There are two different cormorant species at Yaquina Head. The Brandt’s (most common) and the Pelagic. Unlike common murres, cormorants build actual nests on rocky islands and cliff sides. Pelagics prefer cliff sides and usually have much less nesting material making up their nests. Currently, we are monitoring 85 Brandt’s nests and 38 Pelagic nests. So far, we have counted 120 eggs! Not only that, but we found our first Brandt’s chicks! I couldn’t believe it when I saw them through the scope! They were so tiny, with leathery seeming skin, and large bulging eyes. Definitely not the cutest babies I’ve seen, but at least they are loved by their parents!
The weather at Yaquina Head was also quite interesting this week. There was a gale wind warning so we did not monitor mid week, but I still went to the park because we received reports of dead murres on Cobble Beach. Gale winds are winds that are between 39-54 mph. We had gusts as high as 50 mph! I found two dead murres on Cobble Beadh and I’ve gotta say, I was pretty sad. It is likely they got caught in the strong winds and ended up on the beach. They may have also died of natural causes. On the bright side, the once abandoned nesting rocks were once again full of murres! Some birders have a theory that some birds prefer nesting during periods of strong winds because this makes them less vulnerable to predators, such as Bald Eagles in this case. Hopefully this means they will lay more eggs!
We also got a new wave of staff, who took part in lighthouse tour training. Given that most of the staff were involved in this training, the few remaining staff and volunteers had to keep the rest of the park running. Tide pools were the busiest I’ve seen, with close to 800 visitors! When there are that many people at tide pools, it’s really important to enforce rules and protect the wildlife with even more care. Even with all the craziness, we were lucky to celebrate the ending of training week with a small graduation ceremony, followed by cake and ice cream. Overall, I’d say, it was a fantastic week!