Jump to content
Whatbird Community

Northern California


BlueJay

Recommended Posts

In 2 weeks (August 18) my dad and I will be flying out to San Francisco and spending a couple nights in the area. We will have 5 days for birding (19th-23rd) and will be flying back late in the evening on the 23rd. As of now the only fixed item on our itinerary is a pelagic on the 19th out of Half Moon Bay. We were also looking at maybe spending a night in the Sierra Nevadas near Lake Tahoe to pick up some higher elevation birds. Hoping for around 25-30 lifers!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How many lifers you will get will depend on how much birding you’ve done in western North America and specifically California in the past.

The pelagic is already planned, and is guided/will have spotters, so I won’t go into that. If you’ve never done a west coast pelagic before, you’re sure to get numerous lifers.

I recommend spending a morning near Mines Road and Del Valle Regional Park, near Livermore CA, and getting a fairly early start if possible.

This area is good for Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, Acorn Woodpecker, California Scrub-Jay, California Quail, California Thrasher, Wrentit, Phainopepla, Yellow-billed Magpie, Golden Eagle, and a number of other oak savannah, chaparral, and pine-oak woodland species. Mines Road is a long windy road with some pull outs along it where you can park. Mile 5.75, mile 6.26, mile 10.03, mile 17.6 are some good stops you can check. Yellow-billed Magpie are most likely along the first 5 miles or so.

If you prefer to hike instead of car birding, Del Valle Regional Park is a good choice. An early morning start up the Cedar Mountain Trail can yield Bell’s Sparrow in the big chaparral patch, but those can be tough. There can be Great-tailed Grackle around the lake and picnic areas.

The trails from the Arroyo Road entrance to Del Valle can also be productive, and a bit more accessible/easily digestible in a short period of time. On Google Maps it’s called “Del Valle Lake Trail”.

 

The East Bay shoreline can also be very good for shorebirds. Emeryville Shoreline, Albany Mudflats, and Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary are good spots to check and are quite accessible/can be checked fairly quickly. If you want to spend more time and do more walking, Hayward Regional Shoreline can be really good for shorebirds. Starting at Grant Ave and walking out to the San Lorenzo Creek Mouth can be good, or starting at Winton Ave and walking out to the shoreline and following the shoreline north.

Keep in mind that tides are important when looking at shorebirds. At lower tides, check the mudflats (Albany Mudflats, San Lorenzo Creek Mouth); at higher tides, check roost sites (Emeryville shoreline, Frank’s Dump and Oro Loma Marsh in Hayward); Elsie Roemer can be good at any tide!

Finally, I want to suggest MLK Jr Shoreline and in particular Arrowhead Marsh. This area is quite close to Elsie Roemer. Arrowhead Marsh and the surrounding area is good for shorebirds, some waterfowl, and especially Ridgway’s Rail.

 

*An important note for birding the East Bay shoreline is that you should never leave valuables visible in your car at any of these hotspots.*

 

Hopefully @Aidan B can chime in about Mountain birding in the Tahoe vicinity, and @DLecy and @Connor Cochrane can chime in about Marin/North Bay hotspots, but I’ll briefly mention Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, you could check out the Golden Gate Bridge on the way there!

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm on a trip right now so I'll give more information later, but if you're interested in birding in the Sierra Nevadas you HAVE to go to Wright's Lake. It's the number one spot for getting all the mountain specialties in my opinion. 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 I highly recommend birding the Pillar Point Harbor area which is also the port that the pelagic you'll be taking goes out of. I also highly recommend talking to the spotters of your Pelagic trip, they are all very experienced birders who have birded the Bay Area extensively and are all very nice people. I also recommend Coyote Point County park in San Mateo for Harlequin Duck and possibly Least Tern although you'll have better luck in Alameda County for those. Nob Hill Pond is always worth checking for rare shorebirds, it's best at high tide when all the shorebirds come in to roost, we had a Ruff and Stilt Sandpiper last year and there's a Laughing Gull hanging out in the area although it's been visiting nearby Sea Cloud Park more recently. I also recommend Año Nuevo State Park to see Black Swifts which are possibly nesting in the area, the park is also well known for it's pinnipeds however summer is the off season, still worth a visit though.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@BlueJay I'm not sure where you are going in the sierra's (Just a general location like a town would be very helpful) or if you're still planning on going into the Sierra's, but they are a really big place so I'm having a bit of a hard time knowing where to recommend going. Also knowing how far you can travel up there would be helpful. I'm still going to recommend Wright's lake, as in my opinion it is the best spot in the Sierra's for birding. Both the road and the lake itself can be phenomenal birding. 

