We rolled out of our sleeping bags at 5 a.m. and stumbled down to the Cape Perpetua camp ground parking lot with the hopes of hearing and seeing Marbled Murrelets, as they flew from their mature tree nests and resting areas to the ocean to get food for their young. The lively songs of Varied and Swainson thrushes greeted us. Twenty-five strangers under the tutelage of Marbled Murrelet biologist Kim Nelson learned to pick out the unique song of the murrelet and differentiate their flight patterns from bats and other songbirds. The early morning fog layer, kept the birds lower, making identification a bit easier. By 7:15 a.m. our official end of the survey, we had 164 detections, by likely 6 to 10 different birds. We were all giddy with our luck and success. This was the highest number of detections Kim had ever seen during one survey period. Cooler ocean water and upwelling provided ideal conditions and food for the murrelets.
After coffee and breakfast, sharing stories with the three other groups surveying at other locations, we headed to the Yachats viewing platform to watch the birds feed out on the ocean. As we parted ways, we were reminded that our high number of detections was very unusual and will likely be much lower next year with the predicted return of El Nino conditions. We were all inspired to do all we can to help protect the habitat and food sources of this federally and state threatened bird.
-Esther Lev, Director, The Wetlands Conservancy