2022-03-29 Tuesday on Cape Arago

Red Crossbill - Loxia curvirostra
I stopped at Cape Arago in 2017 during rainy weather, while southbound down the coast. I met my first Red Crossbills during that visit, and I was pleased to meet them again.
Northern Elephant Seal - Mirounga angustirostris
These immature male (I think) Northern Elephant Seals hauled out on the beach to rest, but still had energy for some mild jousting.

I left Bandon Tuesday morning after another breakfast at “The Station” cafe, and headed north towards Charleston and Coos Bay. When I reached the turnoff for Charleston I was met with a dense fog. I was surprised to see acres and acres of clear cut forest areas when I made the turnoff. I thought Oregon was done with clear cutting timber, but apparently I was misinformed.

The first destination on my trip towards Coos Bay was the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. I had little information about this place when I set my sights on a visit, and when I arrived I realized it was going to require many miles of hiking, some of it rather strenuous. The visitor center was closed, and I wasn’t able to interview anyone about my options, and when I followed the route that was drivable I went past a locked gate that seemed to be the preferred way to get to the lower elevations down where the slough and marsh actually were. As interesting and attractive as the idea of visiting this marsh was, I didn’t think today was the right day to explore here. So I turned my sights towards Cape Arago, a few miles away.

My last trip through this region was a September 2017 southbound trip from Florence to Brookings and south. I remember stopping at Cape Arago and meeting Red Crossbills for the first time. It was rainy that day and I didn’t get very many pictures, none of which were very good. I was eager to see if today I could meet those birds again. I found them on my arrival but they were at the tip top of the canopy and pictures were not that good <sighing again>. I stayed for several hours and eventually the birding got pretty good. The crossbills came back, but they stayed pretty high in the trees. Though the pictures I got were better than those from my 2017 visit. 

Warbler migration seemed to rev up during my visit. A lot of “butter-butts” that weren’t there in the morning, dropped in during my visit. They were all male birds. There was also a Townsend’s Warbler that put in an appearance. Then Chestnut-Backed Chickadees showed up and treated me to some good shots. Robins, ravens, and crows were also on hand during my visit.

I left Cape Arago by the only road in, and when I passed the Simpson Reef viewpoint, where I’d stopped earlier, I decided to spend a few minutes there again. The tide was much lower than on my morning visit, and I enjoyed watching the pinnipeds on a sandy spit across the water, when I had a very nice surprise. I saw the Crossbills frustratingly high again in the trees just to the south of the viewing platform, but then a large group of them descended and worked on the trees that were right in front of me. And while I would like to have gotten more time with them and in better lighting, it may have been my best meeting with them to date. It goes to show that if you stick around the river long enough, it will bring the world to you.

The subjects I captured during this visit were American Crow, American Robin, Bald Eagle, Northern Elephant Seal, Harbor Seal, Cape Arago Lighthouse, a mixed species Pinniped Colony, Red Crossbill, Song Sparrow, Townsend’s Warbler, and Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

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