Seagulls vs. Cormorants Smackdown, Oceanside Beach

An entertaining place to witness birdy hi jinks is Oceanside Beach Recreation Site. It’s crowning geological feature, a collection of sea stacks called Three Arch Rocks, is a breeding ground for both seagulls and cormorants. Nesting goals between the two often erupt into comedy.

An interesting route delivers you to the stage. First, you walk north along Oceanside Beach until you see an ominous door at the base of Maxwell Point that looks like it should have “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” carved above it.It’s pretty dark in there. 

Just remember, go toward the light!

When you see the Pacific Ocean framed in basalt at the other end, take a moment.

Stumble out onto the beach where the dim overcast skies and dark, wet sand now seem ludicrously bright.

Come to your senses and ogle the beautiful rock garden of sea stacks at the other end of the beach.

The largest, Finley Rock, is quite sexy. Just ask the puffins.

The smaller stacks are known hangouts for Western Seagull gang members.

If you look closely, you can see them plotting evil. All those black dots in the sky above are a self-tossing salad of seagulls, puffins, Murres, and cormorants. (Click on image.)

The cagey buggers. They feign indifference and pretend to preen but they’ll steal your hubcaps the second your back is turned.

Meanwhile, the gentle Pelagic Cormorants tend their rocky rookery on the cliffs above. They eye everybody who approaches with suspicion.

At the other end of the beach is a grassy knoll with a side order of rock slide.

If you monitor the lowest ledge of green, you will see a constant conveyor belt of cormorants flying over, harvesting mossy thatch to line their nests, and flying back.

Sometimes they work as a team.

Sometimes they invite their friends.

Seagull attack!

Not sure what the gulls were on about unless they suspected hidden food in that grass, but the twitchy cormorants were no match for these bullies. The cormorants would retreat and regroup every couple of minutes, congregating on the opposite cliffs to ponder their next move (which mainly consisted of waiting for the gulls to get bored and leave long enough for them to make another thatch run). This scenario played out again and again for hours.

Having my fill of the ornithological turf wars (see what I did there?), I turned my attention to the marvels at my feet, like future sea caves being carved out of columnar basalt.

Cute but shy rock lice lodged in the cracks.

Glistening sprays of seaweed draped along the beach like disoriented centerpieces.

One rock in particular was very popular among the meditation fans. We all took turns planting ourselves on the summit like flags and staring out into the liquid Ohm.

No mantra was required. The waves lulled the entire universe with music that rumbled and moaned like a Gregorian chant.

The only people singing along were between 400 and 2000 pounds each and furry. Steller Sea Lions packed their own bandstand daily with a sold out show called Seal Rock. Humans got the cheap seats on the beach, too far away to enjoy their antics, but if you were smart enough to bring opera glasses or a digital zoom….

Back at the parking lot in Seaside, I was treated to one last event in the form of flying humans. Paragliders don’t quite have the acrobatic skills of the seagull or the charisma of a seal, but their gangs were no less colorful.

June 9, 2011