Seasons of Wildlife
Spring is a time for mate-wooing, nest-building, and brood-rearing among the seabirds. Immense, raucous colonies of breeding birds and their young—such as this Common Murre chick—crowd the rocks and islands, vying for space and resources. Thirteen seabird species nest on the protected landforms of Oregon Islands NWR.
In April and May, look also for pupping Harbor Seals on secluded beaches or reefs.
Remember, don't disturb pups and other wildlife! Undue stress wreaks havoc on growing families.
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 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 Surf Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Pacific 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 nature trails and beach access.
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.
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.
Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, a designated National Wilderness Area, includes 1,853 rocks and islands and two headlands that span over 320 miles of the rugged Oregon coastline. Protected from human disturbance, thirteen species of seabirds nest here, including Common Murre, Tufted Puffin, Pigeon Guillemot and Black Oystercatcher. Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions use the rocky islands as a place to rest and give birth to their pups. To find out more about the seabirds of the pacific northwest, check out this brochure.