There is nothing lovelier than our ocean beaches on a warm, sunny summer's day, especially at low tide. At this time of year shorebirds abound as they stop here to rest and feed before flying off to their wintering grounds.
This morning as the tide slowly rolled in toward shore hundreds of semipalmated plovers were foraging on the sand not far from the water's edge. They mainly occur in our area as spring and late summer migrants. In summer these plovers generally begin to come our way from August to October on their return journey from their northern breeding grounds. They are usually seen in small groups or individually, but not today. There were many large groups of these plovers along the shoreline of the beach. The semipalmated plover sometimes flocks with other shorebirds. Therefore, it was not surprising to see a few Western sandpipers and dunlin foraging with these large flocks of plover.
Even larger flocks of sanderling were foraging on the sloping sand of our beaches. They are the shorebirds we see running with the waves as they roll in. This chasing the waves behavior is an excellent ID marker for this species. Sanderlings run, walk and then run again as they prepare to poke and prod as they hunt for prey. Several very large flocks were also seen wheeling and turning over the ocean waves before settling down on our sandy beach to chase the waves and seek prey.
Further on down the beach an osprey was sitting on the sand eating a fish it had just caught. A crow decided to test the osprey's patience by sneaking up from behind, then quickly lunging for a piece of the fish. The osprey was having none of it so off it flew carrying the fish in its talons.
The shorebirds were concentrated near the north end of the Peninsula beginning at the Oysterville approach. As we came south concentrations of gulls and caspian terns were more prevalent. All were either resting and/or preening. The occasional caspian tern carrying a small fish landed in the middle of the flock. One landed at the edge of the group where it quickly gobbled down the tasty morsel. Most of the gulls were California gulls. However, one or two Western gulls and several glaucous-winged gulls were also resting and preening with the rest of the crew.
To round off the beach trip brown pelicans greeted us by flying in and out of the ocean waves. Some brown pelicans nest in southern California. Many come north to the Pacific Northwest after their breeding season is over. It is a treat to watch them plunge diving head-first from high in the air into the water with wings folded at the wrist. This is a sight to behold and generally happens when large schools of bait fish appear.
As we came off the beach at the Ocean Park approach a large flock of gulls seemed to be eagerly awaiting our arrival. Most of them were ring-billed gulls waiting for a handout. These are the gulls we see in the parking lot of McDonald's, and for this reason they have been nicknamed the," fast food" gulls.
Low tide, brilliant sunshine, gently crashing ocean waves, shorebirds, gulls and other birds made for a wonderful day. This kind of day heals the soul and makes one feel happy. I highly recommend a trip or a walk on our ocean beaches. You will love it!
"Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula," by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Center.