We spent the better part of two days in mostly fog-bound Newport, Oregon this past weekend. Visibility was so poor during the morning hours that we didn't get out birding until after 1:30 both days. Once the fog lifted, particularly on Sunday, the birding was quite good. As we drove out the south jetty road near the mouth of Yaquina Bay on Saturday, Shawneen recognized the rather distinctive calls of an Elegant Tern before we even stopped the car. We piled out near the "gull puddle" gravel pan and found 34 Elegant Terns feeding over the bay mouth. We spent time photographing these birds and listening to the alternating squawks of the adults and the high piercing begging calls of the juveniles. 

In addition to spending time along the jetty road, we walked out to the open beach, where we saw very little and also went through the 300+ gulls roosting on the large dredge spoils by the NOAA docks. We ended the afternoon by walking out the nature trail behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center. There, Bob Lockett picked out an adult Franklin's Gull from among the 250+ gulls on the flats. On the receding tide Elegant Terns came in to roost with the gulls and we also had 2 Bonaparte's Gulls (both juveniles), 5 Whimbrel, and 3 Marbled Godwits on the flats. 

The weather pattern repeated itself on Sunday, with dense fog all morning and an early afternoon burn-off. We went out at about 2:30. It was warmer and sunnier on this afternoon, thus we were birding in tee-shirts. We again had Elegant Terns along the jetty road, only 17 this time. After that, we again checked the dredge spoils for gulls. There were more birds this time–about 450 in all. Most were California Gulls and Western Gulls of various ages. We also had a couple Ring-billed Gulls, a single second-cycle Mew Gull (early), and refound the adult Franklin's Gull in the swarm. 

Again we ended our birding behind the science center as the tide receded. This time we had 14 Whimbrel, 23 Elegant Terns, and spent time sorting through the gull swarm, which was mostly Californias. One of the juv. Bonaparte's Gulls was still present. We also heard a flyover Long-billed Curlew call twice, but never saw the bird.

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Many of the 34 Elegant Terns that we saw at Newport were adult/juvenile pairs. On several occasions we watched adults bring fish (small 3-4" baitfish) to their begging offspring. These birds–juvenile on the left and adult on the right–were on the flats along the nature trail behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Newport, Oregon on 11 August 2013.


Bird List

Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon

Aug 10, 2013

Common Name Scientfic Name Count Action
Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus 12 ---
Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus 67 ---
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis 210 ---
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias 3 ---
Great Egret Ardea alba 29 ---
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura 3 ---
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1 ---
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus 1 ---
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus 1 ---
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 5 ---
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa 3 ---
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla 8 ---
Bonaparte's Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia 2 see note
Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan 1 see note
Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni 35 ---
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 2 ---
Western Gull Larus occidentalis 40 ---
California Gull Larus californicus 770 ---
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens 3 ---
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 7 ---
Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans 34 ---
Common Murre Uria aalge 18 ---
Pigeon Guillemot Cepphus columba 15 ---
Purple Martin Progne subis 5 ---
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1 ---
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys 3 ---

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Bob Lockett spotted this molting adult Franklin's Gull behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Newport, Oregon on 10 August 2013. We ended up seeing this bird both days and this picture was taken under sunnier skies on 11 August 2013. Franklin's Gulls are rare but annual along the Oregon coast and this is one of several seen over the past couple weeks. Typically, fall sightings involve juveniles.


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If one looks closely, the amount of variation seen in hatch-year California Gulls can be astounding. Some juveniles, like this one photographed at Newport, Oregon on 11 August 2013, have a decidedly cinnamon or rusty look that really stands out when the bird is among group of darker and colder dusky-brown birds.


Bird List

Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon

Aug 11, 2013

Common Name Scientfic Name Count Action
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 40 ---
Black Scoter Melanitta americana 1 see note
Common Loon Gavia immer 1 ---
Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus 5 ---
Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus 26 ---
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis 6 ---
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias 4 ---
Great Egret Ardea alba 7 ---
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura 3 ---
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus 1 ---
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 1 ---
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 14 ---
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus 1 see note
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla 1 ---
Bonaparte's Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia 1 ---
Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan 1 ---
Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni 1 ---
Mew Gull Larus canus 1 ---
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 12 ---
Western Gull Larus occidentalis 126 ---
California Gull Larus californicus 1070 ---
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens 2 ---
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 10 ---
Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans 34 ---
Common Murre Uria aalge 10 ---
Pigeon Guillemot Cepphus columba 1 ---
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon 1 ---
Purple Martin Progne subis 7 ---
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris 40 ---
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis 1 ---
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys 2 ---
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis 1 ---

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This second-cycle Mew Gull was in the large flock on the dredge spoils on the south side of Yaquina Bay on 11 August 2013. Mew Gulls winter along this section of the Oregon coast and become quite common starting in early October. Mews are rarely seen in Oregon during August. Given the absence of longer primaries on this bird, we can presume that it's not a recent arrival. It may have summered locally.


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If you look at field guides, they will tell you that adult California Gulls have a yellow bill with red spot and a smaller black spot at the gonys. During the breeding season, some full adults lack the black on the bill. As they transition into their winter/basic plumage the black spot on the bill is once again present. This bird, photographed at Newport, Oregon 11 August 2013, was one of several adults on the dredge spoils that lacked black on the bill.


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Here's a flight shot of a juvenile Elegant Tern. Note the amount of black in the tail and the dark secondaries.


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