July 11, 2012

California Wanderings, Part 5: Monterey to San Francisco

Our tour of the bay area started at Point Lobos on the southern end on June 16.  How far north we have traveled is quickly apparent, with White-throated Swifts swooping overhead and Pygmy Nuthatches peeping from the trees.  As background noise for the incredibly beautiful scenery, White-crowned and Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Bushtits, and Western Gulls added their calls to the roar of the surf breaking upon the cliffs.

Point Lobos - by Renée Haip

Point Lobos - by David Such

Stunted Tree on Point Lobos - by Renée Haip

Before dark, we drove the Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive.  Despite traveling solely along the road, the bird life along this stretch of coast was excellent.  In the evergreen forests leading down to the ocean, Oregon Juncos, Pygmy Nuthatches, Steller’s Jays, Brown Creepers, and Spotted Towhees called, along with a flyover Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Along the ocean, the usual suspects were easily perceptible.  A single Black-bellied Plover on the beach added to the excitement. The Bird and Seal Rocks were incredible to see with their many thousands of nesting Brandt’s Cormorants and Western Gulls, who share their piece of real estate with Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions.

Birding Pebble Beach - by David Such

Bird Rock - by Renée Haip

"The Lone Cypress" - by Renée Haip

The next day (June 17), we started out with some early birding at Fisherman’s Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium site in hopes of some sea-watching due to the close proximity of the continental shelf along this stretch of shoreline.  With the low visibility and lack of a scope, we didn’t see much at all, but the many Pigeon Guillemots and sea lions right under the wharf were great to see.  At the aquarium, nesting guillemots and Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorants were the subject of our lenses, until the fog completely enveloped us and made it too dark to get any decent shots.

Pigeon Guillemot - by Joel Such

California Sea Lions - by Joel Such

Adult Western Gull - by Joel Such

Immature Western Gull - by Joel Such

Immature Pelagic Cormorant (I think) - by Marcel Such
Pelagic Cormorant - by Joel Such

 Pigeon Guillemot - by Joel Such

Pelagic Cormorants, adult and chick - by Joel Such 

Harbor Seal - by Joel Such

An unplanned stop at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County was perhaps one of the best accidents we had on the trip.  What was originally going to be a brief afternoon stop quickly turned into a nearly three-hour stay with a five-mile hike.  We tallied 44 species, with our first Hairy Woodpeckers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Band-tailed Pigeons, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Pacific Wrens of the trip.  Other abundant species include Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Swainson’s Thrush, Wrentit, Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Purple Finch.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park - by David Such

Birding the Coastal Redwoods - by Renée Haip

Wrentit - by Joel Such

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - by Marcel Such

Band-tailed Pigeon - by Joel Such

Band-tailed Pigeon - by Joel Such

Western Scrub-Jay - by Marcel Such

Western Scrub-Jay - by Joel Such

Green Comma - by Joel Such

Northern Checkerspot - by Marcel Such

Foxglove - by Marcel Such

Completing our drive to San Francisco (we were spending the night just north of town), we drove through Golden Gate Park and hiked the 456 stairs up to Telegraph Hill and the Coit Tower.  We didn’t see any birds beyond the normal coastal and urban species in the extreme fog (we couldn’t even see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge when we drove through it!), but we did find a raccoon rummaging under the steps leading up Telegraph Hill.  The famous feral parrot flock was nowhere to be seen, but I think we may have been there just a little too early in the evening.

Golden Gate Park - by Renée Haip

Climbing the Stairs to Telegraph Hill - by Renée Haip

Coit Tower - by Renée Haip

Golden Gate Bridge in the Fog - by Renée Haip

Part 6 is forthcoming!

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