Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sea Watch from Montana de Oro Sate Park
The ocean off the Central Coast of California is good for a variety of pelagic species, but most of them are best seen from a boat, often the farther out the better. Unless I could find someone with a sail boat who can get out without using any gas I was pretty much limited to what I could see from shore. Usually this has been pretty limiting. I have already scoped from the bluffs at Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Rock and North Point this year, for a total of about 10 times with only a few truly pelagic species. From what Richard Rowlett (expert pelagic birder and counter of sea birds from Piedras Blancas to the north of me) and Brad Schram (local expert birder, tour leader and author of Birder's Guide to Southern California) tell me, it seems that early morning is often the best and a strong onshore winds can help blow species closer to the coast.
Since the morning of April 21 was really blowing (which made land birding difficult)and since there was no court this morning, I pedalled down to the high point just north of Spooner's Cove and scoped from 9:00 till about 10:30 AM. I only lasted 1 1/2 hours due to the cold hard wind and the blowing sand. Birds were going both directions with the following going north: Pacific Loon (18), Brant (133), Surf Scoter (12), and Peregrine Falcon (1 adult). Local species going both ways were: Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Black Oystercatcher and Western Gull. Going south: Sooty Shearwater (6)(BIGBY # 236), Unidentified dark shearwater (probably Sooty) (40), Pink-footed Shearwater (1)(BIGBY # 237), Brown Pelican (1 adult), Ring-billed Gull, California Gull. I saw no terns, no alcids except the guillemot, and no shorebirds except the oystercatcher. Some of the shearwaters were too far out to ID.
I biked through the campground after leaving the sea watch, but it was very windy and starting to sprinkle, so I bailed and went home. I also needed the ride home to thaw out. Next time I will wear pants over my biking tights and I will bring another layer for my upper body. (I had worn a cycling jersey, long sleeved T-shirt, light cycling jacket and then added a fleece jacket and a rain coat at the overlook!). Sea bird watching is like pelagic birding on the Pacific Coast - I have to take more clothes than I think I will ever need!
(I have posted a photo of this sea watch spot taken on a more peaceful day when I wasn't afraid to let go of my tripod for fear of it blowing down.)