Nov 2017 – Mar 2018
Since we were already in Bandon after being evacuated from Harris Beach SP, we were offered a winter volunteer position at the Bandon Marsh NWR. The marsh doesn’t have any visitor services, but we were asked to provide interpretation at the Simpson Reef overlook near Charleston. We were given a full hookup site in the woods at a former cranberry farm. US Fish & Wildlife has three sites there, two for summer volunteers and one for a permanent maintenance volunteer. The site is ideal; the tall trees shield the wind, there’s plenty of grass and open area for sunshine, and it’s gated and very private.
Simpson Reef is our all time favorite place on the coast. The deck overlooks the reef and Shell Island, where anywhere from 1000-5000 seals and sea lions can be seen. It’s the only place on the coast of North America where you can generally see all four of the “pinnipeds”, the Harbor Seal, California Sea Lion, Steller Sea Lion, and the magnificent Elephant Seal. The barking of the California Sea Lions, screaming gulls, and roaring waves are magical – and there are Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and even a Grey Whale or two. We watched as elephant seal pups were born and quickly grew fat. They’re around 70 pounds at birth and will grow to 300 pounds by the end of the first month. Unfortunately, they cannot swim! Sadly, a winter storm and high tides washed the first pups away. A few more were born later and appeared to survive. But at the end of the 30 days, the mothers abandon the pups to figure out how to swim and catch fish! Very few survive here since the conditions are so harsh.
We met so many great people, and enjoyed explaining what they were seeing. USF&W issued us Swarvoski spotting scopes and the incredible optics gave everyone a close up look at the seals and sea lions. We also had use of the USF&W van which was always an attention getter.
We worked when the weather permitted, and averaged 24 hours a week between the two of us. Weather kept us away most of the time, as winter on the coast is often wet and cold. It wasn’t us that we worried about – it was those high-cost Swarvoski scopes!
We can certainly recommend volunteering for USF&W on the Oregon Coast. The volunteer coordinator is an amazing lady who goes out of her way to make your stay memorable.