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Birdwatching Locations

Great Spots in Cannon Beach & Surrounding Areas Suggested by Local Birders
 
Cannon Beach Settling Ponds
  • Sewage settling ponds are fantastic locations to see birds.  Nutrient-rich slurry encourages blooms of algae and zooplankton, that activity also generates heat.  These factors make it an ideal location for wintering ducks, such as Buffleheads, Green-winged Teals, and Gadwalls.  In rare circumstances, it can also be a safe haven for pelagic birds when there are storms at sea, such as irruptive Red Phalaropes.
  • In the summer, this is a good spot to check for nesting Purple Martins, swarms of swallows, and the occasional Black Phoebe.
Haystack Rock
  • Haystack Rock is a “must see” destination for many reasons.  It’s full of beautiful views, incredible natural history, and a variety of fascinating critters!  It is a great place to see birds year-round.  In the winter, you might spot Harlequin Ducks, Black Scoters, and Surf Scoters.  During the summers, you can see breeding Pigeon Guillemot low near the water, Black Oystercatchers hopping around the intertidal area, and three species of cormorants who breed on the south side of the rock.  The north side of the rock hosts a breeding colony of Common Murres interspersed with Tufted Puffins burrows.  All of these birds congregating in a small area, also attracts some predators, so keep an eye out for hunting Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles!
  • During low tides from February through October, you might spot the Haystack Rock Awareness Program team - look for the red truck and volunteers in red jackets - who can help point these species. 
Bird Rocks (Chapman Point)
  • Chapman Point offers an off-the-beaten-path section of beach.  Check out this spot for Black Turnstones picking around the rocky habitat, pick out a rare species in the flocks of gulls exploring the tide line, and see more nesting cormorants.
Ecola Creek Forest Reserve
  • Over 1,000 acres of forest reserve are just up the road from the famous beaches that so many love.  This is such a great place to look for some of those more sensitive forest species you won’t see elsewhere in Cannon Beach. 
  • In the summers, you may have Band-tailed Pigeons in the trees searching for seeds and fruits and Pacific-slope Flycatchers calling from near the creek.  This is a great spot to look for Hermit Warbler, Western Tanager, and Black-headed Grosbeak.
  • Throughout the year Barred Owls can be heard calling from deep in the forested canopy and Pacific Wrens may chitter at you from along the roadway. 
Ecola State Park
  • On the north end of Cannon Beach is the iconic viewpoint of Ecola State Park, filming location of some Oregon coast classic movies such as “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop”.  The viewpoint at the main parking lot is some of the closest views of Tillamook Head lighthouse from land you can get, while looking out at the lighthouse don't forget to look down at the closer sea stacks where nesting cormorants and murres can be spotted.  The Tillamook head trail also offers a unique perspective of overlooks to watch for seabirds while still deep in the forest listening to Chestnut-backed Chickadees call and Swainson’s Thrushes mystify you with their ethereal upward spiraling summertime song. 
  • Locals of the area use the cove at Indian Beach as a secluded surfing area, either hike down from the main parking lot on the 2 mile Indian Beach trail or drive the winding road to find this hidden gem of the north Oregon coast along with the main trailhead to hike the 6 miles up and over Tillamook Head and into Seaside.
  • Ecola State Park requires a day-use fee or a yearly pass in order to park, either can be purchased at the gate or online at the state park website
  • There are many amazing locations in, and around, Cannon Beach to go birding!  From Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock to Varied Thrushes at Ecola Creek Forest Preserve, you can see dozens of interesting species.
Tolovana Mainline
  • If hiking up old gravel logging roads through miles of scenic landscapes is more your speed, you can find that in the hills overlooking Cannon Beach where you can access the Lewis and Clark Timberlands.  It does require that you complete a free permit from Green Wood Resources to explore the nearly 200,000 acres.
  • Back away from Highway 101 are spectacular views of Onion Peak and Sugarloaf Mountain.  The secluded North and West Forks of Ecola Creek provide prime habitat to get up close views of the often heard but rarely seen Wrentit and more commonly seen, breeding Orange-crowned Warblers.  Woodpeckers, including Hairy and Downy, can be heard calling throughout the forest.
  • Maps and permit for access to this underbirded location can be obtained at Greenwoodresources.com

Ecola Creek Birdwatching

Oswald West SP
  • Six short miles south of Cannon Beach is a stretch of pristine temperate rainforest, this 2,484 acre park is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. 
  • Look for American Dippers feeding in the fast, shallow, clear water creeks that flow through the old growth Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce forest. 
  • Seeing birds and other wildlife in the dense undergrowth of ferns and salal can be difficult but extremely rewarding to hear a rustling off the trail and then to discover a beautiful Varied Thrush skulking on the ground or a Brown Creeper working its way up the massive trunk of a Sitka Spruce. 
Fort Stevens State Park
  • Fort Stevens State Park is a great place for a day-trip from Cannon Beach.  A 4,300-park where the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean meet, you will find a shipwreck, miles of trails, and old military installation, and so much more to see. 
  • There are several areas that offer good birding: Battery Russell, Coffenbury Lake, Parking Lot C, and Parking Lot D are a few of the favorites.  Battery Russell can be a great place to see Red Crossbills and Wrentits in the summer.  Access the south tower jetty to watch gulls and terns in the summers and scoters in the winter.  From Parking Lot D walk to Trestle Bay for a variety of migratory ducks.  Coffenbury Lake is a great spot for kayaking, fishing, or spotting fishing Bald Eagle and Osprey in this dune lake.
  • Beach cruising can be a fun way to search for shorebirds - but it is not for novices as you can easily get stuck in the soft sand or caught by an incoming tide.  Make sure to read up before going out.  There is an access at Fort Stevens State Park and you can drive the beach all the way down to Gearhart, look for Snow Buntings, Snowy Plovers, and Sanderlings running from the waves

 

Writer Bio

Hannah's birding origin story happened during a required college course at Oregon State University and being stumped at the question on the midterm: how does a Dark-eyed Junco fly?  She and Erik, high school sweethearts, went out on their first birding outing that weekend to figure out what a Dark-eyed Junco is and hasn't stopped since.  This has led to careers as park rangers, biologists, and educators in Oregon, Texas, and Florida before returning home to Cannon Beach to run the family motel, the Sea Breeze Court.  They travel around the world to look at birds, compete in birding competitions, and guide and speak at birding festivals.  

While driving around Florida from site to site, Hannah and Erik would listen to birding podcasts.  But they never really heard anyone talk about the excitement and adventure of birding, where to go, and what is really going on in the birding community...so they decided to do it.  In the time since their first episode was released in June 2018, they've had some fun experiences, talked to interesting people, and traveled to incredible places.  They feel that birding is about the places you go, people you meet, and birds you see.  Anyone can go birding and you can do it your own way, but the first step is to give it a try.

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