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Birding California

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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 00:41   #1
KEVIN BROWN
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Birding California

I am flying to San Fransisco on 28/04/19 and spending a week travelling, possibly down the coast to Santa Barbara, east to Kern County, then north up to the edge of Yosimite before ending up at Reyes Point. It is mainly to look for Bobcat, Bear and Cayote, but also to do some birding, any suggestions of where to go, or thoughts on my route would be much appreciated. Also doing aWhale watching tripon the way to Santa Barbara.
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 12:00   #2
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Our trip a few years ago in August

Quote:
Originally Posted by KEVIN BROWN View Post
I am flying to San Fransisco on 28/04/19 and spending a week travelling, possibly down the coast to Santa Barbara, east to Kern County, then north up to the edge of Yosimite before ending up at Reyes Point. It is mainly to look for Bobcat, Bear and Cayote, but also to do some birding, any suggestions of where to go, or thoughts on my route would be much appreciated. Also doing aWhale watching tripon the way to Santa Barbara.
Not sure how useful this is as we were in California in August but there a few places that might be worth a look, suggest you read from Point Reyes onward.
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 12:06   #3
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There is literature available for planning trips.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Birders-Gui...%2C+california

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Birding-Nor...%2C+california
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 13:53   #4
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It should go without saying, but you'll want to check out the coast redwood and sequoia forests. For the former, check out Big Basin state park, convenient to your route as you leave San Francisco. Good choice of short or longer trails to fit your schedule.

For the latter, an eastward detour on your way to Yosemite.
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 14:09   #5
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There are potentially loads of good places you could go to. It depends really on what you want to see. Have you been birding in California before?
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 16:33   #6
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Here's a few great places in northern california along the coast. Point Reyes is really big, so you might need to choose a few spots there to focus on.
  • Point Reyes
  • Rodeo Lagoon
  • Hawk Hill (not sure how active this time of year)
  • Año Nuevo State Park
  • Pescadero State Beach & the wetlands trails just inland
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Wilder Ranch State Park
  • Moss Landing State Wildlife Area (mostly for otters & kayaking)
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve & state park

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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 18:29   #7
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And here are a few places in the central valley to consider:
  • San Luis National Wildlife Refuge
  • Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Also, the Eastern Sierra is very beautiful too, along highway 395 to the east of Yosemite. If the pass is open, you might consider driver out to Lee Vining then up to 89, then back out 50 to the Sacramento Area.

Many of the places I mentioned (in this and last post) have web sites that list what is going on during different times of year.

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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 19:15   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KEVIN BROWN View Post
I am flying to San Fransisco on 28/04/19 and spending a week travelling, possibly down the coast to Santa Barbara, east to Kern County, then north up to the edge of Yosimite before ending up at Reyes Point. It is mainly to look for Bobcat, Bear and Cayote, but also to do some birding, any suggestions of where to go, or thoughts on my route would be much appreciated. Also doing aWhale watching tripon the way to Santa Barbara.
Have you considered how many hours you are going to spend in a car compared to outside of it? It sounds like you are going to have a not very good ratio with what you sketch up.

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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 19:59   #9
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Have you considered how many hours you are going to spend in a car compared to outside of it? It sounds like you are going to have a not very good ratio with what you sketch up.

Niels
That's a great point. You might want to use Google maps to plan the driving. You can set the departure/arrival times to see what traffic typically is. Driving down highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara is very beautiful, but also very slow. Google maps also has a way to save trips and itineraries if you have a google account. It's not perfect, but helps.

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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 21:02   #10
KEVIN BROWN
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Intended Route

This is a rough idea of the route I am thinking of taking. I have only been to California once, so looking for birds which are mainly found on the west coast.
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 22:33   #11
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Arboretum Santa Cruz is very good for Hummingbirds.
The prefer Metrosideros, eventhough this plant come from area where no Hummingsbirds live.
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Old Thursday 14th March 2019, 23:34   #12
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Arboretum Santa Cruz is very good for Hummingbirds.
The prefer Metrosideros, eventhough this plant come from area where no Hummingsbirds live.
Yes, there's a lot in Santa Cruz. The arboretum (which has limited hours) is really buzzing with hummingbirds. Nearby there are also lots of raptors. Down at Natural Bridges state park there are raptors and owls and sea birds. At the Coastal Sciences campus (near natural bridges) there are lots of ducks right now, but as it dries out there will be raptors again as the rodents come back. Down by Twin Lakes beach there are some burrowing owls.

Yosemite valley is really beautiful and spending more than 1 day there would not be a mistake.

