Sandhill Crane et al.
- Thu, 21 Nov 2002 -- This morning, after a predawn trip to the Santa Rosa
Airport, I decided to come home the long way up the coast and look for the
Sandhill Crane at the Garcia R. bottomlands. I started off by making my
first-ever complete transit of Fish Rock Road, making a chance encounter
with a BLUE GROUSE at about mile 8 between Gualala Peak and Walalla Mt.
At Arena Cove "Al", the LAYSAN ALBATROSS, was sitting on the water
about 10 feet north of the pier. Some of the local habitués had also
noticed it, and they seemed to think that today was the first day that it
had been seen. Is this the 7th year?
At the Garcia bottomland I quickly found the SANDHILL CRANE from
the elevated pullout on Hwy. 1 just north of Miner Hole Road. It was
standing with two Great Blue Herons in a puddle of water along the fence
that runs straight out from that pullout. Also standing in the puddle were
two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS which seemed to be trying to bathe their feathered
tarsi but were being mercilessly tormented by ravens, which hounded them as
they fled. A NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL was tooting regularly from the Garcia
riparian near the green bridge. No swans yet.
Next I went out to the Point Arena lighthouse and scoped out to sea
with favorable morning light at my back. This was my best pelagic birding
from shore this year. There were large numbers of phalaropes rather near
shore, both RED and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. A PARASITIC JAEGER was chasing
some of them. There were numerous NORTHERN FULMARS, several BULLER'S
SHEARWATERS and SOOTY SHEARWATERS, and several BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. A
BLACK SCOTER flew by in a line of Surf Scoters. An impressive longshore
line of loons was moving south all day today, predominately Pacific Loons.
A ten-minute count at Point Arena yielded an estimate of 1785/ hour.
At the Mendocino Headlands I found a HORNED LARK along the edge of
the bluff south of the sister city monument. It was flushed by a woman with
a dog and flew south over the water to the next point, where I found it
again. Both times it was sitting directly in the trail. [ Some people seem
not to know where the sister city monument, often mentioned recently, is
located. At the very west end of Little Lake Street is a parking area, the
southernmost parking on the headlands. The small monument is just south of
this parking area and is visable from the car. This shortgrass area has
been the site of several longspur and lark sightings. ] As I was driving
north on Heeser Drive, a VESPER SPARROW flew up from the side of the road
near the Goat Island parking area. Five minutes later it was back on the
road and gave a good scope look.
I walked out to the Cabrillo Point Lighthouse and scoped to sea.
There were more BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, three SABINE'S GULLS and the line
of loons. The lighthouse is much restored since my last visit, and the
beautiful Fresnel lens was turning in the tower, putting out a beam every
North of here the fog set in heavily. I made a stab at Laguna
Point, but the fog and tide were not favorable. I walked all of the bluffs
and trails south to Virgin Creek beach, but I could not find any of last
week's visitors. By the way, David Nelson's fine photos of the Snow Bunting
can be viewed on Joe Morlan's California Birding page at
A productive day of birding the long way home.
Potter Valley, MEN, CA