Saying “So Long” to the Shorebirds and Saying “Hello” to the Murres and Cormorants

Finding and recording potential Common Murre nests on Colony Rock

The Cormorant nests are popping up and the Murres are bundling up, which can only mean that it’s time to say “Bon voyage” to the shorebirds. I will be moving towards a more black and white scene, with a bit of a shimmer thrown in the mix. The large rocks around the head of the park have started to fill up with Cormorants and penguins that somehow learned how to fly.

Well, maybe not exactly penguins. Although they may look like them, they differ greatly from the Southern Hemisphere divers. These loud birds are called the Common Murres, who are more closely related to terns and gulls than they are to penguins. Despite their clumsy looking flying, they are experts in the water. We’re not talking weak single digits here. These birds are capable of diving anywhere from 30- 90 meters down in the water. They are fast and agile swimmers with a sharp pointed beak that helps them get the job done. 

For the summer, I’ll be splitting my time between the lighthouse and at the Shorebird Oceanography Lab at Oregon State University. I’ll be helping monitor the hatching success and the survival rates of chicks from various nests on the rocks they choose to call home. Unlike the wide array of birds that form nests to raise their young, such as the Cormorants, the Murres don’t make one at all. They find a spot directly on the rock to lay their egg and then rely on one another to safeguard the area from potential predators, such as Bald Eagles or Western Gulls. Strong in numbers but only if those numbers are brave to stay on the rock and not fly off to the safety of the water. Last year was recorded as a higher successful year compare to the years before. So here’s hoping that these birds have a repeat from last year, if not better, with this new season of Muures and Cormorants nests.

Common Murre population on Lions Head rock
Robert Vargas
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