January 29, 2006

Birding the Monterey Bay Coast on a January Weekend

Despite the fact that we are in the depths of winter, birding along the Monterey Bay coast is an excellent way to spend a late January day. And although the day started grey and overcast, we ended the day with scattered clouds, a warm sun and singing birds making it seem like we'd somehow slipped into Spring even though the calendar said that it was still January.

Struve SloughMy friend and I first headed to Struve Slough in Watsonville, California, a once-upon-a-time sleepy farming community which has been experiencing quite a bit of growth with the hot housing market that has touched all towns within two hours of the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently there's been a lot of focus on preserving and regenerating the prolific wetlands in California, which fortunately included the remarkable Struve Slough. The City of Watsonville has recently completed a series of trails around Struve Slough that allows people access to the extensive wetlands area.

Today the water in the slough covered the east roadway as the tide was very high. Because of that the marshy area was underwater and lots of dabblers and divers such as Gadwalls, Buffleheads and Pied-Billed Grebes, were out on the slough making the most of the balmy day. The coots acted like they were already in full heat with mock battles making use of their funny huge green feet.

Marsh wrens were setting up shop and claiming territory by singing their song in the reeds and even the ring-billed gulls seemed to be dancing in the air with a display of aerodynamic flight designed to attract a mate.

Later we meandered down to Jetty Road in Moss Landing where we found the usual suspects for that area: Marbled Godwits, Willets, Long Billed Curlews, Buffleheads, Western Sandpipers, Dunlins, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, Western and Eared Grebes, Says and Black Phoebes, and White Crowned Sparrows and Red-Winged Blackbirds. We were thrilled to also see a Pacific Loon, Red-breasted Mergansers and a female Common Goldeneye. Yet one of the most fascinating viewings was to see a raft of sea otters. There was a good 15 of them lounging in the river mouth totally oblivious to the boats and kayaks coming up the channel.

It was a beautiful day to spend on the coast looking at the birds that frequent the area. And it is amazing to once more realize how early Spring shows up in California.

Posted by Mary at January 29, 2006 10:46 PM | Entertainment | Technorati links |