Edited by Aidan B
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

33 minutes ago, Aidan B said:

@BlueJay I'm not sure where you are going in the sierra's (Just a general location like a town would be very helpful) or if you're still planning on going into the Sierra's, but they are a really big place so I'm having a bit of a hard time knowing where to recommend going. Also knowing how far you can travel up there would be helpful. I'm still going to recommend Wright's lake, as in my opinion it is the best spot in the Sierra's for birding. Both the road and the lake itself can be phenomenal birding. 

Wright's Lake is exactly what my dad and I have planned. We will be staying the night at a motel near Kyburz and then spending a good chunk of the following morning in the vicinity of Wright's Lake.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, BlueJay said:

Wright's Lake is exactly what my dad and I have planned. We will be staying the night at a motel near Kyburz and then spending a good chunk of the following morning in the vicinity of Wright's Lake.

Great! If you tell me your targets, I'll be able to give you coordinates for likely places to find them. I know that place super well. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Aidan B said:

Great! If you tell me your targets, I'll be able to give you coordinates for likely places to find them. I know that place super well. 

My biggest targets would be the immature Goshawks that have been reported there, Steller's Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, and Black-backed and White-headed Woodpeckers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few tips on birding Wright's

Bring lots of Mosquito repellent, they are crazy bad up there.

Get there early! Wright's is super active early morning, but quiets down quickly after 9 or 10. I'd recommend getting there no later than 6:30.

Park in the Twin Lakes Trailhead Parking area, that is by far the best spot for birding, the day use area is not as good for birds. 

Bird the Entrance Rd to the Twin Lakes Trailhead Parking Area, it can be extremely productive to walk. I'd recommend walking up to about the campground. 

Here is a couple examples of the routes I do up there.

Screenshot_2023-08-19-10-29-37-89_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.thumb.jpg.f836a61f4f6ccb149a4a397cd05a7bcd.jpg

Screenshot_2023-08-19-10-29-10-02_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.thumb.jpg.ec2f7e8b1751bd87335bd1753d93f5c3.jpg

Screenshot_2023-08-19-10-28-17-94_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.thumb.jpg.eeb25be50689814594b1905074112cc9.jpg

Screenshot_2023-08-19-10-27-58-04_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.thumb.jpg.3e06a9e87611d9dc045fe26e2dd66de3.jpg

Screenshot_2023-08-19-10-27-26-43_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.thumb.jpg.677091112b49dfc28d14b6879fdb0cca.jpg

 

About your targets:

As MichaelLong said, Stellar's Jays are extremely easy, you will get those 100%. 

The Northern Goshawks tend to be in this area (38.856347,-120.225864) they're vocal early in the morning, so that's the best time. You probably will have to cross the creek to get to them, but there is plenty of big logs that are easy to walk over, just follow the creek till you find one. 

Clark's Nutcracker are fairly hard at Wright's, you usually have to hike up above the lake towards Grouse lake to get them usually they're above this area (38.856019,-120.218933). Not sure of your schedule, but Clark's Nutcrackers are unbelievably easy in the town of markleeville, which is about an hour from Wright's Lake. I had over 20 there yesterday. 

White-headed woodpeckers should be fairly easy around Wright's, I get them most visits. If by chance you do miss them, bird the first two miles or so of Granite Springs Rd (38.805503,-120.238607). They're very abundant there. 

Black-backed Woodpecker is the hard one, best thing to do is to listen for them. I recommend checking around the Twin Lakes Trailhead Parking Area, and the trails in this area (38.855409,-120.227946).