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Old Friday 15th March 2019, 06:45   #13
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I guess a 'must' on that route is Californian Condor at Big Sur?
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Old Friday 15th March 2019, 09:03   #14
KEVIN BROWN
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Hummingbirds, Burrowing Owls and Condors, now I am getting excited, is there a certain area of the Big Sur to look for Condors ?
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Old Friday 15th March 2019, 10:12   #15
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Quote:
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Hummingbirds, Burrowing Owls and Condors, now I am getting excited, is there a certain area of the Big Sur to look for Condors ?
https://www.visitcalifornia.com/attr...fornia-condors

'The best place in Big Sur to see California condors is near the flagpole at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park entrance. Or look for them riding thermal updrafts along the cliffs between there and the town of Big Sur.'

All this info is very easy to find and again, I highly suggest you buy a book so that you'll have all the info at your fingertips which will allow for flexibility or change of mind, during the trip.
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Old Friday 15th March 2019, 10:22   #16
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I would recommend Pinnacles National Park, accessed from the eastern side. Convenient to your itinerary, this is not only probably the easiest place to see condors (get there early, they roost on the pinnacles, then soar down the valley as it warms up), but also pretty good for Coyote and Bobcat (though Bobcat, as most places, is always a bit of hit and miss). In my experience, condors are easier here than on the Big Sur. Very good general birding at Pinnacles too.
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Old Friday 15th March 2019, 19:17   #17
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That looks like a very ambitious route with a lot of driving and not much time for birds or wildlife.

We spent two weeks last May and did San Francisco, Point Reyes, Yosemite and Monterey as the main stops, ie similar to the notthern half of your trip. Point Reyes, Yosemite and Monterey all deserve at least two nights each.

We saw Bobcat in Yosemite and Coyotes at Point Reyes and also my tip for a stop in the Central Valley - Del Puerto Canyon - which is great for birding in spring. I had Prairie Falcon, Yellow-billed Magpie, Phainopepla, Lawrence's Goldfinch and lots of other goodies there. You can stay close by in Patterson and it is a good stopping off point between Yosemite and the coast.

Good luck

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Old Saturday 16th March 2019, 06:01   #18
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Just to emphasise the driving times - although your planned route comes up with 18 hours of driving time, some of the places you actually want to visit are a distance off your route

For example you have picked Buck Meadows which is a one hour drive from Yosemite Valley and the trailheads etc. It is another 1 hour drive to Glacier Point and 2 hours from the valley to Lee Vining, although the Tioga Pass may not be open by then. Yosemite is a huge place and these timings are before any traffic - if you go at a weekend it could take quite a bit longer.

I don't want to put you off - California is a great place to watch wildlife but personally I would want at least two weeks to do your planned route

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Old Saturday 16th March 2019, 06:46   #19
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When I plan a trip, I usually buy a map, pin it to a wall and start to plot sites on it for a real idea of where things are in relation to each other.

Doing it this way should allow you to decide which birds are your priority and how to fit them and a host of others, in to a time effective, circular route with the most time birding and minimum time driving, I assume you're flying home from the same place you fly in?

I really suggest that you buy a book as you seem to be going in to this a bit cold, it would be a pity not to wring out every drop of birding time in this fantastic destination.
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 12:42   #20
KEVIN BROWN
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Having taken on board comments, thinking of just going down the coast and returning back up the same route with may be different stops, not sure moving too far inland will be worth the time it will take out the trip. I only have a week available and due to the difference in cost of flying out of LA, the trip will start and finish in San Francisco. Does anyone have any suggestions on particular books that would suit my needs ?
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 18:09   #21
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I'm not sure exactly what you wanted to see in each site, but here's some more suggestions. Seeing bears is not so easy, as they are pretty spooked by people. One of the national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.) is the best bet, but you need to hike out of the populated areas. It is not a quick in-and-out. Coyotes you can see all through the coastal regions (and likely other places), but again it will be hit-and-miss and it won't be the the built-up regions.

This is paced about how I would like to do it based on prior travels in area. I have not checked all the travel times in Google Maps, but it should all more or less workout. An important item is to _not_ visit Yosemite over a weekend. Mid-week is best.

The area you have drawn on your map is maybe half the size of England (just eyeballing it, not a rigorous calculation). And some of it is via slower roads. Everything in the eastern side of California is going to be big areas and winding roads when you get up in the mountains.

Also, there is not food everywhere! Many of these places have no concessions. You will need to budget time to stop by a supermarket and buy rations / sandwiches / etc. for the day and lots of water. There will be lots of food options along the drives, but not so much at each destination. Yosemite, for example, has some cafeterias, but they are in the middle of the buildup areas and not where you want to be.

Day 1: From SFO, travel to Point Reyes, spend night. This assumes you arrive not too late. Depending on the day and time, it could be in _very_heavy_traffic_ as there is a large commute out of San Francisco to Marin from about 3pm - 7pm week days and 9am - 1pm weekends.

