Thursday, August 8, 2013

California Coast Point Reyes

Hotel on Tamale Bay
Western Scrub-Jay
Point Reyes is famous for its variety and number of species during the migration and summer months. I wish I'd done a little more research about what places to go before getting there but I was pleased with the many interesting things we saw.  Our hotel was right on the edge of Tamale bay where my sister and I found many new creatures including barnacles (which are actually crustaceans), tiny crabs, terns and even some sort of ray that was floating just bellow the surface!
Right outside our window there were a few bird feeders that were frequented by Western Scrub Jays and House Finches.

Caspian Tern
Our first adventure at Pt. Reyes was to the lighthouse where the wind blew so hard I had to back up to the rocks to keep my balance! I brought my scope up but it was almost useless because of the biting cold wind. The birds though! It was amazing. On the walk to the light house White-crowned Sparrows sang continuously and a lone windblown Rock Wren was even singing! The stairs to the actual lighthouse where closed but the fenced look area was plenty for me.

Far bellow us tiny dots where constantly flying around, when I finally got a scope set up I could see cormorant, guillemots, and gulls all flying to and from the cliffs. For every bird I managed to identify at such a great windy, misty distance there were 20 or so that I could hardy see. The cormorants I was completely lost on. Every time I saw one I thought I could ID it would move slightly and turn into a another species. I decided I'd wait to see cormorants at a different location (and the patience paid off).

Common Murres
Cliff Side
On the right side of cliff was a large rock that held thousand and thousands of Common Murres, and hundreds were leaving at one time and hundreds were landing all at the same time. I scanned that rock and the surrounding one over and over looking for puffins and auklets but did not find any. As we turned to head back to the parking lot I glanced down the cliff one last time to attempt to count the birds on the water when a Peregrine Falcon flew by! We were all freezing at this point and decided it was time to leave. Next was Chimney Rock.

Pt Reyes Light house
Chimney rock wasn't nearly as birdy as the lighthouse but it held a breeding colony of Elephant seals and just off the shore a flotilla of Surf Scoters! While admiring the scoters Savannah Sparrows, American Goldfinches and White-crowned Sparrows sang in the fields behind us. We never actually mad it to chimney rock as it had been a long day of travel and hiking and it was time to head back.

View from the lighthouse

Day two at Point Reyes was an interesting one. We'd planned on going to the banding station there but the one we found was closed because of the wind. While deciding where to go next I spotted Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Anna's Hummingbirds, Band-tailed Pigeons, and a Bewick's Wren! All while I was standing in the parking lot. While standing around one of the interns informed us of another banding station in the park that we should try. They said it was a better station and had more birds. We piled in the car and headed on over.

So far all my experience with banding stations has been through Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. They take more of an educational stance with banding. The Pt. Reyes Station was almost strictly for scientific study. They had no table, three banders and no excited children standing around. They banded, measured, weighed and let the birds go. Fast and efficient. They had twenty to thirty birds on their hooks which is often more than we catch in a day at Audubon. It was here I saw my first Wrentits of the trip! So far I'd only heard them mocking us from the bushes. Seeing them in the hand was very exciting. 

Wrentit in the net
 Our last stop at Pt Reyes was Abott's Laggoon. It was supposedly the best spot for migrants. Of course being there in mid June I didn't see many migrants. Abbott's Lagoon was hot and a little slow. Many singing Sparrows, Savannah and Grasshopper but we didn't see very many shore line type birds.
We passed a Great Blue Heron sitting in a tree and moved onto the sandy bank where we found a strange mystery bird sitting on the shore panting. Its feet sat way on the back of its body, it was slender and had a long slightly upturned bill. I new it had to be a loon of some sort but living in Colorado I have not had the chance to get a good look at many loons. Upon returning I posted the photos to facebook (of course) and immediately it was IDed as a Red-throated Loon based on its light plumage, and upturned bill. Loons don't usually sit on the shoreline nor do they breed in California so I'm not sure what was goin on with this guy. 

Red-throated Loon

 Thanks for reading! -Megan

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