Bodega Bay Birds

Mitchell and I escaped today’s heat, heading to the coast where the fog provided nature’s air conditioning. While it was in the 90s not far inland, it was cool enough that we added a layer over our T-shirts for our hike at Bodega Head. On the way back, we stopped to watch the birds in Bodega Bay.

Summer is the season for white pelicans that feed in protected shallow waters on the coast, and we were delighted to see them back again. Bigger than their more familiar cousins, the brown pelicans that frequent ocean habitats, white pelicans have a wingspan second in North America only to California condors. As group feeders, they move slowly and steer fish into shallow water, then all feed together in a synchronized ballet.

All photos by Mitchell Yee

This group of three was looking a bit messy from sticking their heads in the mucky water.

White pelicans swimming Bodega Bay-June 2013

They look clunky when they take off.

White pelican taking flight Bodega Bay-June 2013

But quickly become graceful flyers.

Flying white pelican Bodega Bay-June 2013

We headed over to the local eatery for clam chowder to go. Both we and the marbled godwits had mollusks for lunch at the beach.

Marbled godwits feeding Bodega Bay-June 2013

Pacific Coast Wildlife Extravaganza

Yesterday, Mitchell took me for a spectacular walk on the cliffs above the Pacific, at a place called Bodega Head, a peninsula jutting out into the ocean about an hour and a half north of home. Funny that I’ve lived here all these years and never walked out there.

Knowing we were going to be passing through the little town of Bodega on Bodega Bay, first we of course had to watch the video of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds since it was filmed in the town. Bodega Bay is definitely more developed now than the sleepy fishing village it was in 1963, but it’s still got a fishing and crabbing culture. The old Bodega Bay School featured in the film has been restored and it’s now a private residence without any attacking ravens. Constructed in 1873, the building is still stunning.

All photos by Mitchell Yee

On Bodega Bay, we walked to the end of the fishing pier, where a shameless adult male California sea lion begged for bait fish from the family that was fishing on the pier. We watched both brown and white pelicans, birds that typically aren’t found that near each other. The diving brown pelicans were in the deep water, and the larger white pelicans were doing their group feeding thing swimming in the shallows.

There was also the biggest group of cormorants feeding together that I’ve seen–at least 30–obviously following schooling fish. Long-necked and low-bodied, they appeared almost like sea serpents, all neck and beak, then diving and coming up with fish that they gulped down.

In perfect weather, we headed out to the trail high on the bluffs of Bodega Head. From there, we stopped awestruck looking down on a trio of California gray whales. They ended up hanging out near the shore for an hour. We walked along the cliff and listened to the barking of dozens of California sea lions at their island rookery, and spotted a few harbor seals hanging out on the rocks around them. A big pod of dolphins zoomed around, churning up the water as they took to the air.

That’s not a rock behind the island–it’s a whale.

All of that, and there were more brown pelicans flying in formation, songbirds, seabirds, and a couple of deer along the trail. And finally, a red-tailed hawk perching in the glow of sunset silhouetted against the sky below the nearly full moon.

A magical day.