Archive for the ‘Birding Hot Spots’ Category

It’s always interesting getting to see other parts of the country or world. I was given the chance to do just that recently when I took a trip to Southern California with my sister. We’re both from SoCal originally, but I hadn’t been there personally since I was a teenager, so I appreciated the chance to visit again, take in the scenery, and even do some people watching. (By the time we got to the Long Beach airport on Monday for our return flight, I looked like something the cat dragged in. I’m pretty sure I was an interesting sight for people watchers, too.)

Being in another area geographically is also a boon to birders, as it’s a fantastic chance to see birds we normally wouldn’t get to. Personally speaking, I was able to add at least a couple new-to-me bird species to my life list. That’s not as many as I would have liked to add, obviously, but I’ll take it.

Our flight from Seattle to Long Beach, CA, left last Thursday afternoon, and as I told my sister today in a text, I am the Queen of Awkward Moments. I own and fully embrace that title, and proved it a couple of times (or more) on our trip. Our jet, coming and going from Seattle to Long Beach, was a Bombardier CRJ200. It’s not a big plane at all, carrying only about 75 passengers, with four seats per row and an aisle in between them. If you’re tall, and by that I mean over 5 feet, watch out. I’m 5’2″, and the first thing I did as I was trying to get to my window seat was to walk straight into the overhead compartment. That’s right: I walked into it. I didn’t duck, as everyone else who was paying attention knew to do, and am still sporting a painful little bruise on my forehead as a souvenir.

We had quite a bit planned (including many hours of driving) for the few days we’d be in California, so a day of birding was out of the question. But…a birder is a birder is a birder…wherever the birder happens to be. I knew I’d be keeping my eyes open for birds everywhere we went.

Case in point: As our little jet was landing in Long Beach, one of the first scenes to greet me was two fairly large birds sitting on a sign next to the runway. These big, black birds with pink heads — most likely Turkey Vultures — were just sitting there as if they were…uh…waiting for us. Talk about a creepy welcome. Not exactly what you want to see when your plane is trying to land.

The only other chance I had to see birds on this trip was the next day in Santa Monica. Before plopping down on the beach (which was very crowded but still a fun experience), we strolled up and down the pier — a well-known landmark you’ve most likely seen either on TV or in movies, if not in person. (If it’s in the water, can it still be called a landmark? Hmm.)

Looking back toward the rides from the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Photo: Pacific Northwest Birds

Looking back toward the rides from the end of the Santa Monica pier. Photo: Pacific Northwest Birds

The bird I was most hoping to see at the Pier was the Brown Pelican, and I was not disappointed. We saw several in the water, in fact, and a flock of 30-40 flying away as we walked down to the beach. All of the pelicans we saw in the water were juveniles.

Juvenile Brown Pelican, Santa Monica, CA. Photo: J. Cavendish, 2013

Juvenile Brown Pelican, Santa Monica, CA. Photo: J. Cavendish, 2013


Two juvenile Brown Pelicans in Santa Monica, CA. Photo: Pacific Northwest Birds, 2013

Two juvenile Brown Pelicans in Santa Monica, CA. Photo: Pacific Northwest Birds, 2013

We also saw this Double-crested Cormorant:

Double-crested Cormorant in Santa Monica, CA. Photo: J. Cavendish, 2013

Double-crested Cormorant in Santa Monica, CA. Photo: J. Cavendish, 2013

and the token gulls, of course. Here are two Glaucous-winged Gulls, adult and juvenile:

Left: Glaucous-winged Gull, adult. Right: Glaucous-winged Gull, juvenile. Santa Monica, CA. Photos: J. Cavendish, 2013

Left: Glaucous-winged Gull, adult. Right: Glaucous-winged Gull, juvenile. Santa Monica, CA. Photo: J. Cavendish, 2013

Big thanks to my sister for taking some of these pictures!

Which birds have you seen this summer? Tell us about them in the comments below or on Facebook.

The Pacific Northwest is home to literally hundreds of different bird species, making it one of the best places in the country for birding. Knowing this, I have given myself a new goal: to visit as many great birding sites over the coming year as I can, see what I think about them, and report back to you.

