The Art of Fledging


For Labor Day Weekend, we took a road trip down to the Three Capes Scenic Drive along the Oregon Coast. Christian and I had been here the second summer we were dating. What a time warp to come back here seven years later with our two kids. We camped at Cape Lookout State Park and set up for hours on the endless beach to build sandcastles, splash, nap, read, picnic and watch all the gray whale action - uncountable breaching, double breaching, full breaching, tail slaps, blows. We found tiny sand dollars and jellyfish on the sand. We pointed out the Big Dipper to Xavier as we roasted marshmallows around a campfire. We spent a rainy morning in Pacific City at Cape Kiwanda having breakfast at the Grateful Bread Bakery, a long and misty beach walk afterwards. The third day, up to Cape Meares Lighthouse to watch more whales and enjoy another big beach day at Oceanside. A quick fix of Portland and then the drive home, the kids sandy and sacked out in the back seat.

The Art of Fledging

     ~ Found Poem, Cape Meares Lighthouse

To jump or to fly?
Seabird chicks have two choices
when they are ready to leave the nest:
jump or fly.
Some species jump,
most take their first flight.

Fledging is different for each species.
Some species fledge earlier than others.
Common murres, for example,
leave the nest when they are about 21
days old,
while Leach's storm-petrels
fledge after they're 70
days old.
Some join waiting parents
who feed them at sea
for some time,
while others must fend for themselves.
Most species fledge late
at night or at dusk to avoid predators.

Jumpers, like common murres,
cannot fly when they leave. Tiny,
3-week old murre chicks leap
from the tops of rocks and cliffs,
gliding down to the water on their stubby
little wings.
Some fall onto the rocks below and
Once at sea, the chicks join their father who, alone,
cares for them at sea for another 6 to 8 weeks.

Fliers include marbled murrelets,
who probably fly from their inland
nest directly to the sea.
Two days before fledging,
murrelet chicks have been observed
back and forth,
frequently and vigorously
flapping their wings, and
peering over the edge
of the nest site.
And they looked nervous.

Sarah Burns