUGLAS SQUIRREL, rounding out a delightful, albeit damp, walk.

Paved trails wend throughout the park, making walking easy (and would've kept my sneakers dry).  We walked less than a mile, and never did get to the ocean side.  A treat we saved for another day.

Fogarty Creek Recreation Area is a State Park, offering picnicking, hiking, and good bird-watching.  Easy access to a beautiful stretch of beach, with the creek flowing into the ocean, results in a variety of tidepools and interesting fresh and salt water lifeforms.  The park is mid-way between LINCOLN CITY and DEPOE BAY.  There are two entrances on the east side of the highway, "North" and "South" Fogarty Creek.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cutler City Wetlands Nature Trail

The weekend before Thanksgiving, (11/20/2010), we decided to explore a couple of places we hadn't visited - the caveat being they had to be short, easy walks.  One of the places we chose was the Cutler City Wetlands Nature Trail.  The trail is actually a maze of intersecting trails through a designated Lincoln City "Open Space", planned in the late 1990's and enhanced over the past decade.   Total distance if you walk the whole thing appears to be about a mile and a half.

There was little parking, just a pull-off on 63rd across from the trail head.  It was full of piles of cut brush, but there was room for our small car.  Crossing the boardwalk, we found a sign with a large map of the maze and chose our route.

We saw few birds, but several beautiful, varied mushrooms caught our eye along the damp, cool trail.  As I've mentioned before, I am not an expert on mushrooms or any type of fungi, so I welcome you to educate me by identifying the mushrooms we saw along the trail.  This large rain-catcher was the first we saw.

Small mushrooms scaled the sides of a damp stump.

This large leathery mushroom caught our eye at the side of the trail.

At Turtle Lake, we didn't see any turtles, but we did decide to come back in February or March to see if there are any Pacific Tree frogs (one of our favorites) - it seemed like a ideal frog pond!  And of course, we found more mushrooms - including these little beauties next to the boardwalk.

A tree along the trail had this interesting specimen at about eye-level.

These tiny cone-heads were probably my favorites, gracing the side of a fallen log.

The only birds we saw were toward the west side of the open space near some backyards (a song sparrow and a fox sparrow), but we plan to go back at various times of the year and follow up as I understand it really is a good place to see them!

The trails had few markings after the first couple of signs, so we ended up walking the entire perimeter, which was a little too much for me that particular day.  The path is all natural, which meant alot of mud and puddles, but we expected that - and the larger wet areas have really nicely maintained boardwalks.

All in all a nice discovery and worth checking out again.  Cutler City Wetlands is south of Lincoln City - the trail head is off SW 63rd.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hatfield Marine Science Center Nature Trail

We love a drive down to Newport to visit HMSC and walk the nature trail - a short easy walk along Yaquina Bay.  We always follow it with a drive down the South Jetty road.

On a recent visit (November 6, 2010), there was a huge flock of ducks on the bay, mostly NORTHERN PINTAIL, with a few MALLARDS and AMERICAN WIGEON in the mix.


Two adult BALD EAGLES appeared overhead 

causing the entire flock of ducks to take to the air.

In the brush along the path, we spotted a SAVANNAH SPARROW (my first).

The drive down to the South Jetty yielded even more firsts for me.  A late WHIMBREL caused me to yell STOP THE CAR.

Further down the road, we stopped to watch the SURF and WHITE WINGED SCOTERS, and also enjoyed seeing several WESTERN GREBE (identified later from the photos with help from some birding friends).

I was fascinated by the way their head fits like a ball in the center of their bodies when they rest.

Some HARBOR SEALS waited for a scuba diver who was putting on his gear by the road.

The BROWN PELICANS and some CORMORANTS (PELAGIC?) preened on the rocks in their usual spot.  For some reason, I only photographed a cormorant this trip.

A WESTERN GULL posed near the car with his dinner as we got ready to leave (my favorite shot of the day).

We always see something we enjoy, whether on the NATURE TRAIL or in the VISITOR's center or driving down the SOUTH JETTY.  Definitely worth the trip!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whalen Island

Another of our favorite nature areas is the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island in Tillamook county.  My sister, who lives in the area, took me there a few years ago and I treasure that memory and the very special place it is.

