Florence in Fall


While middle-to-late summer is the peak of shorebird migration, late September through November offers the opportunity to see both some of the later-migrating shorebirds and migrant ducks.  I took a few trips to the Florence area to take advantage of this and was rewarded handsomely.

Uncommon migrants such as Pectoral Sandpipers (above) can occasionally be observed working ponds with exposed mud.  I was pleasantly surprised to find three of them associating with a flock of dowitchers in a small pond just south of Florence in late September.  I encountered some of the larger, more elegant shorebirds in the mudflats on the north side of the Siuslaw River jetty:


Marbled Godwit, an uncommon fall migrant, but typically easier to find than Pectoral Sandpiper



Long-billed Curlew.  This was a surprise, as they’re rare-but-regular migrants and very rare on the coast.



This is one of the Willets that hung out at the North Jetty Mudflats from early/mid August until at least late September.  They’re also rare migrants, so observing two of them was that much more unusual.


When the fall rain comes, the mudflats begin to fill and this provides appropriate habitat for ducks and phalaropes…


Red-necked Phalarope.  They constantly change direction when they swim and, thus, are a real pain to photograph.



Bufflehead, a regular winter migrant.



This immature Eared Grebe was a bit of a surprise.  They are rare and somewhat irregular winter residents in shallow ponds near the coast.  Horned Grebes are much more regular in this location/habitat.



Migrant geese will also use these shallow ponds.  This immature Greater White-fronted Goose was observed during a period when large flocks of migrants were being spotted west of the Cascades.


A visit to the shoreline is a must at any time of the year, and many winter residents have been conspicuous over the past two months.  One of the most common at this time of the year are Surf Scoters.  Scoters are overwintering sea ducks that feed near the coast.  Their large, chunky bills really make them stand out and the mature males are particularly cool-looking…


Adult male Surf Scoter



Immature Surf Scoter.  The white patches on the head/face are highly variable in size and brightness.



Common Loons are… well, common along the estuaries in winter.  As the name implies, they are also the most abundant of the loons.



Pelagic Cormorants are year-round breeders and the most abundant cormorant along coastal Lane County.



Double-crested Cormorants are a less common along the coast, but still not terribly difficult to find.  They are the only cormorant species that can be found inland in Oregon.



Brown Pelicans are common just offshore from May-November.



These Western Sandpipers are on their way south.



A Peregrine Falcon hunts near the end of the North Jetty rocks



Seals are relatively easy to find along the coast.  I spotted this one while searching for Snowy Plover near the Siltcoos River estuary.  I believe that this is a Pacific Harbor Seal.


Well, that’s it for now.  I’ll have more from the Eugene area in a month or so.


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