The first one I visited is Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA, at 2201 Market Street. We went on Thursday of this past week and the weather was just beautiful for it. My first impression of the park, after we pulled into the wonderfully shaded parking lot and walked past the information center, was how very dry and brown the grass was. I assume that conserving the water at the park was a bureaucratic decision by the city of Kirkland, and I can understand why they did it, but I was disappointed. How nice it would have been to walk barefoot in such a wide expanse of green lawn. I’ll go back after we’ve had a few rains!

My daughters at the information kiosk. You'll find quite a bit of helpful information here, such as what you'll see in regards to wildlife and plant life. Handouts are available, as well, including a map of the park and a checklist of the afore-mentioned flora and fauna.

My daughters at the information kiosk. You'll find quite a bit of helpful information here, such as what you'll see in regards to wildlife and plant life. Handouts are available, as well, including a map of the park and a checklist of the afore-mentioned flora and fauna.

Beautiful park, very dry grass. We'll go back to see it when it's green.

Beautiful park, very dry grass. We'll go back to see it when it's green.

Beautiful boardwalks, like this one, lead visitors through woods and wetlands (marshes) to the very edge of Lake Washington. This is the East Boardwalk Nature Trail.

Beautiful boardwalks, like this one, lead visitors through woods and wetlands (marshes) to the very edge of Lake Washington. This is the East Boardwalk Nature Trail.

Just one portion of the beautiful marshland at Juanita Bay Park.

Just one portion of the beautiful marshland at Juanita Bay Park.

Tree swallows were numerous at the park. (That may have been an understatement.) They were very noisy, too, but it was a cheerful noise.

Tree swallows were numerous at the park. (That may have been an understatement.) They were very noisy, too, but it was a cheerful noise.

It's such a lovely stroll...

It's such a lovely stroll...

...to the end of the East Boardwalk. The pole standing in the water to the right of the boardwalk is an osprey platform (see below).

...to the end of the East Boardwalk. The pole standing in the water to the right of the boardwalk is an osprey platform (see below).

The osprey platform was, sadly, unused this year. At the bottom of the pole, about 10 feet above the water, are purple martin nesting gourds.

The osprey platform was, sadly, unused this year. At the bottom of the pole, about 10 feet above the water, are purple martin nesting gourds.

Informational plaques like this one are common throughout the park.

Informational plaques like this one are common throughout the park.

This great blue heron was one of the day's highlights. As we stood at the end of the East Boardwalk, he swooped in, heading almost straight for us. He then made a 90-degree turn and landed on a log, where he stayed for the remainder of our time at the park.

This great blue heron was one of the day's highlights. As we stood at the end of the East Boardwalk, he swooped in, heading almost straight for us. He then made a 90-degree turn and landed on a log, where he stayed for the remainder of our time at the park.

Herons will stand stock still and wait for a frog, fish, or snake to make an appearance, then snatch it up for dinner.

Herons will stand stock still and wait for a frog, fish, or snake to make an appearance, then snatch it up for dinner.

"If I can't see you, you can't see me...right? Oh, hello!"

"If I can't see you, you can't see me...right? Oh, hello!"

At the end of the West Boardwalk, we saw this gorgeous pair of wood ducks. They kept turning their heads and bodies as if they were posing. (They were just sunning themselves, but I like to think they saw my camera.)

At the end of the West Boardwalk, we saw this gorgeous pair of wood ducks. They kept turning their heads and bodies as if they were posing. (They were just sunning themselves, but I like to think they saw my camera.)

Besides the wood ducks, we also saw turtles on logs and a fledgling red-winged blackbird on a cattail. (We heard more birds than we actually saw.) The photos above and more will be posted in a photo gallery very soon on our Facebook page.

My overall impression of Juanita Bay Park was a good one. It’s family- and dog-friendly, with miles of walking trails and boardwalks. Benches are interspersed throughout the park if you need a rest. There are picnic tables, too, so bring your lunch. Though we didn’t see the whole park (we’ll see the part we missed next time we go), I’m giving this park four stars out of five, mainly because the dead grass was quite a shock and disappointment to see right when we walked in.

For more information on Juanita Bay Park, check out the following links:

Juanita Bay Park
Juanita Bay Park Tours
Eastside Rangers Nature Walk

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