Yaquina Lighthouses

And yes, lighthouses plural is correct.  The town of Newport, Oregon has two lighthouses.  Saturday morning, when I arrived in Newport from the south I crossed this bridge to get to the main part of town:


Immediately after getting to the north side of the bridge I got off Highway 101 and headed out to see the Yaquina (pronounced  ya-KWIN-ah) Bay lighthouse.


This lighthouse (which is shuttered only because it wasn’t open for tours yet) is the second oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon, but was only in use for a few years – from 1871 to 1874.  A taller, brighter lighthouse was built 3 miles further north in 1873.  This lighthouse was reactivated by the Coast Guard (the modern tower you see to the right is a Coast Guard watchtower) in 1996 with a fixed (steady) white light visible for six miles to aid boats getting into the Newport harbor in Yaquina Bay.

I will return to this lighthouse later in the post.

I drove further north of Newport to the newer Yaquina Head lighthouse.  This looks more like the lighthouses I am accustomed to seeing on the east coast.


This lighthouse, first lit in 1873, is 93 feet tall and sits at 162 feet above sea level.  It is still is use.





I spent quite a bit of time here, mainly watching birds on the various rock formations just offshore.  On my way back to Yachats later in the afternoon I stopped again at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, which would now have afternoon sun and would be open for tours.



This is the only lighthouse in Oregon made of wood, and is the only one where the living quarters for the lighthouse keeper was in the same structure.

And here’s another look at the beautiful Yaquina Bay bridge, now in afternoon sun:


Yaquina Head Lighthouse – Birds

Saturday I went to see both lighthouses which are near Newport, Oregon. The larger one, located north of town, sits right out by the ocean and has some large rocks sitting just offshore which is a great spot to see birds.

On the south side of the lighthouse:



And standing near the late-morning shadow of the lighthouse, looking west-northwest:


The two biggest rocks as seen from those two vantage points held the largest number of birds. The tops of each were literally covered with Common Murres:



This area has one of the largest populations of these little penguin-like birds on the west coast. I had seen some down in California but they were too far away to get a good picture of them. And where they gather, they gather en masse. They do not make nests but lay their eggs on flat, bare rock, near a cliff. The eggs have an unusual shape, like a pear, so while they may move around a bit, they won’t roll off the cliff because they roll in a circle. These birds are similar to the Pigeon Guillemot (with the red feet and having bright red inside their mouths) but these are your basic black and white. Unlike penguins, common murres can fly (although they evidently aren’t very agile). Their biggest feature is the ability to dive underwater, often to great depths. And young chicks know how to dive as soon as they hit the water for the first time.

Another bird I saw lots of were cormorants. I have seen many of these in many different places but rarely get blogworthy photos. The ones I saw on Saturday were on rocks which were rather close and with the angle of the sun I was able to get some decent pictures.




These birds have very long necks and when they fly they look sort of like geese (though they are sleeker). They like to hang out on rocks, and often nest in holes on the sides of cliffs. I most often see them floating on the water and they frequently dive underwater, sometimes for over a minute, looking for food. When they get up on land they often stand with their wings spread out – literally to air-dry! They don’t have very efficient water-shedding feathers like ducks.


Generally when I’ve seen cormorants they appear to be black, but like the ibis I finally saw up close when I was near Klamath Falls, these can have colorful feathers and with a cooperating sun angle I actually captured some shots showing this.



This group of cormorants appear to be having a good laugh over something:


Perhaps the silly man with the red camera, over by the lighthouse.

I also spotted some brown birds which I thought were something I hadn’t seen before but later learned they were just young Western Seagulls.


And although this post is mostly about birds, when I was reviewing my pictures from the day I found I had this interest sequence of a seal on the rocks:


Then he fanned out his tail (kind of like he was stretching his legs)…


And rolled on his side to take a nap…


Depoe Bay, Oregon

Saturday afternoon, after getting my tire issue resolved in Newport, I drove further north to this little town which sits right along the ocean.  While Depoe (pronounced d-po) Bay is small, it has two big things which bring people here.  Actually one big thing and one small thing.  Depoe Bay has the distinction of having the smallest navigable harbor in the world:


Trust me, that’s it.  I took two more photos, one slightly left and one slightly right but they each show just a tad more water.

The Bay sits just on the land side of the concrete bridge which takes busy Highway 101 over it:


That photo was taken from the pedestrian walkway which people can use to cross under the highway.  Here is a view looking towards the ocean from under the bridge:


And looking from the outside in:


And there is a reason why so many people park on the land side of the highway but want to be on the ocean side – and it isn’t to go to the beach.

The big thing Depoe Bay has going for it is REALLY big.  Whales.

The west coast of the United States is a great place to see whales migrate north for the winter and south for the summer.  Several of the places I have already been to in California and southern Oregon have places which are specifically designed to help people whale watch.  The signs I read in those places seemed to indicate that I was “between seasons” and I figured I wouldn’t see any.  Well, it turns out that there is a small population of, maybe 60, gray whales that live in this area year-round and Depoe Bay seems to be their favorite hangout.  There are numerous whale watching companies based here which ferry people out to sea to look for whales.  As I would learn on Sunday when I returned here, you don’t have to be out at sea to see whales.  Several came right into the Bay and I’ll post pictures of them tomorrow.

Here is a 3-shot panorama of the Bay as seen from the pedestrian bridge on the west side of Highway 101: