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Greater Yellowlegs, photographed at Nehalem Bay, Spring 2001.  Click on it to see a larger image.

seeing shorebirds
on the
North Oregon Coas

Black-bellied Plover, Nehalem Bay, spring 2001.  Click it to see a larger image.

Shorebirding goes through four phases during the year: 

  • Winter - Some shorebirds spend the winter along our coast and can be seen for much of the year.  Examples of birds you might see from Sept to April (approximately) are:
    Semipalmated Plover, Black Oystercatcher (year-round), Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Common Snipe.  Plenty of other species are seen from time to time in the winter, too.

  • Spring (northward) migration - April and May are when most of the spring migration takes place.  Since the Pacific Coast is an important migration corridor you can see almost anything during this time.

  • Summer - There are very few shorebirds around in June, but they start trickling back as early as July in most years.  Black Oystercatchers and a few stray peeps or sandpipers are about all you are likely to find during this time.  

  • Fall (southward) migration - Usually gets going in late August and is pretty hot through September, though it spreads out much longer as the juveniles often wander through later than their parents.

When to look:

Most shorebird activity is related more to the tides than to the time of day.  Ebbing tides expose river and ocean shorelines and expansive mudflats in the estuaries.  Flooding tides cover them up again.  When the tides are out the shorebirds are scattered all over the place feeding at the water's edge or on the mudflats.  As the tide comes in it pushes all of those birds higher and higher until they are squeezed right off of the beach or up onto dry beach where there is no food for them.  When this happens they go to certain areas which are often known to birders as "shorebird flats" or "shorebird ponds."  Since it can be very difficult to find them when they are out feeding, and it can be very easy to find them at their flats or ponds as they wait out the high tide, it is best to look for shorebirds during high tides.  And the higher, the better because that reduces the amount of available beach and muddy shoreline even more.

Where to look:

Map of good shorebirding sites on the North Coast.Here are some good locations to find shorebirds in our area.  Most are where shorebirds are known to congregate and wait out the high tides.  The numbers below are keyed to the blue numbers on the map to the right.

  1. Columbia River estuary.  If you go to parking lot D of Ft. Stevens State Park and look northwards from the parking lot you will see one of the premier shorebird flats on the coast.  There are a couple of ponds there and a lot of flat around it.  It's protected from the ocean by the jetty to the west and the river is just over the small dune on the north side of the flats.

  2. Necanicum River estuary.  You can see the estuary from Hwy 101 between Seaside and Gearhart, but the best access for shorebirding is off the end of G street in Gearhart.

  3. The rocks at (north to south) Ecola, Chapman Point (Bird Rocks), Haystack Rock, Silver Point, and Hug Point are good places to see Black Oystercatchers.  There are only about 300 of these shorebirds in Oregon and we're lucky to have many of them right close by.

  4. Cannon Beach sewage ponds are a good place to find phalaropes, especially after stormy weather.  They're at the east end of 2nd street in downtown CB.

  5. The Nehalem Bay shorebird flats are very difficult to access unless you have a boat.  However...

  6. The Nehalem sewage treatment ponds and the surrounding fields are another good location for shorebirds in the Nehalem Bay area.  To get there, take the first right after crossing the Nehalem River bridge (hwy 101) southbound or the last left just before crossing it if you are northbound.  That puts you on Tidelands Road.  You'll pass under the bridge and the sewage ponds are only about 1/4 mile farther on the left.

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  Wild Bird Shop, 123 S. Hemlock, PO Box 1220, Cannon Beach, OR 97110.
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