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Chirp Thrills

Summer birding in Newport

Do you spend large portions of your weekends and holidays viewing the world through binoculars or a spotting scope? Can you identify the call of the Spotted Towhee more readily than your spouse’s voice? Are you likely to drive more than 100 miles from your home to catch a glimpse of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet? If so, you are probably an avid birder, and there’s no cure for your condition. But there is a treatment: the excellent bird-watching opportunities in and around Newport.

Birding in Newport is fun and fruitful in all seasons, but spring and summer are particularly good – less chance of getting pelted by horizontal rain, for one thing. From the beaches to the dunes to the coastal forests, you’ll find scores of birds to add to your life list. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Yaquina Bay are both designated as Important Bird Areas nationally and by the state. In addition, there are three other IBAs nearby at the Salmon River estuary, Siletz Bay, and Alsea Bay. 

Feathered friends abound; here’s a guide to where to find them.

Beverly Beach State Park

Great examples of shorebirds and other marine species can be observed at the expansive beach here (and at Newport’s other beaches as well). Look for Western and Hermann’s Gulls, Common Loons, and Brown Pelicans flying by, and sanderling, whimbrel, and Western Sandpiper on the sand. In the park and campground, you can find Pileated Woodpecker, Band-tailed Pigeon, Swainson’s Thrush, Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Brown Creepers, and Wilson’s Warbler.

Yaquina Head

From April through July, tens of thousands of Common Murres and many cormorants, both Brandts and Pelagic, will be seen on nearby offshore rocks at this site. On the cliffs gulls, Pigeon Guillemots, and Pelagic Cormorants maintain precarious nests. Bald Eagles are a common summertime sight, as they prey on the young seabirds on the offshore rocks. Other summer birds include Black Oystercatchers, Western Gulls, and Brown Pelicans. If you’re very lucky, you could spot an occasional Marbled Murrelet or Peregrine Falcon.

Bay Road

Yaquina Bay Road, extending from the Bayfront neighborhood to Toledo, is a great place to spot a range of birds year-round. Stop at pullouts along the way to view loons, grebes, ducks and gulls. Other species that frequent the bay here include brandt, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, and Snowy Egret. Winter birds include Dunlin, Western and Least Sandpiper, and Black Turnstones. One must-stop spot on the road is Sally’s Bend, near the LNG tanks (1702 Yaquina Bay Road). “Walk west of the road to view terrestrial birds like Western Meadowlark, Northern Shrike, Killdeer, and Wilson’s Snipe, American Pipit and Western Kingbird in spring,” advises the Oregon Coast Birding Trail web site (www.oregoncoastbirding.com). Other likelies are Bald Eagles and a range of waterbirds in spring (Canvasback, American Wigeon, scoters, mergansers, and grebes among them). Belted Kingfishers are often found on the power lines along the bay side of the road.

Estuary Trail

The Estuary Trail traverses the edge of Yaquina Bay on the campus of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in South Beach. Over 3,000 feet of trail offer year-round public access to the estuary, and interpretive signs are placed along the trail, with an observation shelter provided approximately midway. Parts of the trail and facilities are accessible to the physically challenged. This trail is a feast at any time of year. “Peak shorebird migration is late April; expect Dunlin, Western and Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, and Long-billed Curlew,” advises the Oregon Coast Birding Trail. Birds of prey, including Bald Eagle, Merlin, and White-tailed Kite are seen here as well.

South Jetty

Many habitats come together at the South Jetty at the mouth of Yaquina Bay and the trails that extend from there south to South Beach State Park. Along the South Jetty Road, look for loons, cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, and Harlequin Ducks. The coastal dunes along the paved walking trail offer the opportunity to spy a range of species, including swallows, flycatchers, and Cedar Waxwing. 

To maximize your birding success, be sure to consult with the excellent web site of the Oregon Coast Birding Trail (www.oregoncoastbirding.com) for maps, species lists, and more. In addition, local birders flock together via the Yaquina Birders and Naturalists (yaquina.info/ybn/), a group that meets monthly and offers guided birding trips. 

If you want to hang out with other bird nerds, or if you’re a first-timer and want to learn more, consider heading to Newport for International Migratory Bird Day on May 10. Free beginner and intermediate bird walks and other fine feathered festivities will be offered (find more info at traveloregon.com/see-do/events/animals-agriculture/international-migratory-bird-day/).

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