You already know Oregon’s Adventure Coast is a haven for anyone looking to unplug and reconnect with nature, but you may not know it is a premier destination for both beginners and experienced birders alike.
When the COVID-19 crisis began one year ago, our focus shifted quickly to promoting family-friendly outdoor activities that any pandemic fatigued person can experience on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston. In this post, we’re going to share some tips on another local favorite, bird watching! Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first pair of binoculars or an experienced birder in search of identification tips, we have it all here for you.
Why is it so popular? There are many reasons people love birding. It’s a simple, meditative activity that supports our physical, mental, and emotional health. Birdwatching is a wonderful way to get some fresh air, explore new destinations and get moving! It requires little equipment, and it’s a great way to make friends and/or bond with family members of any age.
Birding also benefits your mental health by stimulating your brain and your senses as you are required to observe details you might have missed in nature. Birds are some of the best teachers from the natural world. There are roughly 10,000 species of birds spread across countless habitats. Their unique colors, voices and antics invite us to learn about them and the ecosystems they inhabit.
Where can you go birding in Coos Bay, North Bend & Charleston? Birds are everywhere you look and it’s not uncommon to be surprised with an unexpected species hanging around our area. Having said this, there are several destinations that offer outstanding bird watching opportunities listed below in no particular order. Whichever trail you decide to follow, don’t forget your binoculars!
This 5,000-acre natural area located in the Coos estuary offers some of the best bird watching in the state. Take a self-guided tour through this protected area of land and estuary and you’ll likely spot various birds! Many have reported sightings of Bald Eagles, Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Egrets and Belted Kingfishers as they were strolling along wooded trails and/or exploring open water channels. Hike through the woodlands to find Wrentit, Winter Wren, Bandtailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Spotted Towhee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow, Violet-green Swallow, Rufous Hummingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red Crossbill, Varied Thrush, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Take the boardwalk near the water to see Greater Yellowlegs, Great Bufflehead, Double-crested Cormorant, and White-tailed Kite. South Slough also hosts regular educational programs and outings at their site and at the Millacoma Marsh. You can view their schedule and register for one of these outings by visiting the South Slough Estuary webpage.
The walkable trails on relatively flat terrain lead through freshwater and saltwater marshes in an area which once was an extensive tidal marsh. Wetland grasses, rushes, cattails, and trees like willow and alder provide habitat for wildlife and birds of the marsh. Spring and fall migrants include Willow Flycatcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Western and Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black Turnstone, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Black-bellied Plover can be seen in the bay. At dawn and dusk watch for Barn Owl hunting over the extensive salt marsh.
Wander through cattail marsh and woodlands in late fall and winter to find Swamp and White-throated sparrow with the occasional Claycolored and Harris’ Sparrow. Other wintering species include: Yellowrumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hutton’s Vireo, Varied and Hermit Thrush, Northern Shrike, White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Black Phoebe. This is an excellent location to find species rarely seen in Oregon during winter, like Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Marbled Godwit, and American Bittern.
A hidden gem in the dense coastal forests of southwestern Oregon, this area is hard to find, but worth the effort. Moss-covered Oregon myrtles shade the banks of Glenn and Silver Creeks, attracting Winter Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied and Swainson’s Thrush and Pacific-sloped Flycatcher. Hike trails through scenic canyons to see the American Dipper at the base of either waterfall. Hike to the top of Golden Falls to get a raven’s eye view of the cascading water and giant old-growth firs and cedars.
A quick stop at the marina can be rewarding. Scan the water of the bay for Pelagic, Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorant, Horned, Red-necked, and Western Grebe, Common, Red-throated and Pacific Loon, Black, Surf and Whitewinged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, and Marbled Murrelet. The small sandy beach by ODFW and the fish packing facility is excellent for gulls during winter including Heermann’s, Western, California, Glaucous-winged, Mew, and occasionally Glaucous Gull.
Situated in one of the most scenic areas on the coast, this park is worth a quick stop as the sandy beach draws Western, Glaucous-winged, Mew, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gull and the towering sea cliffs provide protection from summer winds. In summer, Double-crested Cormorant nest in dead trees on a small offshore island. In winter both Marbled and Ancient Murrelet can sometimes be observed. A network of hiking trails connects Sunset Bay with nearby Shore Acres and Cape Arago. The trails carry you through temperate rainforest and past ocean vistas; watch for Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Fox Sparrow, Hairy Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Steller’s Jay, and Winter Wren.
Perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean, this unique birding area combines native Sitka spruce forest with lushly planted formal gardens, once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson. The tailored grounds attract Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, White-Crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and Violet-green and Barn Swallow. Scan the coastline for Black, Surf and White-winged Scoter, Black Oystercatcher, and Marbled Murrelet. Watch for migrating gray whales in December and again in March.
A must see on the south coast, Cape Arago overlooks Simpson Reef, the largest marine mammal haulout in Oregon, featuring thousands of harbor and northern elephant seals, and Steller’s and California sea lions. The pristine rocky intertidal habitat attracts Harlequin Duck, Black Oystercatcher, Pigeon Guillemot, Surfbird, Black Turnstone, and Black, Surf and White-winged Scoter, and an occasional Rock Sandpiper. From the viewing deck watch for Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Western Grebe, and Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorant.
Please visit these other helpful resources to plan your birdwatching trip to Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston.
**Be on the lookout for new information on the annual **Oregon Shorebird Festival__ in September. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19, but we’re hoping to hear of new dates for upcoming festivals! **
Be sure to read about other excellent outdoor activities like paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, fishing, clamming, crabbing, outdoor dining, mountain biking, self-guided walking tours, camping and more.
Editor’s Note: As the developments in Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to unfold, please follow the direction from our public health authorities including the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, and Coos Health & Wellness to protect yourself, our community and our visitors.
Face coverings are mandatory for all when inside a public space AND outdoors when 6 ft distancing cannot be maintained.
If you are ready to travel, we are ready to welcome you back to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. However, if you are feeling ill or not comfortable traveling right now, we encourage you to stay home and stay healthy. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Please visit https://ecs.page.link/xhV4h for more information.