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Seasons of Wildlife

PROMO Intro ColonyRock 512x219

No matter what time of year one visits the Oregon coast, wildlife are plentiful and often easy to see. Because Three Arch Rocks NWR lies offshore and is closed to the public, visitors should plan on taking the long view: binoculars or spotting scopes are highly recommended. As always, don't forget the camera!

  • Spring

    PROMO LIST BLOY chick by Ram 150x118

    Spring is a time for mate-wooing, nest-building, and brood-rearing among the seabirds. Colonies of breeding pairs and their youngsuch as the Black Oystercatcher chick at left—commandeer the rocks and islands, though not in the plenitude of decades past. (Rebounding Bald Eagle populations are partly to blame.) Three Arch Rocks remains the largest breeding colony of Tufted Puffins in Oregon.

    In April and May, look also for pupping Harbor Seals on secluded beaches or reefs. 

    Remember: However adorable these creatures may be, do not disturb them! Undue stress wreaks havoc on growing families. 

  • Summer

    PROMO LIST Steller seal lion by Ram 150x118

    The warmer, sometimes-sunny days of coastal Oregon summer offer ample opportunity to get outside and get familiar with our breeding seabirds. As brood-rearing began in spring, by summer the colonies are teeming with loud, awkward, quickly growing chicks. From May to August, the beloved Tufted Puffin can be found nesting on Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach and Face Rock in Bandon.

    Further off the Oregon coast, Steller Sea Lions give birth to pups in June and July. Look for their golden-furred masses hauled out at Rogue Reef, Three Arch Rocks and Shell Island.

  • Fall

    PROMO List Storm approach 150x118

    Fall brings (more) rain and storms to the coast, but it also heralds the arrival of many of our winter migrants. Look for forerunners of wintering species such as scoters, goldeneyes, buffleheads, loons and brandt geese.

    And if the days are too dreary even to bird, many of Oregon's coastal state parks—of which there are several affording excellent views of the refuge's namesake islands—boast edible fall mushrooms to pick. 

    Tidepools at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach are of course perennial attractions, rain or shine. All one needs is a moderately low tide and some rubber boots.  

  • Winter

    PROMO List Whale wave 150x118

    The Oregon coast is prime whale-watching territory. Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Orcas, even Sperm Whales can be spotted here on their annual migrations. The most common sightings are California Gray Whales, migrating to and from their feeding grounds in Alaska's Bering and Chukchi Seas, and their breeding and calving grounds in Baja California. 

    The best viewing times along the Oregon Coast are during the months of December and March. However, some pods of gray whales are considered residents, and remain near the Oregon coast throughout the year. Bundle up, grab binoculars and head for the coast to catch a glimpse of these seafaring giants.
Page Photo Credits — Black Oystercatcher chick - ©Ram Papish, Steller Sea Lions - ©Ram Papish, Storm Approach - Roy Lowe/USFWS, Whale Wave - USFWS
Last Updated: Jun 23, 2015
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