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Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Sitka Sedge State Natural Area now open!

A new State Park 

The much-anticipated Sitka Sedge State Natural Area had its grand opening this summer.

After the Oregon State Park acquired the “Beltz Farm” property at the south end of Sand Lake, abutting the community of Tierra del Mar, it began its transformation.

As a State Natural Area, the site is reserved for passive recreation such as hiking, nature observation, and photography. Development of the property will be limited to a parking area, vault toilet restroom, trails, and habitat restoration.

Along with the natural area, the “Beltz Dike Trail” that is already open.

The Beltz Dike Trail begins in the middle of the small pasture, extends west then north on the dike for about half a mile, into a tract of vegetated dunes, and then winds over to the beach. The trail is level and currently in good shape. The dike is lined with Sitka Spruce and other trees. It separates the open water of Sand Lake from a large marshy area to the south.

Crossbills sighted on Tillamook Coast

White-winged Crossbills were sighted on the Tillamook Coast at the end of November, which is quite unusual. They are boreal-forest birds, rarely seen in western Oregon. This winter they have been found scattered thinly all along the coast from southwestern Washington to northwestern California.

White-winged Crossbill female at Sitka Sedge Trail, January 1 2018.

In Tillamook County, they were found close beaches that had scattered Sitka Spruce in fairly open settings. The largest sightings were found at Barview County Park, the Bayocean Spit, and the Sitka Sedge property.

To find these birds, carefully examine with binoculars the tops of the trees, as well as the branches bearing cones. Some of the time a bird or two will perch at the top, silhouetted against the sky; otherwise, they will be down on the cones, prying loose the seeds. Sometimes they are by themselves, but more often they are in mixed flocks with Red Crossbills.

If you find a flock of Red Crossbills in a spruce, try to get good looks at all the birds you can – the white wing bars will really stand out. They do have distinctive voices as well, including a chattering call that one Oregon birder has compared to “a flock of kingfishers.” The general pattern in Crossbills is to call a lot while flying, but to be pretty quiet when feeding.

A Picture of Wayne Hoffman
Wayne Hoffman
Wayne Hoffman, a native Oregonian who resides near Newport, Oregon, is trained as a behavioral ecologist (BS and MS in Zoology from Oregon State University, Ph.D. from the University of South Florida). Wayne has worked on seabird biology, marine mammal and sea turtle distribution and ecology, forest bird habitat needs and foraging behavior, and habitat value of forests and forest plantations under different harvest regimes. For the past 16 years, Wayne has worked for the MidCoast Watersheds Council, with an emphasis on restoration of stream habitat for salmon, steelhead, and trout. Wayne is also an avid nature photographer, concentrating on birds, mammals, wildflowers, and insects.
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