California – Day 1 (July 26): Point Reyes

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Eager to begin birding after a long flight to the San Francisco area, we quickly grabbed the rental car and were on the road, heading north in the direction of Point Reyes. Long home to the world-famous Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO), I had planned our visit to this beautiful national seashore as a sort of introduction to California birding (and coastal scenery). A couple of hours later (early afternoon by this point) we found ourselves in the parking lot for the Point Reyes Lighthouse, eager to begin our Cali Adventure.

We soon began making our way down to the lighthouse, but large numbers and White-crowned and Song Sparrows slowed our progress, providing terrific photo ops as the adults foraged with juveniles, sometimes only a few feet away.

White-crowned Sparrow (nuttalli) with an odd growth around its bill

It was in this area that I enjoyed looks at my first two life birds of the trip, Pigeon Guillemot and Western Gull.

Now very excited at having obtained two of our easier targets, we raced down the three hundred or so steps to the lighthouse and looked down on numerous species moving about the rocks and inshore waters.

Common Murres were everywhere, with 220 noted at this site. Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants were hard to ignore as they flew from rock to rock and we soon picked up the cry of a few Black Oystercatchers flying past.

The rocky coast to the south of the lighthouse. It was on these rocks that I picked up Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorant, as well as tons of Common Murres and Pigeon Guilletmots in the waters below.

On the way back up to the road, we enjoyed views at our first Heermann’s Gulls of the trip.

Our next stop was Chimney Rock, where we noted many of the same birds as before. As well as enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery, we got great looks at a Western Gull feeding a fairly recent fledgling, and a number of molting Pacific Loons, Surf and White-winged Scoters just offshore. More Song and White-crowned Sparrows were also around.

Song Sparrow

By this time it was getting into the later hours of the afternoon, and we decided to begin making the long drive to Half Moon Bay, which would be our home for the next three nights.

Twice along the road out of Point Reyes we were stopped by two exciting roadside sights: a California Quail crossing the road with chicks, and a number of Brewer’s Blackbirds, a long-in-coming life bird, visiting a nearby feed lot.

A terrific way to end an awesome first day.


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2 Responses to California – Day 1 (July 26): Point Reyes

  1. Deanna Becker says:

    What a great way to start your trip! I loved the photos–made me think of when we lived out there. Am anxiously awaiting the blogs for the rest of your California vacation. Day one was amazing–I’m sure that had you psyched for the rest of the trip! Love, Deanna

  2. Nick Bonomo says:

    Hey Alex, can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip. You sure do get around!!

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