Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trip results: Oregon Shorebird Festival pelagic: August 27, 2011

It was a foggy and windy morning for this 5-hour pelagic trip from Charleston, Oregon, for the 25th annual Oregon Shorebird Festival.

Nevertheless, we 33 birders saw nearly all of the expected species for this time of year, albeit, most in low numbers. We also broke out of the sun about 9 miles offshore as the water warmed. This trip went out 12 miles where we stopped to chum in the albatrosses and fulmars to the boat.

I didn't even get out my camera, but passenger Lois Miller put together a nice photo journal of the trip.

August 27, 2011
Aboard Betty Kay of Betty Kay Charters
Captain Kathy, deck hand Bam-Bam

Guides: Tim Shelmerdine, Russ Namitz, Tim Rodenkirk, Greg Gillson

In Coos Bay (0700-0715 hours outgoing and 1145-1200 hours on the return) we recorded these species:

Harlequin Duck 1
Surf Scoter 15
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 1
Brandt's Cormorant 150
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Pelagic Cormorant 3
Brown Pelican 20
Osprey 2
Black Turnstone 10
Red-necked Phalarope 2
Heermann's Gull 30
Western Gull 40
California Gull 5
Common Murre 4
Pigeon Guillemot 8
Rhinoceros Auklet 1

From the bar crossing to 6 miles offshore (0715-0815 hours outgoing and 1045-1145 hours on the return) we recorded these birds:

Red-throated Loon 1
Northern Fulmar 2
Sooty Shearwater 20
Brandt's Cormorant 50
Brown Pelican 5
Red-necked Phalarope 5
Red Phalarope 5
Heermann's Gull 2
Western Gull 10
Arctic Tern 1
Common Murre 25
Pigeon Guillemot 2
Marbled Murrelet 2
Cassin's Auklet 50
Rhinoceros Auklet 8
Tufted Puffin 1

From 6-12 miles offshore (0815-1045 hours) we recorded these birds:

Black-footed Albatross 8
Northern Fulmar 50
Pink-footed Shearwater 15
Buller's Shearwater 3
Sooty Shearwater 5
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 15
Red-necked Phalarope 5
Red Phalarope 30
Sabine's Gull 10
Western Gull 2
Arctic Tern 4
South Polar Skua 1
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Long-tailed Jaeger 15
Cassin's Auklet 30
Rhinoceros Auklet 8

Central Oregon Coast Birding Guide

Are you visiting the central Oregon coast for a pelagic trip and want to know where to find other goods birds?

I have created the Central Oregon Coast Birding Guide just for you!

This guide builds upon the information in the Oregon Coast Birding Trail brochure. It is more in-depth and concentrates on the best areas. After the main listing of birding sites and regular birds, the guide is followed by a target species list with the best areas named with seasonal or habitat comments. It closes with a few comments on Oregon coast bird ID problems that often confuse visitors or beginners.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oregon charter boats: fishers versus bird watchers

Recently I queried Janess Eilers about the number of charter fishing boats in Oregon. Eilers is the Registration Operations & Policy Analyst for the Oregon State Marine Board, who is responsible for licensing charter boats.

In March 2011 there were 243 licensed charter vessels in Oregon. Of these, 210 were "6 packs," smaller vessels carrying 6 or fewer people and not requiring Coast Guard inspection. That leaves 33 larger Coast Guard inspected vessels.

Birders use only 3 of the larger boats for pelagic birding on less than 10 days out of the year. That seems insignificant compared to the total number of boats available and the total number of trip days available on all those boats in a year.

According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation there were 30.0 million US anglers (age 16 or over, 75% male, 92% white) of which 5.3 million (17.7%) fished salt water from boats. These salt water boat fishers averaged over 11 days fishing at sea during the year.

Of the wildlife watchers in the US, 88% watched birds. Of these, 19.9 million watched birds more than 1 mile away from their homes (age 16 or over, 54% female, 93% white).

Locally, Oregon had 483,000 fishers (16% of population). If Oregon's average is the same as the US in total, then about 85,330 fished from a boat in the ocean. At an average of 11 trips per year, charter boats carried nearly 950,000 people fishing in Oregon in 2006.

