[Tweeters] Tokeland to Westport and back again

Louise Rutter louise.rutter at eelpi.gotdns.org
Mon Sep 29 20:44:20 PDT 2008

I spent a perfectly lovely day chasing shorebirds out at the coast. I
started at the Tokeland spit at 7th St (I forget which colloquial name comes
pegged to which wind-blasted patch of sand) at 7.45am. The tide was way out,
with a scattering of gulls, and some black-bellied plover types a long way

I headed on up to Midway Beach, and the first bird I saw was a female
harrier sweeping right over the 'pond'. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the
pond was empty of birds; not even the reported white-fronted geese showed
up. Scads of American pipits picked at the hard gravel road surface, and the
vegetation was full of savannah sparrows, some so beautifully bright and
vivid I had to check twice to make sure I wasn't missing an exotic rarity.

Taking a stroll north on the beach, there was a gorgeous peregrine tearing
pieces off an unlucky victim. Some hopeful scoping picked out several
sanderlings squatting immobile among the shore debris, but snowy plovers
remained elusive. I headed back to the pond, where some barn swallows had
arrived, but nobody else.

Westport Marina was as dead as I've ever seen it. From the observation
platform, there were pelicans aplenty, some gulls (only one Heerman's) and
double-crested and pelagic cormorants. And that was it. Not an alcid in
sight, not a murre or a guillemot, and not a loon either. Unheard of. No
loons in the marina either, but there were a handful of black turnstones and
a lone surfbird on the rocks from the float 20 bridge. Very little was
active at the jetty or the beaches around it, apart from the ubiquitous
gulls and pelicans - maybe the large number of surfers was inhibiting

I went to Bottle Beach at 11.30 for the 1.30 high tide, but I hadn't made
allowances for the extra high tide today, and there was already not much
beach left. More black-bellied plovers refusing to be golden, and 4 marbled
godwits were all I collected. Not a little peep in sight. Ocosta third marsh
was quiet.

So I started retracing steps with the higher tide, back to Midway Beach
pond, and the white-fronted geese had shown up, about 20 of them. As I
walked towards the pond, 5 shorebirds of varying sizes flew in - one
disappeared behind reeds for good, but the remainder were two PECTORAL
SANDPIPERS, one western, and a juvenile BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER. Finally the
birds were starting to cooperate!

With the tide in, the Tokeland spit produced too - 21 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS
were there, along with 50 or so Caspian terns, some pelicans, and a mix of
common gulls - mainly hybrids, some western and glaucous-winged, some
ring-billed. With so many gulls around, there really should have been a
California in there, but I couldn't pick one out. The only other shorebirds
were killdeer.

Tokeland marina turned out to be the location of all those Heermann's gulls
I'd been missing all day. There were actually a few loons there too - mainly
common, one Pacific. The godwit flock was out on the island with the very
high tide, but I picked out a couple of willets sleeping on the pylons with
the Heermann's gulls.

I called at John's River on the way back, where 50 or so greater yellowlegs
were sitting out the tide on the far bank. 5 Dowitchers were with them,
species to remain undetermined at that range. I walked the trail hoping for
a lesser yellowlegs, but found only more greaters upstream.

It definitely wasn't a bad day to be out walking the beaches (I can say with
certainty that today was the first time I've visited many of those locations
and felt *warm*), and in the end I did find several of my target species.
But I couldn't help thinking that I should have stayed in bed till a
reasonable hour instead of leaving at 5am, and I really wouldn't have missed

Louise Rutter


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