Cape Arago Audubon Society, Coos County, Oregon

BIRDING MILLICOMA MARSH
Millicoma Marsh is an easily accessible birding area in Coos Bay’s Eastside district located at the southeast end of the city of Coos Bay. The walkable trails on relatively flat terrain lead through fresh- and saltwater marshes in an area which once was an extensive tidal marsh. Disposal of materials dredged from the Coos Bay shipping channels (filling activity ended in 1985) formed the levees and resultant freshwater marshes. Wetland grasses, rushes, cattail, and trees such as willow and alder now provide habitat for wildlife and birds of the marsh. The Coos Bay School District helps maintain the trails of the marsh, which are used by birders, wildlife watchers, dog walkers, and others enjoying a quiet stroll.

Directions to Millicoma Marsh:

  • From US 101 at the south end of Coos Bay, follow the sign to Coos River, Allegany.

  • Cross Isthmus Slough Bridge, stay on 6th Ave (bear left at end of the bridge).
  • Go north on 6th Street for 0.5 mile, turn left at D Street.
  • Go 2 blocks, turn right on 4th Street.
  • Go another block to brown sign with binoculars and arrows on your right.
Turn right, down driveway to the athletic field and a small parking area, or park on the street above.

The Millicoma Marsh trailhead is at the east side of the athletic field. The trail is easy to spot heading east from the athletic field and gazebo area. The wooded and shrubby habitat along the trail is home to sparrows and warblers. Look for Red-winged Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens in the freshwater marsh along the trail. Nest boxes have been placed in the marsh to attract Tree Swallows.

In the winter the cattail marsh, woodlands, and bramble habitats are good locations to find White-throated and Swamp Sparrows as well as flocks of more common sparrow species such as White- and Golden-crowned, Fox, and Lincoln’s. Rarities like Clay-colored or Harris’s Sparrows can sometimes be found.

 Beyond the second sheltered bench the trail forks. Taking the fork to the right leads to an observation deck with excellent views of the tidal salt marsh. This is a good spot to look for raptors, including Red-shouldered Hawk and White-tailed Kite. A nearby sewage sludge lagoon, south of the observation deck, is fenced off. However, you can look for waterfowl in the lagoon from the trail along the fenced area. Ducks present at the lagoon may include Bufflehead, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, and Mallard. Duck hunting is in season from October through January, and during this time you may see or hear duck hunters in the bay. The small pond across from the lagoon here sometimes has shorebirds too.

The left (north) fork of the trail beyond the sheltered bench makes a one-mile loop back to the athletic field. The loop of levee road takes you along the bay, past mudflats of Coos Bay, then continues on between alder and brush thickets where you can continue to look for warblers, vireos, and grosbeaks during the summer breeding season and Pine Siskins, goldfinches, and sparrows during the winter months. The pilings off in the bay here have nest boxes for Purple Martins, which can be seen flying over this area during the summer months also.

The mudflats offer good viewing of shorebirds. A scope will aid sightings in the bay and the mudflats of low tide. During spring and fall migration, you may see Short- and Long-billed Dowitchers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, and Black-bellied Plovers. Also out on the bay, Double-crested Cormorants, Surf Scoters, as well as a variety of ducks and gulls can be plentiful in the fall and winter.

Virginia Rails, Yellow Warblers, and Marsh Wrens inhabit the freshwater marshes. Birds of prey attracted to the wetlands are White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, and Peregrine Falcon. Northern Shrike may occur in winter some years. At dawn or dusk you may see Barn Owls over the salt marsh.

The marsh in winter is also a good place to find species not commonly seen in Oregon during the winter. These include Common Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned Warbler, Marbled Godwit, and American Bittern. Other species occupying the marsh in winter are Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hutton’s Vireo, Varied and Hermit Thrush, and Black Phoebe.

The varied habitat of Millicoma Marsh attracts birds representative of this diversity. Winter birding at the site can be especially rewarding. Although just a short distance from downtown Coos Bay, the marsh is quiet and removed from it, making the area a pleasant oasis for birders and wildlife observers.