Rain describes it lovingly and well in her blog at

A wonderful "secret", it's one of the most beautiful and unusual spots along the coast, with a myriad of eco-systems, including mixed woodlands, grasslands, fresh and saltwater wetlands.  Only in winter's high tide is it an island, but birds and other wildlife are plentiful year round.

We visited the area again in September this year (April and September are the best if you love birds).

A GOLDEN CROWNED KINGLET greeted us when we started our walk, he was part of a good-sized flock that included kinglets, warblers, nuthatches and chickadees.

CHESTNUT BACKED CHICKADEES filled the small pine trees.

A HAIRY WOODPECKER was busy across the path.

As we walked further, we could hear the ocean as well as the YELLOW RUMPED WARBLERS high in the trees.

This one posed at the very tip of a tree branch, but nicely revealed his yellow rump.

We saw a COYOTE, and heard the yip of pups - didn't catch them with the camera, though.

At one lookout, we could view a large meadow, with GREAT EGRETS and other birds.

Finally the trail took us to a more heavily wooded area, with larger deciduous trees.  A PACIFIC SLOPE FLYCATCHER caught our attention (note, these are tricky to ID - if I got it wrong, please let me know).

This photo of an AMERICAN ROBIN gives a pretty good idea of the fauna in this area of the park.

When we emerged from the trail, we walked toward the parking lot, where I grabbed another photo to show the diverse landscape.  Most of the WESTERN CROWS took off when we approached, but one remained to pose in the distance.

A GREAT BLUE HERON sitting on the far edge of the water casually ignored us as we drove out of the parking area.

The area is also well known for the migrating shorebirds, especially in the fall.  All in all, it is a beautiful place, a casual walk (even in my flip-flops), priceless in serenity and treasures.

It's a moderately easy walk, not much more than a mile.  There is an adjacent campground as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Salishan Nature Trail

We're enjoying discovering the various walking paths and nature trails along the central Oregon coast.  One that we've visited a few times is the Salishan Nature Trail on south Siletz Bay. 

Our first visit was September 22, 2010.  A cool, sunny day with little wind.  It took us a few minutes to find the trail head, but we finally were there, armed with camera and field glasses. 

Around the first corner, the bay was full of MALLARDS - this batch all appeared to be resting.

Further down the path, we heard noise in the reeds between the path and the bay.  It took us quite awhile, but he finally appeared - our first ever MARSH WREN.  Noisy but secretive, and very quick!

Further down the path, we could see a majestic GREAT BLUE HERON - I must've taken 100 photos of this beautiful bird, but this was my favorite.

Just past the heron we found a Y in the path - we chose to continue west, and were delighted by the discovery of a full grown juvenile GREEN HERON in some marshy reeds.  In fact, he had his head straight up and was trying to disguise himself as a reed.  I don't know which of us was the more startled, but when he flew off, he was kind enough to stop on a branch across the pond - posing for several photos.

When we reached the path to the beach, we turned around and walked back, choosing to take the little side path we'd seen before.  In that marshy area, we found one of my favorite birds, a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT.  While not showing off its distinctive call, it did pose on the branches for a few photos.

Couldn't have asked for a nicer day or nicer selection of birds to see.  The trail is only about a mile long, the trail head is behind the gift shops.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning to photograph birds

We have a new camera, a Canon T1i and are learning to photograph birds.  We use a 55x200 zoom lens for now (we figure we'll learn more about the camera before we get a bigger lens).

Here's a link to our bird photographs.

We're also learning about bird identification, having "graduated" from backyard birding in the valley, so feel free to correct any mis-identified birds.  Any tips about bird photography also welcome - post them here!


I know nothing about mushrooms, but I enjoy their beauty.  Here's a couple we found this fall in our wanderings.

Found this beauty at Devil's Lake park - it was about 7 inches tall.

Found this one walking the west Salishan Nature Trail - I think it was about 5 inches tall and wide

While I love looking at them, I don't eat mushrooms and wouldn't know an edible one if I saw it.