Sunday, August 2, 2015

Point Reyes National Seashore - 23 Jul 2015

California Quail
I was up at 6 am and out the door for a day trip to The Point Reyes National Seashore. I loaded the Toyota Yaris and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge toward Point Reyes. My route took me out Smith Ranch Rd, and it turned out to be a beautiful drive through the mountains and private ranch lands. I drove by a small redwood grove and the The Nerisco Reservoir; a large freshwater lake that supplies the surrounding ranch land. The reservoir only held a handful of Canada Geese, three American White Pelicans and a pair of Mallard. I stopped long enough to hear a Spotted Towhee.

I stopped in Inverness Park for breakfast, and found a small flock of Wrentits foraging across the street among the first of dozens of White-crowned Sparrows I'd see the rest of the day. Before driving on an Acorn Woodpecker made a brief appearance atop the roof next door.

Near the lighthouse I found a small covey of California Quail. I managed a few photos of these elusive birds, and would see several more groups before leaving the area. Skies were cloudy and heavily overcast at the coastline, and winds were blowing hard enough for me to leave the hat in the car. California Quail are quite similar to Gambel's Quails, but have a 'scaly' belly whereas Gambel's have a smooth, tan-colored belly.

White-crowned Sparrows were everywhere up here. Flocks of a dozen birds moved over the grasslands and scrub like dust bunnies. I managed a few pics from the car.

flowering succulent - Dudleya?
I was the only one at the Lighthouse and was there an hour before the gates were opened to the building. So, I hiked out on some of the trails and photographed some of the alpine flowers that grew in the wind-swept region. A Common Raven provided my first Digiscoping opportunity of the trip.

I spotted a Savannah Sparrow Near the parking lot. The birds here are much darker than our's in the Great Lakes Region.

When I got close enough to scan the coastline I found flocks of Western Gulls, Brandt's Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, and Common Murres. Sadly for me, they were all a half-mile below and only viewable thru a scope. Digiscoping was a challenge; I had to brace the scope against the buffeting wind in order to photograph the impressive Murre colony on the rocks below.

Common Murre

Western Gull

Western Gull
Pigeon Guillemot

Perhaps my favorite photos of the day came from the guano-covered rocks occupied by the Brandt's Cormorants.

The steps down to the lighthouse itself were the equivalent of climbing a 30-story staircase. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Which was tough, since the steps are only wide enough for one person and I had to deal with a classroom of young school children coming the other way.

Russet Moss

As I climbed the stairs back to the top I spotted a pair of Peregrine Falcons roosting on the cliff side. One of them took flight and attacked an approaching Turkey Vulture.

I was lucky enough to get some nice looks at a female Northern Harrier flying across the road on the way out. I was too slow w/ the camera to get any good flight shots from the car.

Leaving Inverness Park brought several Western Scrub Jays, but lousy pics.

As I drove back to San Francisco the GPS Navigator had me take the Sir Frances Drake Road, which brought me alongside a nice stretch of roadside estuary and nice shorebird habitat. Long-billed Curlews, and Snowy Egrets were visible from the numerous pull-outs. The highlight, though, was a colony of Harbor Seals sleeping on the mudflats in easy Digiscoping view!

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