Happy Birdday!

Welcome to the party! This week has been more special than usual in many ways. Not only is it Spring Break here at Yaquina Head, and the gray whales are coming by at the same time…but it was also my 24th birthday on March 29th! Woohoo! I was surprised at work as some of the staff of Yaquina Head came to the park on their time off just to sing me happy birthday (as I hid my smiling blushing face in a bird guide) and helped me cherish the day with a generous slice of chocolate cake. It meant a great deal to me that my coworkers took some time off just to say happy birthday when they didn’t need to. Moments like these are special, and it made me feel wonderful to know that the folks of Yaquina Head went above and beyond to make me feel like a part of their flock. I treated myself to seeing a movie, eating the delicious slice of cake, and spending some time to talk with my loved ones back in California. It was a wonderful day, and I just wanted to give another special thanks to all!

 

But enough about me; what’s been going on? A whole lot actually! This week has been a tad busier than usual because it was spring break for the state of Oregon, as well as other states nearby. This meant that families have more time to travel outside, and Yaquina Head is one of the landmark locations in Newport. The spike in new visitors has prepped us for what’s to come in the summer, as students will enter into summer break to enjoy the sunny days at the park. This week has had several calm sunny days as well, and this attracted more people than usual to explore the outdoors. We’ve also had minus tides (tides that fall beneath the average low), allowing for more tide pool exploration to see hidden ochre sea stars and red urchins. Furthermore, we had a new kind of visitor here at Yaquina Head…gray whales! These wonderful creatures swim by the lighthouse as they head north for their spring migration. The “Whale Watch Spoken Here” group assisted the staff and visitors in looking for whales in the distance while sharing some insightful information. These past few days, while somewhat exhausting, have been remarkable in the knowledge and experience I have gained. Even when times were busy, I enjoyed every second of it. I had a handful of people telling me what a wonderful job we had as park rangers, and it made me appreciate the position I had as an intern. Not everyone gets to do the cool things we do. #thanksEFTA!

 

But Christian, what about the birds?! Never fear, there are plenty here! As we enter into spring rotation, I’ve had the pleasure of observing more birds as the days go by. Yaquina Head encapsulates various habitats for birds, housing a wide spectrum of species that fly around the area: from the Varied Thrush in the trees to the Pigeon Guillemot in the waters. To celebrate this week, I’d like to commemorate it by celebrating the birds of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area with photos I’ve taken! Because when it comes to my birthday, their presence are the only presents I could ask for…

 

The featured image shows one of two adult Peregrine Falcons that reside at Yaquina Head. I usually think of them as the celebrity bird of the park. On good days, guests can park in front of the interpretive center, look towards the cliff-side of Salal Hill and spot the ball of white plumage against the dark cafe-colored rock face. The falcons not only captivate the new visitors, but also the regular birders of the area. I enjoy setting up the scope and table in front of the interpretive center, inviting people to take a closer look at the fastest animal on the face of the earth!

 

Here, out of focus, is the Black Oystercatcher. Two Black Oystercatchers are consistently seen flying together from rock to rock, and have been spotted mating as well. When they’re not seen, they can sometimes be heard with their high pitched calls that usually go: “wii…wii..wiiwiiwiii-ii-ii-ii-ii-ii…..”. Black Oystercatchers easily stand out with their long, bright orange beaks that contrast against their uniform black feathers.

 

 

The fashionable yet noisy Steller’s Jay is regular guest at Com’s hill. I’ve become familiar with Steller’s Jays before at Yosemite National Park, where they squawk in numbers, incessantly. They certainly have quite a character.

 

The Common Murres are excessively common. They colonize by the thousands in the water, some distance away from the tide pools and the lighthouse. Even in the distance you can hear their cranky calls, as if they were bickering about where to go, or that they took a wrong turn a mile back, or about how long it’s going to take for them to get there. On some occasions, the murres stir up the courage the and energy to fly up high to perch on top of the rock islands, as photographed here. If a murre cannot find a spot, it will return to the flying circle and attempt to land once again. Its one of the coolest phenomenons to see at Yaquina Head!

 

But perhaps one of the coolest phenomenons I’ve ever witnessed occurred the day before my birthday…the courtship ritual of the Bald Eagles! There are two adult Bald Eagles and a juvenile that perch on the trees not too far from the lighthouse. As if seeing Bald Eagles in the wild wasn’t mesmerizing enough, I was lucky enough one day just looking at one of the adults perched on the high rock islands across the lighthouse when the other adult swooped by and they both clasped talons together…falling together, twirling in the air for a brief moment before releasing each other. I have not felt such a rush since witnessing hummingbirds do their courtship dance for the first time! I asked the group close by, “GUYS! DID YOU GUYS JUST SEE THAT!” Unfortunately, they were in the middle of taking a group photo, so I was the only one to witness the moment. In a way, that made it extra special. I take it as sign of luck that this year will be a joyous one!

Christian Cortez
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