Night Birds



Sunset Near Ocean Shores Beach

Dunes, the surf and birds. I’m in Ocean Shores, Washington-again. It’s the height of summer but it’s not busy here. I think OS is just far enough from Seattle and Portland that it doesn’t get overcrowded. My theory, anyway. It reminds me of Sauble Beach, near where I grew up, also stuck in a species of time warp-quite pleasant too.

I’ve picked up a couple of rare gulls on my way down here but mostly now, I want owls. I know a spot where both Barn Owls and a Western Screech Owl work the dunes at night, which means waiting until dusk. I won’t likely see the birds but I might hear them, which is good enough for me.

They have fires on the beach here at night. People drive on on the (generally) packed sand too but, mostly, they stay near the access roads so it’s not too bad. It’s a nice evening for a walk; the subdued thunder of the surf almost a companion. I walk for a mile or more; pass shattered sand dollars and crab carapaces by the dozen, but no birds other than gulls.


The Constant Surf

And then something remarkable happens. I spot a moving smudge at the tideline, which turns into a flock of Western Sandpipers. They are so busy feeding, they scarcely notice me, and soon a few hundred are scampering around my feet, like little mice. A car goes by and they take to the air. Now they are all around me, wheeling and crying – jeet, jeet, jeet– close enough I could reach out and touch some. Soon they settle again, invisible now in the darkness, and carry on feeding.


Shorebirds at Night

I head up into the dunes, following, as best I can, the deer and people trails through the Sea Grass and Seashore Lupin. The air is sweet with a faint overlay of beach fire wood smoke and the ozone tang of salt water. I’m about to give up on my quarry, to go in search of my dinner when I hear the baby dragon rasp of a hunting barn owl as it cruises the dunes on silent wings, looking for something to eat – like a fat vole. My mission is accomplished and I’m hungry too. Fresh vole – maybe not!


6 thoughts on “Night Birds”

  1. Fresh Vole-maybe not–why not? “Years ago I came across a recipe for Souris Cordon Bleu that recommended using Deer Mice. However, due to their association with the Hanta Virus I think I’d alter that recipe and use voles instead. Though they are a bit smaller and you’d likely have to catch quite a number of them (especially if you’re cooking for guests), it’s better to be safe than sorry. That recipe involved skinning, gutting and stuffing the mice with Swiss cheese and ham prior to frying them in butter and serving them with a cream sauce.” (Flandrum Hill)


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