The Inconspicuous Shorebirds of the Oregon Coast
I am pretty sure I’ve already mentioned this in the past, but I am going to say it again. The best part about my internship with Environment for the Americas is that I get to work on something different almost every week and last week was no different. Karen, the interpretive staff and I had the awesome opportunity of giving a presentation on Tuesday and Wednesday to a group of fifth graders. When I heard we were presenting to over a 100 students each day I got a little nervous, but everything turned out better than I expected. Our presentation was focused on the Siuslaw National Forest and the problem with Corvids (ravens, crows, jays, etc.) and trash. We also introduced two new species of birds that they had not heard of before, the Marbled Murrelet and Western Snowy Plover and how people could help these two species by simply picking up their trash and not feeding Corvids. The students were wonderful and fully engaged in the discussion. Maybe, it had to do with the prizes we incorporated into the presentation.
In terms of field work, I was thrilled that the weather was perfect to do Black Oystercatcher Surveys. Black Oystercatchers are fascinating birds; large and inconspicuous, they are found in rocky shores from Alaska to Baja California. Their long and bright orange beaks stand out from their entirely black plumage and tannish-colored feet. They are considered a “species of high concern” by the U.S and Canadian National Shorebird Conservation Plans. However, their actual population numbers are still uncertain and it is unclear if the species is in decline. The goal of the surveys is to estimate the breeding population on the Oregon coast to inform conservation efforts. This was my first time trying to locate these birds which camouflage so well against the black rocks. I thought it would be similar to finding Snowy Plovers on the beach but I was completely wrong. Even with a pair of binoculars finding them can be difficult and it takes a lot of patience to scan through every near-shore rock, islands, rocky shorelines, and headlands that make good habitat for these unique-looking shorebirds. With more Snowy Plover and Black Oystercatcher survey opportunities to come, I only hope to get better at finding these incredible birds and contribute to their conservation.