Oh dear, this report is so late as to be useless, but here goes anyways…. About a month(!!) ago, Sarah & I had a lovely walk on the bluffs above Pillar Point near Princeton-by-the-Sea, a small fishing community about an hour south of San Francisco.
We stopped for lunch at the take-out counter at Barbara’s Fish Trap, which had the longest line I’ve ever seen them have – by the time we got to the window, there were 25 people lined up behind us! After some yummy fish & chips, we drove south to Half Moon Bay to get some pumpkins. By drove, I mean “sat in a car at a snail’s pace.” Unbeknownst to us, this was the Pumpkin Festival weekend, and everyone in the bay area seemed to be on Half Moon Bay’s roads.
Farmer Bob’s Pumpkin Farm
Finally clear of the traffic, we drove a little ways south of Half Moon Bay to Farmer Bob’s, a pumpkin place I went with my family every year from age 8 to 18. It hadn’t changed one bit, with a little petting zoo, and a lot of pumpkins/gourds/Indian corn/squash. We picked up a little of everything and made our way back to Princeton to go for the walk we’d planned in the first place, the whole pumpkin thing being an unplanned, 2-hour diversion 🙂
Pygmy goat at Farmer Bob’s Pumpkin Farm
We parked at Pillar Point and started up the paved trail to the bluffs. It was one of those “this is why I live in California” late October days, with clear blue skies, the gentlest breeze, and temperatures in the low 70s.
A Say’s Phoebe greeted us on the fence by a transmission tower, then flitted off, along with a few not-well-seen LBBs (Little Brown Birds). At the blufftop, we paused to enjoy the views up and down the coast and scan the ocean for birds – we didn’t see anything other than Brown Pelicans and Surf Scoters.
View north from the bluffs above Pillar Point
In the margins of the trail, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows scratched and pecked, and a Black Phoebe “phee”d from the top of a fennel plant, flycatching and returning again and again, as is their habit.
I caught a good look at some of the LBBs, which turned out to be Western Meadowlarks. Movement near a treetop caught my eye, and a little investigation turned up an American Kestrel, eating a recently-caught rodent. Unfortunately it was in poor light for photographs, and on we walked.
A recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle named the Pillar Point bluffs one of the area’s best coastal walks, and I must agree! Apparently you can walk for several miles, ending up at a clifftop restaurant and bar, have a draught, and walk on back – something to try sooner rather than later!
Princeton Harbor panorama
We reached a good turnaround, and did that, heading back on the eastern side of the bluffs, which had nice views of nearby Montara Mountain and Princeton Harbor.
Our American Kestrel friend paid us a nice close visit on a treetop, posing for several photographs before heading off to parts unknown – although these are not uncommon birds, I find them skittish and difficult to photograph, so I was pretty happy to get what I got of this cooperative fellow!
Just a short ways down the trail, a familiar “keer keer keer keer” announced the presence of a Red-shouldered Hawk, and a scan of the trees found the culprit. It sat for quite some time, then flew to the top of an adjacent telephone pole.
Abandoned pier building
Back at the car, we continued along the near shore, hoping to find some shorebirds, but the light was low and I didn’t see much in the harbor waters: Brown Pelicans, Heermann’s Gull, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Eared Grebes, and an Aechmophorus grebe.
We watched the sun set, then walked back to the car in the dwindling light. Ahh, what a day, one that makes me grateful to be alive!
– Aechmophorus sp.
– American Kestrel
– Black Oystercatcher
– Black Phoebe
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Brown Pelican
– Eared Grebe
– European Starling
– Golden-crowned Sparrow
– Great Blue Heron
– Heermann’s Gull
– Red-shouldered Hawk
– Red-tailed Hawk
– Red-winged Blackbird
– Ring-necked Duck
– Rock Pigeon
– Say’s Phoebe
– Surf Scoter
– Western Gull
– Western Meadowlark
– White-crowned Sparrow