Oregon trip 3.2: wandering the path of Lewis and Clark

After seeing my lifer puffins (!!), I was hungry. All the restaurants I found in Canon Beach were either too expensive or just bagel sandwiches and I wanted some seafood. Something cheap like good fish and chips, nothing fancy. I checked my “smartphone” (parents at home) who looked up some info and pointed me to a fish shack just north of there in Seaside. I splurged for the salmon fish and chips at Bell Buoy. Everyone I’ve talked to says that was a waste of salmon; maybe it was.

Then it was back to Canon Beach and into Ecola State Park. This park lies on a promontory on the Oregon coast with thick forests and rocky headlands just offshore. The park offers a wonderful view of Haystack Rock and the scenic coastline to the south. Lewis and Clark visited the area in January of 1806 to try and get meat from a beached whale they heard about. By the time they got there, only the skeleton remained and they had to purchase blubber and oil from the local Killamuck tribe.

Thousands of Common Murres floated in the water or covered the tops of nearby rocks. Click on the photo below to enlarge and see the mass of birds in the water to the right of the rocks.

Many of the seabirds at Haystack Rock were at these rocks, not surprisingly, though Pelagic Cormorants were more visible and there were also Pigeon Guillemots making for a three alcid day (and no boat trips needed).

Helpful info from the state park

The scenery was just gorgeous.

This Columbian Ground Squirrel poked its head out of a burrow:

The point had a large stand of horsetails (Equisetum sp.)–in fact horsetails were common many places I visited in Oregon. These were the branch-iest horsetails I’ve ever seen.

The nearby picnic area had its share of both picknicers and the three species of gulls.

Western Gull

Glacous-winged Gull eyeing those coolers!

California Gull

Glacous-winged and Western Gulls, or hybrids of the two

I went off in search of a Wrentit but was again unsuccessful. A flock of roosting Band-tailed Pigeons startled me a bit when they all took off at once.

It was too late in the day to visit any other spots, so I drove to the beach to the north in the park. The waves were quite popular with surfers; they all wore wetsuits. I never ventured into the water at all. A loop trail led through the forest and along the cliffs and I figured this would be my last shot at a Wrentit before the sun went down. But I misread the length of the trail and it turned out to be a two-mile loop up and down a very steep headland. Clark bemoaned their journey to the whale spot as the “the Steepest worst & highest mountain I ever ascended.” I must have traveled the same path they did. The forest was quiet and peaceful, though I half expected Bigfoot to pop out at any moment, especially as it got darker and darker. I wasn’t used to forests getting so dark as the sun went down. Well, I wasn’t really used to forests at all, living in New Mexico! Near the top of the headland I was treated to the beautiful song of a Varied Thrush: very simple but very pretty. The song is a series of single, long notes of different pitches with pauses in between. Each note is flute-like (it is a thrush after all) but kind of buzzy and rich with overtones and harmonics. You can find a recording on this Cornell Lab page but I can’t find any recording that does my memory justice.

The gulls here were also very interested in unattended food and it looked like a fight was going to break out:

The spruce trees along the trail were massive:

Despite all the wonderful Wrentit habitat, it just wasn’t to be that day. That’s how birding goes sometimes–maybe most of the time.

Perfect Wrentit habitat?

It was time to head back to Portland. But I’ll be back. The Pacific coast is just too beautiful to visit only once.

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