2017-09-10 Mail Boat Ride (Plus Pistol River)

River Otter

I parked Saturday night in a space along the main road going south out of Gold Beach. All day I’d been parked along the South Jetty, but it was questionable if I would get rousted in the night and asked to move. There were no signs at the place I’d been staying, but at the other end of the beach there was signage, so I opted to move.

It was a beautiful day’s end at the jetty. The clouds high and wispy, hung like a lacy canopy over the coast. California Gulls numbering in the hundreds, kettled and rose in the air, riding apparent thermals before launching out to the sea. There was a series of kettles. When one disbursed seaward, another would form 15-20 minutes later. I did not see Western Gulls in these kettles. All the birds were ‘same-sized’.

I had my breakfast at Indian Creek and the early morning light promised to give us a nice clear day for our boat ride. I didn’t anticipate any bird photos this day with the gear packed, but I hoped to put a written list together. A list is not as satisfying as images would be, but I’ll be one of 30 or so passengers and not in charge of the stops we’ll be making. Otherwise, I’d take different gear with me. Even so, a boat is a moving platform, making sharp image captures difficult at best.

Birds I saw after the first mile were Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Merganser, Spotted Sandpiper, American Dipper, Steller’s Jay, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black Phoebe, Turkey Vulture, Double-Crested Cormorant, Common Raven, American Crow, Canada Geese, and an unidentified warbler flyover.

For me, this was a great day on the river and it fulfilled a wish I’d had since the early 1970’s when first I lived in Oregon. Our pilot for the day was Jeff Laird, grandson of the founder Jerry Boice. He was full of stories about the history of the area and gave us all a good 104 mile ride with lots of spins (a 180° turn at speed with a full stop at the conclusion and lots of water spray).

I made one more photo stop before bidding adieu to my former home. I have an old friend, a school mate who lives in Brookings who has been dealing with the devastating Chetco Bar Fire, the worst fire in Oregon’s recent history. Steve and I arranged to have breakfast the following morning. Driving south I stopped for the night at Pistol River, about 18 miles north of Brookings.

At first light the next morning I gazed down at the slough below and spied three river Otters working the near edge of the water and moving upstream. I dressed as quickly as I could, grabbed my gear and walked to an embankment further upstream and waited. Within a few minutes the trio approached, and I was treated to a show of their fishing skills. Even better, one of the group, the biggest brute, hauled out for a few minutes right below my position. He shook himself free of the dripping water and groomed for a few brief moments before diving into the water and resuming his fishing duties.

It was a lovely time these past three weeks crisscrossing the southern latitudes of Oregon. With much help from the Oregon birding community along the way, I’ve been able to explore nooks and crannys I might have otherwise overlooked. I expect I’ll be visiting again at a different season and meeting different birds and hopefully without the fire hazards.

Thank you Oregon!

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