When I was in college, there was an oil spill right off the coast just a few miles from campus. The school had fortuitously just put the finishing touches on a wildlife rehabilitation facility, and some instructors offered extra credit to students who volunteered to help affected sea birds.
Though I had little interest in birds at the time, I signed up just for the credit and found myself being surprisingly impressed with these tough little beings. After having lost their natural buoyancy, being chased down a beach, shoved (gently) into a box, put into a shower, covered in dishwashing soap and then fed via a tube down the throat, they still had plenty of fight in them.
I learned how to tell the difference between land and sea birds and even to identify sub-species. Before long I was on a shortlist of people called to help injured birds long after the oil spill incident was over.
Though my immersion experience was fairly unique, the central coast is a great place for bird watching, and there are some opportunities this winter for bird lovers or lovers to be.
Lincoln City Audubon Events
Lincoln City Audubon covers the areas from Tillamook to Yachats. They are a great source of information and are sponsoring the following upcoming events:
Cascade Head Scenic Area Bird Walk
Saturday, November 9, 9 to 11 a.m.
This is an easy, family-friendly, two-hour walk along the Salmon River to look for wintering grebes, gulls, cormorants, waterfowl, raptors and songbirds. It starts at Knight Park, which is north of Lincoln City at the west end of Three Rocks Road.
Lincoln City Bird Watching Clinic of the Siletz Bay
Friday, December 6, 9 to 11 a.m.
Another easy, family-friendly tour, this one is held at the Siletz Bay from the Bayhouse Restaurant to SE Fleet in Cutler City. The group will look for great egrets, great blue herons and wintering waterfowl including red-breasted merganser, northern pintail, and bufflehead. Bayhouse Restaurant is located at 5911 SW Highway 101, about a half-mile south of SW 51st Street (just north of Cutler City).
A great blue heron and bald eagle having a chat on the Siletz Bay.
Christmas Bird Counts
Considered the longest-running Citizen Science survey in the world and led by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on bird population trends. During the Christmas Bird Count, volunteers tally as many species and numbers of individual birds as they can from sunup to sundown. All skill levels and ages are welcome; don't fret if you are a beginning birder as this is a perfect opportunity to learn more about local birds while participating in this free Citizen Science event.
Lincoln City Christmas Bird Count
Sunday, December 15, all day
Join a team to count birds for the seventh annual Lincoln City Christmas Bird Count. The group will meet at 6:30 a.m. at Sambo's and end the day with a countdown and potluck at 4:30 p.m. at Connie Hansen Garden. Mud boots or sturdy shoes are recommended. Bring your own optical equipment, lunch, snacks and water. Participation is free, but you do need to pre-register. Contact CBC coordinator Halle Renn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yaquina Bay CBC
Sunday, December 29, all day
The Yaquina Bay count is within a 15-mile diameter circle that extends from Yaquina Head southward to Seal Rocks and eastward to Toledo. Participation is free, but you do need to pre-register. Contact CBC coordinator Dawn Harris at email@example.com.
For birding on your own, Oregon Coast Birding has a great and very comprehensive guide for the entire coast.
Fly into the comments section and leave a story about your favorite bird encounter. For other things to do on the Central Coast, check out our Daytime Events calendar. For evening entertainment, our Nightlife page steers you to the top happenings on the Central Coast.