Monterey Bay and Area
Martin Selzer, Bert Filemyr
17-22 October 1996
Report written by Martin Selzer
Picked Bert up at 6:00am, left car with Pacifico and waited at the airport for our flight. The plane left and arrived on time. It took about one hour for us to get our luggage and our rental car which turned out to be a Ford Windstar minivan. We finally headed south from San Francisco airport around 1:00pm. We made a quick stoop in Half Moon Bay for munchies and drinks and picked up Anna's Hummingbird and Black Phoebe at the store. We did the "grasslands" loop which didn't seem as productive as it had in 1992 but maybe that's because it wasn't all new to me. Next stopped at Pescadaro State Beach where we did great, Marbled Godwit, Marbled Murrelet, Black Turnstone, lots of gulls and cormorants. The surf line held Western Grebes, Pacific Loons and Red-throated Loons. Stopped at Ano Nuevo to stretch our legs and had Red-breasted Nuthatches, Hutton's Vireo and a fly by Black Oystercatcher. We then made a brief stop at Bean Hollow Road before driving more or less straight thru to Pacific Grove. We did pull off to the shoulder at Moss Landing to scan the gulls and picked up a White-tailed Kite (he was there the two other times we were in the area). Checked into motel at 6:30pm and walked up the road for dinner at Bayles, formerly the Fog and Fish.
Busy day with lots of area to be covered. We were up and out a little before 7:00am and walked the cemetery behind the motel as the sun was coming out. Lots of bird activity including Fox, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows, Townsend Warbler and Scrub Jay. Decided to try out the complimentary breakfast buffet which was pretty good and then we started our serious birding at Crespi Pond and Point Pinos. Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers, Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants, Elegant Terns, Say's Phoebe and Common Murre all around the point. In with all the California and Western Gulls we found 5 Mew Gulls (NA 1st). They were all winter adults with their small all yellow bills and legs, dark eyes, rounded heads with slight streaking. They were decidedly different than their neighbors. We then headed north to Moon Glow Dairy (MGD), Elkhorn Slough (ES) and Moss Landing (ML). MGD had Savannah Sparrow, Tri-colored Blackbirds and much to our surprise and pleasure a Yellow-headed Blackbird popped on top of one of the veal pens. After making such quick and successful work of MGD we headed to ES and arrived around 10:45am. We took the South Marsh Loop Trail (~2 hr) and had lots of birds Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, Pine Siskins, Bushtits, Sora (heard). Lots of great habitat. The tide was out so that wasn't too good but what a great place. Ate lunch and then took the Long Valley Loop Trail (~1hr). The trail winds through scrub oaks and grassy fields, Townsends Warblers, Scrub Jays, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, White-tailed Kite and a large flock of Lesser Goldfinches. At the marsh overlook, a Nuttals Woodpecker gave us a great look. Headed out and made a quick stop at Kirby Park. Next stop was at ML which had lots of Marbled Godwits, Pigeon Guillemots (3), Snowy Plover, and Say's Phoebe. It started to rain slightly so we headed the Salinas area to bird Del Monte and Reservation Roads. Picked up Loggerhead Shrike and Water Pipit. Headed back to the motel and made it to the complimentary wine and cheese. Cleaned up and went to Fifi's for dinner. Picked up food for the morning and pelagic at Safeway and called it a day. (100+ species).
Our first pelagic on board the Pt. Sur Clipper with about 25 other people. It was a very stable boat which was a good thing because the day was windy (20-25 knots) and the seas were choppy (10 foot swells) all day. Debbie Shearwater gave a welcoming speech that instilled (or at least tried to instill) the fear of god in all of us about how rough it was going to be. It was choppy but by never leaving the bay proper (we cruised between Pt. Pinos and Santa Cruz without going very far out to the sea valley) most of us managed to survive. Two confirmed human chum slicks set out and one possible. We had fantastic looks at Buller's, Sooty, Black-vented and Manx Shearwaters and decent looks at Pink-footed Shearwaters. Also had a good long look at a fly by Tufted Puffin. I got on it early and saw a large all dark alcid. It finally provided us with a profile so that we could see its bill. We then came up on a couple of trawlers with lots of birds around them including several Black-footed Albatrosses. All told we had 8-10 of them on the water, in close and flying around. They were great!! By ~1:30 the captain had heard from other boats in the bay that the winds were really kicking up so we headed for the harbor. We also had a small group of Dall's Porpoise ride the bow wave for a short time.. We docked around 2:30 and made a quick run to the motel. We changed and headed out to Point Lobos State Park. Picked up Hairy Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee and just enjoyed the place. We then cruised up Carmel Valley Road until Robinson Canyon Road. Picked up California Quail in the CV Church parking lot and American Wigeon in the golf course ponds. Robinson Canyon Road added Steller's Jay and Junco to the list. Ate dinner at the Baja Cantina on CV Road (best dinner of the trip).
Another busy day. We decided to go to Tassajara Road (TR) first thing and figured it was better to get there at sunrise. It turned out this was good planning. TR is ~24 miles out CV Road and even leaving at 6:00am we didn't get there until about 7:00am just as the sun was coming out. We drove up to the top of TR which is about 1500 meters high. We walked to the fire tower and picked up Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-naped Sapsucker, Plain Titmouse and Western Bluebird. It was great habitat even if we didn't get Mountain Quail but well worth a trip. Got down TR back to CV Road ~10:00 and had a Yellow-billed Magpie on a fence post a couple hundred feet down CV Road. We drove out CV Road a few miles to see more magpies and after getting 2 more turned around. We stopped at Garland Park Ranch and walked a long loop that was rather quiet but we did get Violet-green Swallows and White-throated Swifts along the creek. Next we went to Garrapata State Park for Wrentits and California Thrasher. It was very windy so the birds weren't very cooperative but we did get great looks at Wrentits (2) and a passing look at the California Thrasher although a better look was desired by me. Next stopped at the Carmel River and walked it a few 100 yards. It was mid-afternoon at this point and quiet. Called it a day after a stop at the Monarch Habitat. We did find 100s roosting in the sun. Drove up to the Whole Enchilada for dinner and picked up Ruddy Turnstones for the trip.
Boarded the Pt. Sur Clipper at 7:30am and headed out on the bay which was much quieter. There were only 2-4 foot waves and they calmed down midday. Had an adult Glaucous-winged Gull and Wandering Tattler on the Coast Guard Jetty on the way out. Because of the calmer conditions, we had more birds on the water including large flocks of shearwaters and Black Storm Petrels. We were able to add Ashy Storm Petrels and South Polar Skua to the trip list by being able to sit on the bow while we cruised for birds. They were brief looks at birds going away. While cruising through all the shearwaters we finally had a couple Rhinoceros Auklets and Cassin Auklets (2) that sat side-by-side allowing a comparison. We also had a Short-tailed Shearwater in among all the shearwaters. Non-bird sightings included, Dalls Porpoise, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, and a Blue Shark. After docking we headed back to Garrapata for better looks at the thrasher. Since the wind had calmed down we were rewarded with 3 on the hillside where we had the first bird the day before and one on a fence post. All great, very satisfying looks. Had dinner on the wharf.
22-Oct-96 Left for San Francisco early. Dropped the car off and waited for the flight home. Walked into my house at 10:10pm.
We drove 500 miles in the minivan and went on 2 pelagics.
154 total species seen by
both of us
4 lifers and 1 NA first for me (second trip to area, first in 1992)
44 lifers for Bert (first trip to California)