If you do go to markleeville, I had a Black-backed Woodpecker on the road in to Indian Creek Reservoir at around (38.735891,-119.771290). I didn't look very hard after that, but there is a TON of great Black-backed Woodpecker habitat along that road. 

Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions! 

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

51 minutes ago, BlueJay said:

One question. Do you know if we have to pay/get any fees or park passes beforehand when parking at the Twin Lakes Trailhead Parking Area?

There's a ten dollar fee for day use around Wright's. The only pay kiosk is just before the road splits. It's at about (38.844473,-120.236504). It's obvious and impossible to miss. Good luck!

Also! How did your pelagic go? I know you got multiple Least Storm-Petrels, which is ABSOLUTELY INSANE!!! I'm incredibly jealous! Really hoping I get some on tomorrow's boat. 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Aidan B said:

There's a ten dollar fee for day use around Wright's. The only pay kiosk is just before the road splits. It's at about (38.844473,-120.236504). It's obvious and impossible to miss. Good luck!

Also! How did your pelagic go? I know you got multiple Least Storm-Petrels, which is ABSOLUTELY INSANE!!! I'm incredibly jealous! Really hoping I get some on tomorrow's boat. 

Thanks for the info. Yea the pelagic was nuts. I picked up at least 21 lifers, (I need to review a couple more) and we saw a raft of over 1500 Storm-Petrels. There were crazy numbers of Ashy, I saw a couple Leasts, and unfortunately I was seasick when they were spotted but there were also some Black and Wilson’s mixed in. I also saw all three Jaeger species as well as amazing looks at Northern Fulmar and South Polar Skua. I’ll give more details when I’m done with the entire trip.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, BlueJay said:

Thanks for the info. Yea the pelagic was nuts. I picked up at least 21 lifers, (I need to review a couple more) and we saw a raft of over 1500 Storm-Petrels. There were crazy numbers of Ashy, I saw a couple Leasts, and unfortunately I was seasick when they were spotted but there were also some Black and Wilson’s mixed in. I also saw all three Jaeger species as well as amazing looks at Northern Fulmar and South Polar Skua. I’ll give more details when I’m done with the entire trip.

Just WOW!!! Sounds like a fantastic boat! 21 lifers is crazy!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, BlueJay said:

Thanks for the info. Yea the pelagic was nuts. I picked up at least 21 lifers, (I need to review a couple more) and we saw a raft of over 1500 Storm-Petrels. There were crazy numbers of Ashy, I saw a couple Leasts, and unfortunately I was seasick when they were spotted but there were also some Black and Wilson’s mixed in. I also saw all three Jaeger species as well as amazing looks at Northern Fulmar and South Polar Skua. I’ll give more details when I’m done with the entire trip.

 

9 hours ago, Aidan B said:

Just WOW!!! Sounds like a fantastic boat! 21 lifers is crazy!

Was this the boat with the Wedge-tailed Shearwater? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the final trip report with all of my photos uploaded. https://ebird.org/tripreport/153056

I ended up getting 48 lifers (almost double what I was expecting)! Highlights of the entire trip include Least Storm-Petrel's (no photo), Clark's Nutcrackers and Mountain Bluebirds high in the Sierra Nevadas, Yellow-billed Magpies near Sacramento, and a super cooperative Brant and Ridgeway's Rails on the last day of the trip to wrap things up.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, BlueJay said:

Here's the final trip report with all of my photos uploaded. https://ebird.org/tripreport/153056

I ended up getting 48 lifers (almost double what I was expecting)! Highlights of the entire trip include Least Storm-Petrel's (no photo), Clark's Nutcrackers and Mountain Bluebirds high in the Sierra Nevadas, Yellow-billed Magpies near Sacramento, and a super cooperative Brant and Ridgeway's Rails on the last day of the trip to wrap things up.

Congrats! Any trip with 48 lifers is great. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

What kind of optics do you use? I'm not a hunter, I'm more of a bird watcher, but I can recommend a great multifunctional device. I use such a monocular https://www.atncorp.com/night-vision-monoculars when bird watching, it seems to be a hunting gadget, but no. It has a photo/video function and I use it at sports matches, concerts, on walks and trips. I can even walk around the ranch with it at night.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...