Day 2: morning at point reyes. In late afternoon, leave for Yosemite (assuming this is not a weekend!). Arrive near Yosemite in evening, such as one of the motels in Groveland. Assuming it's during good traffic and you're leaving from the tip of Point Reyes, it's maybe a 4 hour drive.

Day 3: yosemite valley and areas. In late afternoon, early evening, drive to Monterey. Another 4 hour drive. Monterey can have very bad traffic on the weekends.

Optional: Stop in, say, Hollister for the evening, and go to Pinnacles National Park on Day 4 instead. Pinnacles also has Condors, but I am not sure on the viewing.

Day 4: Monterey, Point Lobos, Carmel Valley, etc.. Or go to Big Sur and Condors. Stay in area.

Day 5: Drive to Santa Cruz (1 hour without stops from Monterey). Visit Moss Landing. Visit Santa Cruz arboretum or Forest of Nicene Marks or others like Big Basin. Stay in Santa Cruz area.

Day 6: Drive to San Francisco area. Maybe visit Marin Headlands / Rodeo Lagoon or other sites in San Francisco like Golden Gate Park. Stay in area.

Day 7: Return to airport

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Old Thursday 21st March 2019, 00:04   #22
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Thanks for that Marc, really appreciate the effort, I am going to collate all the information I have received on this thread and one posted on a mammal forum, and work out the best route, which may not include Yosemite due to the time scale, and don’t rate my chances of seeing Bear, which would be my main target there. Also would like to thank all other contributors for their help thus far, and will continue to update on plans being made and monitor the post for further comments.
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Old Thursday 21st March 2019, 00:32   #23
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Ok, let us know what you decide and how it goes. I'd be interesting in hearing about it!
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Old Thursday 21st March 2019, 19:51   #24
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Hi Marc, thank you for all your suggestions concerning my trip. Having considered yours and others comments regarding driving, I think I may be better keeping to the coast, main reason for going inland was for the bears, but from what I gather I may be too early. Just wondering if it is worth going as far down as Santa Barbara or use Morro Bay or Santa Marie as my turning point. May go inland a short distance to try for Kit Fox. I land on a Sunday evening, so was going to stay for 2 nights at Pint Reyes as a starter, and then may be start to make my way down the coast, doing at least one boat trip, want to have time at Big Sur and Pinnacles, but other than that quite flexible. Could you recommend any places to stay, and/or locations where it would be best to look for reasonable accommodation which does not cost the earth, quite open to different types of places to stay. Anyone else with suggestions please feel free to comment.
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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 01:58   #25
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Originally Posted by KEVIN BROWN View Post
Hi Marc, thank you for all your suggestions concerning my trip. Having considered yours and others comments regarding driving, I think I may be better keeping to the coast, main reason for going inland was for the bears, but from what I gather I may be too early. Just wondering if it is worth going as far down as Santa Barbara or use Morro Bay or Santa Marie as my turning point. May go inland a short distance to try for Kit Fox. I land on a Sunday evening, so was going to stay for 2 nights at Pint Reyes as a starter, and then may be start to make my way down the coast, doing at least one boat trip, want to have time at Big Sur and Pinnacles, but other than that quite flexible. Could you recommend any places to stay, and/or locations where it would be best to look for reasonable accommodation which does not cost the earth, quite open to different types of places to stay. Anyone else with suggestions please feel free to comment.
If you do 2 days at Point Reyes (well worth it!), then Santa Cruz, Monterey (Point Lobos is great), Big Sur, then back up to Pinnacles (eastern entrance along highway 25), that's probably your week if you spend quality time at each of those. Maybe you could loop down to Morro Bay then back up to Pinnacles (stop by Harmony, it's a quirky little town). I think Santa Barbara might be pushing it. San Luis Obispo is also very nice and pretty close to Morro Bay.

When I was last at Morro Bay (a few years ago) there were Peregrine Falcons nesting in Morro Rock. I'm not sure if they would be there this time of year.

Hearst Castle near San Simeon is pretty amazing to visit, but it would take a fair bit of time. It is all guided tours and you might need to book in advance.

If you were to skip something, I'd skip Monterey the town. Point Lobos is a nice nature spot.

In terms of places to stay, Santa Cruz has a lot of hotel capacity as a beach/vacation spot, so if you're here mid-week you could probably get an OK deal. Monterey and Big Sur would be pretty expensive. Carmel (south of Monterey, north of Big Sur) might have something more affordable mid-week.

TripAdvisor has pretty good reviews. I find their top user ranked (which are not necessarily the most expensive) are usually good.

Marc
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