The idea of climbing into a boat and motoring for hours out to sea to view birds seems a bit of an oxymoron. But of course, I’m a non-birder. In fact, pelagic trips are becoming increasing popular as birders look for varieties that don’t come to shore so they can expand their “life list” (all the birds they’ve seen in their life). One such trip, sponsored by the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society, is coming up May 18. (more…)
Archive for the ‘birding’ Category
Pelagic Trips: They’re for the Birds
Of Tundra Swans, Waterfalls, and Organic Cows
Monday, December 24th, 2007
There was certainly more water coming off the waterfall than in the summer, but the real story was the ocean. The waves were at times quite large — large enough for the spray to obscure the waterfall! Unlike the last time we went down there, it was a sunny day, and we could see the Point Arena Lighthouse in the distance to the north.
After we headed back to the Garcia River wetlands, we went off on a side road on the north side of the river — but just around the bend, it was marked as Private Property. A man came along in a pickup as we were starting to turn around, and we asked if we could go in and take some pictures of the swans. He said it wasn’t his land, so we couldn’t get out there. But he urged us to follow him, and he took off. A couple of miles up the highway, he turned off on a dirt road towards the ocean. In a short while, we were entering the Clover Dairy — not only the sole dairy in the county, it’s also the only organic dairy in the county. He told us to join him in his truck, and he took us out a short distance to where the swans were hanging out in the fields. He introduced himself as Walt Stornetta, the owner of the dairy. He has about 400 cows on 550 acres of land. Each cow produces on average 67 pounds of milk — about 8 gallons a day. I felt really lucky to run into him like we did, and that he was so generous with his time.
Al B. Tross Is Back Despite Injured Leg – the Wait Is Over
Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
He’s simply known on California’s Mendocino Coast as Al B. Tross — “Al” for short. And he’s back at Point Arena Cove for the 14th straight year.
Mendocino Coast Birder Bob Keiffer sent this email alert Monday evening and other local birders confirmed Al’s arrival Tuesday morning. Said Keiffer: “The bird apparently flew in yesterday evening (apparently near dusk) and was confirmed this morning as it was still there resting. I will check my records and update this message tomorrow about historical arrival and departure dates….but I believe that this will be the 14th (documented) consecutive winter period that the albatross has used Pt. Arena Cove as it’s resting refuge. The condition of the injured leg (from last season) is not known at this time.”
A Laysan Albatross, Al usually arrives in late November or early December near the pier at Point Arena Cove and stays for several months.
What makes Al unusual is that he is the only albatross anyone has seen on the West Coast. These large seabirds breed on islands in the mid-Pacific, especially islands in the Hawaiian chain. Intrepid birdwatchers who venture out in large fast boats occasionally see them in the ocean waters of the North Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska. But seeing Al in Point Arena is a huge event for mainland U.S. birders lucky enough to spot him on Mendocino County’s south coast.
The Laysan Albatross is a little more than two feet in length with a wingspan of over six feet. It has black wings and tail, a white head and body, pink legs and webbed feet. There is a soft gray and black patch around and under its eyes. It has a large gray to yellow-orange bill with a black hooked tip. Males and females look alike.
Al was first discovered on Nov 30, 1994 by a visiting birder. He left the sheltered waters of Point Arena Cove on March 18 of the next year. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he returned in the fall of 1996. County birders have recorded the bird’s arrival and departure dates since that memorable first encounter. Al typically arrives around Thanksgiving and leaves by the end of March. This will be his, or her, 14th consecutive winter vacation in Mendocino County.
He is often seen or photographed quite easily from the public pier. When storm winds blow from the south, he seeks refuge in more protected locations out of the public view.
Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Heads up bird lovers! Fred Andrews from California State Parks is leading a bird walk this Saturday, starting at 11 am; meet in the Cleone parking lot at MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. It’s going to be a gorgeous day on Saturday, with temps in the mid-60’s. This is a don’t miss activity for the family!
Stornetta Falls and the Missing Lighthouse
Friday, August 24th, 2007
Our weather has been spectacular lately, and so Bruce and I decided to go check out the Stornetta Ranch Preserve near Point Arena yesterday. It’s a good thing, too, because the fog was back today. The Preserve was donated to the BLM only two years ago, and you can even still find the, uh, remnants of the dairy cattle along the way. It’s easy to get there, since it’s just a couple of miles north of the city of Point Arena. Turn off Highway One onto Lighthouse Road, and go west for 1.4 miles. As the road approaches the ocean, it veers around to the right. At this point, there’s a turnout on the left for the Preserve. Pass through the turnstile, and head off to the south. You’re about at the middle of the 1200-acre preserve when you enter it of Lighthouse Road. You’ll find coastal headlands with scrub pines, and a beautiful coastline with islands and sea stacks. The coastline is very interesting, too, with many patterns in the sandstone. (It’s less than ten miles to the geological oddities of Bowling Ball Beach.)
The big island just off the coast has a wonderful arch, and it’s covered with black cormorants. As you continue to the south, you’ll find wide rocky beaches that are perfect for abalone divers. We even passed by a sinkhole, about 30 feet across and 15 feet deep, set a hundred feet back from the edge of the cliff. We continued on to the south, because we had a goal in mind: the waterfall that drops into the ocean. The waterfall is at the south end of the preserve, next to the old Coast Guard LORAN station.
When you first pass through the turnstile, you can see the buildings off in the distance, about a mile away. This is an easy walk, since it’s flat the entire way except where you cross a small creek.
The waterfall comes from a simple year-round creek that drops about 25 feet into the water. When we stood at the top, it didn’t seem that high. Once I walked around to the opposite point, I could get a better sense of the size with Bruce there.
After returning from the waterfall, we followed Lighthouse Road to the end — but the Point Arena Lighthouse was missing. I must have missed the demolition of the lighthouse in the newspaper, or maybe it was just the fog that draped the point (but nothing else around) obscuring it. It’s really a beautiful lighthouse, and it has a first-order Fresnel lens.
Since we couldn’t see anything, we headed back to Highway One, and went north a few more miles to Miner Hole Road. This dirt road leads out to the ocean, and there are trails leading over to Manchester Beach. The trail was marked Closed, so we left. This road runs along the big open field where the Arctic Tundra Swans hang out during their migration. I don’t know if you could see them any better here than from Highway One, but it’s possible. I’ll let you know when the swans return.