Timing your arrival
North Coast sites
For those observers interested in being impressed by sheer numbers, the 2nd week of August is the best time to be at the South Jetty. Diversity (kinds of shorebirds) peaks later, toward the 1st week of September. The South Jetty is, however, a vacation spot for non-birders and their dogs and their children. Weekends can prove frustrating, because birds don't stay put as long. Short tides are never quite as exciting as deep ones and the time of day appears to be a factor as well (figure 2).
Generally speaking, if you can manage a trip at mid-week, during an afternoon high tide (around 8 ft) in late August or early September, you should have a pretty good day.
I identified 9 species I called significantly conspicuous:
encounters range of stay Hudsonian Godwit 1 1 Marbled Godwit 8 1-2 Long-billed Curlew 1 3 Red Knot 9 1-9 Stilt Sandpiper 4 1-6 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 1 1 Ruff 5 1-9 Buff-breasted Sandpiper 5 1-4 Wilson's Phalarope 4 1-6Of these 39 encounters, 24 (61.6%) remained only one day. The remaining 38.4% showed an even spread over the range. What does this suggest? Well, first, it suggests that you only have a 1 in 3 chance of finding a bird you're chasing 24 hrs after the report. If a bird does stay more than one day, then the average stay is about 5 days.
More importantly, if most birding occurs on the weekends (29% of the week) and 61.6% of birds only stay one day then, theoretically, we are missing 44% of the conspicuous migrants that stop over along the coast. We need more coverage spread out over the entire week, especially at peaks. Consider this a call to action.
Wireless Rd off the 101 business loop- The slough at the east end is best. The higher the tide, the more likely, you'll find stuff. The grassy pastures are pretty good, especially if it's been raining. Those of you looking for BUFF-BREASTED SNADS will want to check this place out in September.
Young's Bay- Those who are brave might park in the PreMarq and walk the bridge, but I recommend walking the dike, particularly to the north. The best Young's Bay vantage, however, is from the Lewis & Clark River. This area (at the south end of the airport) is affectionately known as "the mitigation bank". If there is a log raft in the river, you may well find shorebirds on it at high tide.
Necanicum River Esuary -
The Seaside High School observation deck is the easiest to reach vantage. One can walk toward the estuary from here or scope from the deck. It is the absolute most likeliest place for LONG-BILLED CURLEW. The sand on the west side of the river is full of GHOST SHRIMP, a delicacy among long-billed probers.
The Gearhart access to the estuary is the more productive spot from which to get on to the sand flats. Turn at the light in Gearhart (Pacific Way) then south (left) at the 4-way stop sign (Cottage Ave). Turn right at the end of the street (F St.), then left on Wellington and park in the parking lot. There is a path down to the beach. The Necanicum Estuary has recently turned up breeding SNOWY PLOVERS which have not been recorded in Clatsop County since 1984.
Stanley Lake- Just across from the Seaside airport on Lewis and Clark Rd. is an area called Stanley Lake. Until recently, the lake had tide gates that managed the water there and it remained mostly fresh and was covered with vegetation. Under banner of salmon recovery efforts, the tide gates were removed inundating the area with salt water which killed the vegetation and exposed the area as tidal mud flat.
Clatsop Beach- The beach from Gearhart to Peter Iredale can be driven, if you have a vehicle appropriate to the task. A slow drive down the beach can turn up thousands of SANDERLING along with good numbers of SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, RED KNOTS and RUDDY TURNSTONES.
Chinook River, WA- If you can put away your listing prejudices, the Chinook River is a serious hotspot. Turn left after you cross the Columbia River bridge onto Stringtown Rd., park and check this place out.
Ocean Fresh Fish- West of the Ilwaco boat basin (yes, we're still in Washington), is a waterfront building called Ocean Fresh Fish and just west of this is a tidal flat covered with EEL GRASS. 400-500 LEAST SANDPIPERS regularly find this an attractive place to spend their time. If you harbor fantasies about finding a LONG-TOED STINT or some such exotic foreign Calidrid, this is the place to look.
2. Carry a notebook and/or camera. One of the safest ways to be sure you won't see anything rare is by being prepared to document it. Documentation is critical. No one is going to simply take your word for it or mine or anybody elses. Take notes, take pictures, take your time.
3. You want a CLATSOP BEACHES tide table. The Astoria tables are for Tongue Point and they're and hour later. This is especially important on wimpy high tides. And you want to be at the Jetty shorebird flats at high tide.
4. Avoid the weekends. Fort Stevens is a busy place. Filled with people who have no interest in shorebirds or their habitats. It is not unusual to find extended families of people hanging out on the shorebird flats, hunting crabs and mollusks, running their behemoth dogs, cleaning their fish, committing all manner of havoc. If you have only the weekends, come early, stake your claim and look mean.
Chandler, Richard J. 1989. The Facts on File Field
Guide to: North Atlantic
Shorebirds. Facts on File, NY.
Hayman, Peter, John Marchant & Tony Prater. 1986.
identification guide to the waders of the world. Houghton
Mifflin Co., Boston.
Patterson, M. 1998. Guide to Biirds and Other Wildlife of the Columbia
Estuary. OFO Special Publication no. 11.
Paulson, Dennis. 1993. Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. University
of Washington Press, Seattle.
Richards, Alan. 1988. Shorebirds: a complete guide to their behavior
migration. Gallery Books, NY.
Rosair, David & David Cottridge. 1995. Photographic Guide to
of the World. Facts on File, NY.
Veit, Richard R. & Lars Jonsson. 1987. Field indentification of
sandpipers within the genus Calidris. American Birds. 41(2):213-236.
Copyrighted Material 2000 by Mike
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