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what the storm dragged in

Posted January 10th, 2008 at 12:24 pm by Anthony

6 months, 7 days, 5 hours, 35 minutes old

You may or not remember a couple of days after we moved in there was a beautiful day and we went down to the beach to frolic. We took a small path in front of St. Marys by the Sea (like we always do). I’ve highlighted the path in question in this picture; let’s call it Exhibit A.

Several storms later (along with the requisite high winds, high seas, and rains) we made it back up to check on our beach access. And it now looks like this (Exhibit B if you’re keeping track):

The camera does not deceive. What used to be a leisurely slope to the beach is now a 6 foot cliff with waves lapping at it. Granted, it was a between-storms day and was getting to high tide, but the sheer force of the Pacific Ocean was a sight to behold. Ali fell asleep in her stroller, so we covered her up nice and snug and watched the ocean for a bit. We marveled at the huge logs being tossed around like toothpicks. We questioned the sanity of the photographer running out between waves to get a picture. We took pity on the dead bird washed up in one of the bigger waves.

"Its not dead." Surely she must be crazy. Sure, its sitting there life-like enough, but what kind of bird gets tossed and tumbled through the surf and lands upright and alive. After some more tossing and tumbling, the little thing started moving. He seemed to be trying to swim more than trying to fly, and my first thought went to small penguin. I’m no ornithologist, but this bird wasn’t made to fly.

The wings are way too small, the feathers too compact. This bird is built for water, not air. Consulting with some of the other (older) sea-watchers nearby, we got the requisite "Leave it alone, nature has its ways," a "yea, thats a shorebird," and the blatantly obvious "if you go down there, you’re putting your own life in danger." As the waves tossed the little guy around, we got some different looks at it. Keep in mind we’re about 6 feet straight above.

Ashley ran back to the house for a towel (just in case) and the numbers for the police department. Since we don’t have any of the animal control or wildlife rescue numbers, it would have to do. I placed a call to Dennis at the Rockaway PD, gave him the information, and he said they had someone to call. Before long, a couple around our age came down and we pointed the bird out to them. The lady immediately goes "Why did you have to show that to him? He loves birds. We have a crow already." Then, to the guy: "We’re not taking it home." To one of the "let nature take its course" people, she says "We do enough to ruin nature, shouldn’t we do something to help it?"

We conversed with them briefly about who I called and how long ago, when a few strong waves tossed the bird around quite a bit and started taking it back out to sea. The surf receded pretty far down when the guy jumps down the embankment and runs out and grabs the bird. I start chanting "He better be careful. He better be careful." and give the guy a hoist back up the mini-cliff when he returns. Our towel comes in handy to check out our new little bird friend.

About this time, Ali wakes up. She gets a look at the oddity (from a distance, natch), and we decide to head home. We point out our place to the couple, who is staying in their Aunt’s cabin a few doors down. Upon returning home, I spent some time on the interweb trying to identify the little bugger, but couldn’t come up with much.

Later, the gal came back with a little slip and said they had called the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria, who had already dispatched a volunteer but had arrived after we left. I guess they eventually made contact, and the bird had been given IV fluids and was on its way to Astoria. It was identified as a Common Murre (more) (more) (more).

From that last link: "It might be easy to mistake this bird for a penguin, with its white belly, dark head and wings, and upright posture. But common murres aren’t even related to penguins. Common murres are pelagic seabirds—they spend eight or nine months of each year continuously at sea. Those short wings are perfect for diving and ‘flying’ under water." Turns out these guys spend almost all of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed. They can dive over 200 feet deep where they eat fish and krill and the like.

A learning experience, a little good karma, some new acquaintances, and a nap for Dot rolled into one? We love it here.

2 Responses to: “what the storm dragged in”

  1. Cynthia responds:
    Posted: January 10th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    It is crazy what the storms have done to the beach over there! Haha, it’s funny because Shayla is watching the penguin movie, “Surf’s Up” as I’m reading this and I saw the first and second picture of the bird and was like, “Oh my God, it really DOES look like a penguin.” Can you imagine if it was just a random lost penguin in the Pacific Ocean? So weird.

  2. Monica responds:
    Posted: January 17th, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Thanks for posting that! It was very interesting to read and I learned something new… Very cool guys!!

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