 (For related stories, see: www.southcoastshopper.com/articles/TomsStories/Jan6_2011MillicomaMarsh.html )

 

CAPE ARAGO STATE PARK AND SIMPSON REEF

Cape Arago is a headland in the Pacific where trails, woods, and cliffside views provide wonderful birding opportunities. From the headland you have unobstructed views south to Cape Blanco. This is the best location in the Coos Bay area to ocean scope for pelagic bird species. In addition, there are many other species of ducks, grebes, loons, alcids and rockpipers visible from this promontory. Cape Arago State Park is located at the south end of Cape Arago Highway. From US Highway 101 in Coos Bay or North Bend, follow signs to Charleston/State Parks/Ocean Beaches. At Charleston continue on Cape Arago Highway to the ocean beaches. If you want more details, visit Oregon Birding Trails

At Cape Arago State Park, trails lead to the north or south coves of the park. Tides and wind patterns will influence which birds may be visible in these locations. During the winter in the rocky intertidal area look for Harlequin Duck, Black Oystercatcher (year round), Surfbird, Black Turnstone, and all three scoters, Black Scoter being somewhat uncommon. Also visible a little farther offshore during the fall through spring are Common Murres, Marbled Murrelets, Western and Red-necked Grebes, Pacific and Red-throated Loon, Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorant and several gull species, including Black-legged Kittiwakes (winter). The headlands can offer sightings of Gray Whales during their migration as well.

In forested areas of the park you are likely to see Townsend’s Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets during the winter months and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers and Red Crossbills year round. From the trail to the North Cove, colonies of seals and sea lions can be seen at Shell Island National Wildlife Reserve.

Simpson Reef Overlook is located approximately 0.5 miles to the north on Cape Arago Highway. There are maps and interpretive signs here and great views of Simpson Reef and Shell Island. The reefs and island are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area. This is the largest marine mammal haulout site along Oregon‘s coast, where you can watch thousands of sea mammals, look for birds, and observe Gray Whales during their migration period in spring and late fall. California and Steller’s Sea Lions and Harbor Seals haul out on the reefs and Shell Island. The large Northern Elephant Seals can be seen on Shell Island, the northernmost point along the coast that this species breeds. Western Gulls and Pelagic Cormorants build nests on Shell Island. Cormorant nests are built on the narrow ledges, and chicks hatch in July. You may see scoters in the lee of Shell Island during fall and winter. Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagles and Osprey may be seen in the summer.

For more detailed birding information about Cape Arago and beyond, visit http://birdingoregon.info.


Following are other Local Birding Areas in Coos County.  Until we can provide more information on these and other places in the region, you can map these from your phone or other device, or email lbasch@uoregon.edu for further info.

Bandon - BLM New River ACECBandon State Park - China Creek (mouth and beach)
Bandon Fish Hatchery
Bullards Beach State Park (picnic areas along river, beach, lighthouse, and north jetty)
Bandon - Coquille River south jetty
Bandon - Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint
Seven Devils State Wayside
Whiskey Run Beach and Creek
Charleston Harbor and Boat Basin
Barview & Empire (various access points along the east bay (Fossil Point, Pigeon Point, etc.))
Empire Boat Works and boat ramp area
Empire Sewage Treatment Plant 
Coos Bay - Mingus Park
Coos Bay – John Topits Park and Empire Lakes
South Slough Nat'l Estuarine Research Reserve
Winter Lake Wildlife Area (restricted access)
Coquille - Johnson Mill Pond County Park
Coquille – Riverwalk and Sturdivant City Park
Lakeside - Eel Lake/Benchy Point Trail, William M. Tugman State Park
Lakeside - Hall/Schuttpelz Lake USFS Day Use Area
North Bend - Horsefall Beach Area and Bluebill Lake
North Bend - North Spit BLM Boat Launch
North Bend - North Spit Weyco Settling Pond and Beach Overlook
Powers - Day Use Park on Coquille River 
Powers - USFS Ranger Station
Powers County Park