Last Sunday (yikes, a week ago now!), Sarah & I spent a lovely day in Point Reyes on an uncharacteristically summery November day.
After a late start, we headed north from SF, arriving at Point Reyes Station at around 11:30. Marin Sun Farms was open, which it hasn’t been previously on our drive-bys, so we dropped in and got a bunch of yummy grass-fed meat products. Their beef jerkey was particularly delicious, ditto their house-made hot dogs. After stocking up on meaty goodness we went to our favorite breakfast joint in Point Reyes Station, the Pine Cone Diner. Since it was late’ish, we strayed from our usual breakfast order and ventured into lunch territory. I am happy to report that both Sarah’s patty melt and my burger were very good, although the kitchen was particularly slow on this crowded, beautiful day.
After lunch we got some snacks at Toby’s Feed Store and headed west onto the point. Heading into Pierce Ranch at Tomales Point, a large herd of Thule Elk foraged on the hillside. We parked and walked around the ranch to see what was a’wing (not much – Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, and Yellow-rumped Warbler mostly).
Tomales Point Trail looking north towards Tomales Point
We walked out a little ways on the Tomales Point Trail, still hearing few birds and seeing fewer. We scanned the eucalyptus trees in hopes of seeing an owl (Great Horned Owls are pretty common at Point Reyes – we seem them on about 50% of our trips here), but no luck.
It was a ridiculously nice day, one of those only-in-California November afternoons. The temperature was in the mid 70’s and, surprisingly for this typically windy area, the air was perfectly still. We actually regretted not hiking in shorts!
Me, with a goofy smile on
After walking perhaps 3/4 of a mile to a nice vista, we turned around, not wanting to do the full 8-mile round-trip to Tomales Point, wonderful hike though it is.
Western Bluebird @ Pierce Ranch
We didn’t see anything else on the walk back, but I was happy to see my first Western Bluebird of the year back at Pierce Ranch.
A 7-point Thule Elk buck
I dragged Sarah to the hillside with the Thule Elk, and was glad I did – a large 7×7 buck had 30-40 does with him, and several young bucks challenged him. It was pretty cool watching and listening to him defend his harem, with one head-but charge and numerous squeaks and high-pitched squeals, which, I must say, did not strike me as particularly manly 🙂
A 4-point Thule Elk buck, sneaking into the 7-point’ers territory
After a while of watching this large herd (which is protected and confined to the northern end of Point Reyes in a Thule Elk reserve), we headed back to visit Abbott’s Lagoon.
Long, skinny Tomales Bay
Abbott’s Lagoon, which I’d visited for the first time just a few weeks ago, is just a few miles south of Pierce Point, and I was looking forward to seeing what was around, since my previous visit was pretty productive.
The ~3/4-mile walk to the lagoon was quiet, with only Zonotrichia sparrows (Golden-crowned and White-crowned) flitting about in the dried lupine bushes. A Western Scrub-Jay perched far-off by the water’s edge, and unidentifiable dots floated on the east end of the lagoon.
River Otters frolicking in the sand
As we neared the bridge that separates the two bodies of Abbott’s Lagoon things picked up. I heard a *crunch* *crunch* sound, and a quick scan found 3 river otters hauled out at the foot of a sand dune! These adorable carnivores (which I watched devour a Brown Pelican a while back at nearby Rodeo Lagoon!) were tussling and playing on the hillside, climbing up, and sliding, nose-first, into the water.
2 otters played while the other ate its fish
We stood and watched them for some time and showed them to a couple walking by, who were pretty impressed to see these cuties. We eventually tore ourselves away from them and continued to the west body of Abbott’s Lagoon, finding a nice log to perch on and eat our snacks and drink our wine.
American White Pelican
The sun was getting low, so we reluctatntly headed back. An American White Pelican that we’d seen earlier in the east end flew overhead, joining the other lone AWPE in a flock of several dozen Brown Pelicans.
Numerous Ruddy Ducks and American Coots floated along the shoreline, punctuated by several Aechmophorous grebes, the only one I could positively ID being a Western Grebe.
Nearby dairy cows mooed and their youngsters fed, and gnats, thankfully not a biting kind, were out in hordes as the sun neared the western horizon.
Sunset over Abbott’s Lagoon
I found myself wishing I had more appropriate sunset photography gear with me (like, say, at least a tripod and a wide-angle lens!), as the sunset shaped up to be a hum-dinger.
The sun gave its last sigh as we neared the car, and I got some nice telephoto shots of it sinking into the Pacific.
What a fantastic day this was – the sort that makes me truly grateful to have the opportunity and time to get out and enjoy the bounty surrounding us. Abbott’s Lagoon is quickly becoming one of my favorite places, and Sarah agreed, rating it a “perfect 10.”
|Birds seen (38 species):||Other sightings:|
|– American Coot
– American Crow
– American Kestrel
– American White Pelican
– American Wigeon
– Black Phoebe
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Brown Pelican
– Clark’s Grebe
– Common Raven
– Cooper’s Hawk
– Double-crested Cormorant
– Eared Grebe
– Glaucous-winged Gull
– Golden-crowned Sparrow
– Great Blue Heron
– Great Egret
– House Finch
– Mourning Dove
– Northern Flicker
– Northern Harrier
– Pied-billed Grebe
– Red-tailed Hawk
– Rock Pigeon
– Ruddy Duck
– Say’s Phoebe
– Song Sparrow
– Turkey Vulture
+ Western Bluebird
– Western Grebe
– Western Gull
– Western Meadowlark
– Western Scrub-Jay
– White-crowned Sparrow
– White-tailed Kite
– Yellow-rumped Warbler+ = year bird
– River Otter
– Thule Elk
– White-tailed DeerWildflowers:
– Aster sp.
– Cow Parsnip
– Yellow Bush Lupine