Bird 301 - Pelagic Cormorant
The day started off like all the other days that involved hiking out to the Toleak Beach on the Washington Coast with no idea that we’d soon be finding our first beach cast bird of the survey. After a hearty breakfast we fill backpacks, tightened boots and eyed the weather report. We had actually delayed our hike by a day do to heavy rain and winds the day before but a bit of blue sky was peeking through the clouds and we crossed our fingers we might end the day somewhat dry.
It’s a bit of an ordeal to get our our COASST assigned beach; but the pure wildness and beauty of the place keeps bringing us back. Once we had rested a bit on the driftwood we started our process of surveying the beach. The first thing we do is pace off the different sections that make up a typical beach; surf, wrack, bare, and vegetation zones. Once that’s recorded we then start down the beach for 1km looking for any signs of beach cast birds.
You can imagine our surprise when we found our first bird right there in the wrack line even before we had a chance to pace off our sections. It took me a few moment to even comprehend what was need to be done next. Eventually our training kicked in and we started measuring a photographing key areas of the bird.
We started the measuring and photographing process anew. In the past I have found it incredibly difficult to differentiate the various species of gulls we have here in Washington. Of course the advantage of working with dead birds is you can measure them with ease.
The other advantage we had was our COASST field guide which walks you right through the identification process. It this case #302 turned out to be a Glaucous-Winged Gull (Larus glaucescens).
This all actually took place during our September survey. We went back for our October survey but storms kept us off the beach so we weren’t able to see what became of #301 and #302. Given that the storm surges comes all the way up the beach to the driftwood zone; which is full of massive and large amounts, I’m not hopeful that we’ll see our birds again but if we do I’ll pass that on.