September 30, 2007

Joys of California Birding in September

I spent last weekend birding in Central California during one of the peak birding seasons with the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. My friend and I took two organized tours, one on Saturday to Pajaro Dunes and Sunset Beach in Santa Cruz County outside of Watsonville, and one to the Pinnacles National Monument on Sunday.


Saturday birding was drippy and grey, but fortunately shorebirds don't care. So we grabbed our umbrellas and binoculars and tramped along the beach and riparian zones looking for birds. September is when the migrating shorebirds pass through the area from their summer nesting grounds on the tundra to their wintering haunts along the coast. The Pajaro Dunes site is also a nesting ground for the endangered snowy plovers and the young plovers were out and about. Dropping in for a feed were sanderlings, a pectoral sandpiper, dunlins, and the ubiquitous willets and hudsonian godwits. One merlin checked out the scene to see if he could pick up lunch, and the gulls, brown pelicans, loons, elegant's and caspian terns and the western and clarks grebes rounded out our trek along the coast. Despite the drip, we did take in some other passerines and ducks. All in all a tremendously relaxing albeit damp day.


Sunday we joined our group in Watsonville at the ungodly hour of 6:30 for the hour and thirty minute drive to the Pinnacles. We stopped at Paicines Reservoir for some time to see the bald eagle that nested in that location and to find more of those migrating shorebirds. These American White Pelicans were present on the calm lake. Hiking up one of the shorter loops in the Pinnacles was lovely as the rain of the previous day had cleaned the air and set the day's temperature to a nice balmy 70-75 degrees. We racked up a total of 46 birds on this trip including a big group of wild turkeys, a large family of acorn woodpeckers and a California Trasher (a lifer for me). The most special bird moment had to be the pair of wrentits that worked the bushes and ground within 10 feet of us - something this exceedingly shy bird is never known to do. And I'll never forget seeing the dark brown boar staring at us as we drove up to the Pinnacles parking lot.

If you are a birder and planning to be in the Bay area in September, do check out this unique and special weekend festival which next year will be Sept. 26-27-28. You will find birding activities that span the water (pelagic trips and kayacking Elkhorn Slough), the birdiest beaches and wetlands, and even the open hills that surround the Monterey Bay combined with classes on learning to bird, how to get the best pictures and great guest speakers. You won't regret it.

Posted by Mary at September 30, 2007 03:54 PM | Entertainment | Technorati links |