Enjoy the Summer Crowds
Published: 07/06/2017 Updated: 08/13/2019
Common Murre colony at Yaquina Head
Photo by Gary Hayes
For seabirds and visitors alike there's nothing like summer on the Oregon Coast where nesting colonies are very busy at nearly every rocky outcropping.
The Oregon Coast is known for its summer crowds and I'm not just referring to the travelers who come to enjoy the most dependably dry and sunny weather of the year. Although calling the coastal weather dependable is a misnomer any time of year, there are some inspiring experiences that are unique to the summer season you can count on. Many of these go unnoticed by those visitors who don't venture far from their hotel room or their blanket on the beach. Among my favorite sights are seabird nesting areas, primarily the isolated seastacks, small islands and inaccessible cliff faces that provide habitat for birds that spend most of their life on the sea, but must find a patch of dry land to nurture an egg and raise a chick until it can join the parents as they return to their home on the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. If you bring binoculars you will have an eye-opening experience into this natural world, though you can see this remarkable display even without them in many places. Common Murres can cover nearly the entire top of near shore rocks, standing shoulder to shoulder. Cormorants and Pigeon Guillemots find a rocky ledge to make their summer home and Tufted Puffins inhabit burrows in the soil on grass-covered rocks. Gulls raise fuzzy gray fluffballs of chicks wherever they can. Observe these areas and you will see a flurry of activity as parents take turns fishing and fending off predators. Listen and you will hear a cacophony of avian communication, notably the throaty gurgling or murmuring of common murres. Shrill calls go out when a predator approaches, often a sign that a Bald Eagle or Peregrine Falcon is on the prowl, another awe inspiring experience to witness. All of Oregon's 1800-plus intertidal and offshore rocks and islands are protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and no human access is permitted. A single person encroaching on these nesting areas can entirely devastate the breeding colony for the season, so enjoy this amazing sight from a safe distance. In this case, the summer crowds are part of the attraction of the Oregon Coast.