Oregon also had 675,000 away-from-home wildlife watchers. If the US average of 88% of these being bird watchers applies to Oregon, then there were approximately 594,000 bird watchers in Oregon in 2006.

So many interesting things to say about these numbers....

But for now, I want to tie it to charter boats and fishers versus pelagic birders.

The number of bird watchers joining chartered birding boat trips at sea off Oregon is no more than 250 persons per year. That includes about 20 people who take 2-3 trips each year.

So, there are about 20% more bird watchers than fishers, yet in one year, fishers take just shy of a million ocean boat fishing trips in Oregon, while birders take 250.

Obviously, there is a tremendous difference in the participation rate of going to sea in boats between the two groups (3800:1).


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


There are several thousand times more fishers in boats at sea than pelagic birders (a topic for a future post). Yet birders seem much more vocal about their emetic experiences at sea.

It is very doubtful that birders are more susceptible to seasickness than fishers.

No one has studied seasickness more than the Department of the Army. The research concludes that anyone can be made motion sick with the right stimuli. A vertical motion of 0.2 Hertz produces the highest incidence of sickness. Guess what? That's one wave every 5 seconds--just what you might get traveling into a slow swell, or the frequency of wind waves that might be produced by 20 mile per hour winds.

An extensive study of navy sailors found that about 4% sometimes got seasick even in calm conditions. In moderate conditions 4-28% of sailors sometimes got sick. However, even in rough seas, 34% of sailors never felt ill. Women are more susceptible to motion sickness than men, by a 5:3 ration. (Benson, A.J. 2002. Motion sickness. In: Medical Aspects of Harsh Environments, Vol. 2. US Dept. of the Army. Washington DC.)

What does this mean for birders?

Well, be prepared. There are motion sickness medications available. Probably the best is the Scopolamine "patch" worn behind the ear and administered at least 8 hours before getting on the boat.

Stay amidships, in the fresh air, where you can see the horizon. Standing and riding the swells, keeping your head level, is better than sitting and rocking with the boat.

Those fishers probably keep going out and get used to the "motion of the ocean." Birders are more likely to give up after one bad experience. "Habituation offers the surest counter measure to motion sickness." (Golding, J.F. 2006. Motion sickness susceptibility. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic & Clinical (129):67-76.)

So, don't give up. Try again!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finding Wrentits

I finally got decent photos of Wrentit on July 30th. It was a bittersweet victory. The only reason I was there in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range was because high winds had forced the cancellation of our deep water pelagic trip scheduled for that day.

Pelagic trips can cancel any time of year. The best month, on average, for calm seas is July. But that didn't matter this day. Winds of 25 miles per hour were creating 6 foot wind waves, which would prevent our charter boat from making any headway and would make viewing conditions abominable. The winds were caused by a thermal low over northern California that creates strong north winds along the southern and central Oregon coast.

So here I was, checking out some onshore birding sites instead. It is my intention to create a small birding guide for just such occasions--where to go birding when your pelagic trip cancels (sad face).

View Larger Map

This location is found on the way to Drift Creek Falls, Site #54 on the Oregon Coast Birding Trail.

Head south from Lincoln City and turn E (left) on Drift Creek Rd 1.6 miles, then S (right) on South Drift Creek Rd 0.4 miles, then E (left) on Forest Service Road 17 and go 0.8 miles to the intersection with FS19. Walk this paved but mostly abandoned and unmaintained overgrown road to the southeast into the forest.

This is a great spot, May-August, for West Coast forest birds: Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Tanager, Swainson's Thrush, and Varied Thrush among many others.

Wrentits are secretive birds that crawl and fly-hop from branch to branch in the dense evergreen tangles of salal bushes. Besides their descending accelerated whistle song, they give rattling little contact notes: "dt-dt-dt-dt-dt" that you may be able to imitate by blowing an unvoiced 'D' through the tip of your tongue (4-6 notes at the rate of about 10 notes per second). Birds respond to this rattle all year, coming close to take a look.