Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moss Landing & Elkhorn Slough

Today's adventures had us returning to the Watsonville area. We, again, drove Hwy 1 stopping at several places that we hadn't stppped at on our way to SF. These included Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve State Park where you could go down onto the rocky shores and view the tidial pools. There on larger rocks in the water were roosting Black Turnstones and Sandpipers. Plus there were also groups of seals sunning on some of the rocks. We stopped further down the road at Big Basin's State Park, ate lunch and walked across the street where we saw more California Quail.

Next stop was Moss Landing where the Sea Lions was napping on the town pier.  I also saw some of the jelly fish we had seen in the aquarime floating by in the water and Pelagic Cormorants fishing successfully for crabs  Jetty's Landing Rd where we viewed sea otters frolicking in the water; shorebirds foraging in the shallow waters.

Then it was off to the Elkhorn Slough to walk the trails. As it was about 2pm when we arrived we decided to walk the longest trail of 2+ miles that took you through the most different habitats giving us the best opportunity to see a variety of birds. The highlights were Brown Pelicans, Elegant Terns, Townsend's Warbler plus there were Acorn Woodpeckers and shorebirds out on the slough.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Berkeley Arboretum & Strybing Arboretum

Today we spent about 4 hrs at the UC Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Berkeley.  These gardens are spread out over 34 acres and overlook Strawberry Canyon which overlooks the San Francisco Bay.  It is part of the University of CA at Berkeley.  It is said to have one of the most diverse collections of plants in the USA.  While there we saw some great flowers, lots of hummingbirds, some Scrub Jays, Towhees, Lesser Goldfinches and other birds and wildlife.

This afternoon was spend at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens that are part of the Golden Gate Park.  The gardens cover 55 acres of ground and has more than 7500 specimans of flora which makes it one of the largest gardens on the West Coast.  It is also a magical place for hummingbirds.  We saw beautiful flowers, birds including hawks looking for their next meal in an unspecting bird, other wildlife and incredible trees.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Driving to San Francisco via Hwy 1

This afternoon we drove back to San Francsico to spend the weekend with my brother, Jeff, his wife Ying (Connie) and their daughter Michelle. We haven't seen them for over 2 1/2 years since we all went to China together to meet Ying's family.
The drive up along the Hwy 1 is really beautiful with the high cliffs of rock and long drops down to the ocean. The waves look hugh from above.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

We stopped along the way and saw some cool looking seals sunning on the rocks.

Santa Cruz Birding Club -Watsonville Slough

On of my reasons for wanting to return to the Watsonville area was to see the local birds, many of which are different then the birds I see on the East Coast. When I arrived I googled birding clubs San Francisco area and stumbled upon a Santa Cruz Birding Club that was having a bird walk this AM. I emailed the leader, Steve Gerow and asked if I could come along with them.
We first walked along the Watsonville Slough where I got to see some new birds including Lesser Goldfinch, Lincoln Sparrow, Chestnut Warbler and a young Black-chinned Hummingbird. Then Steve wanted to stop by Ford Street where there was a possiblity of seeing a Tropical Kingbird.

Immediately upon arriving someone saw a good sized bird along the side of the road in the trees and called out for us all to look.  The bird is a Common Cuckoo, a very rare visitor to the lower 48 states having only been seen once before in the 80's in Mass.  I never expected to come to CA, meet up with a great, friendly group of local birders and be with the group when a rare bird was discovered. An awesome morning!! Common Cuckoo(left). Photo by Wendy Naruo - Member of the Santa Cruz Bird Club

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton, CA

Today's plan was to go to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to see the old growth redwoods that are estimated to be between 1400 to 1800 yars old.  The tallest tree is reported to be 285 ft  with a width of bigger than 16 ft.  Off we went to Felton which is in the Santa Cruz mountains.  The road winds around and through second growth redwoods, Pondersa Pines, Douglas Firs and Oaks.  The scenery was incredible!  Once we arrived we walked the mile long trail around the oldest stand of  Coastal Redwood trees.  The redwoods are really inpressive.  Some of them were burnt out on the inside from lightening strikes.  While the wood does burn it burns itself out because the wood is so dense.

While at the State Park we saw several birds that were lifers for me - Stellar Jays, Bushtits, and "Oregon Race" Dark-eyed Juncos.

We left the Redwoods Sate Park and drove over to the Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. This is one of the places roosts of Monarch butterflies can be found in the winter months. We were hoping to see butterflies in CA but have only seen a few Cabbage White Sulphurs and 1-2 Monarchs. Down on the beach I saw 3 more lifers - Black Turnstones, Long-billed Curlew fighting with a Marbled Godwit plus there was a Whimbrel nearby. Up above the bridge were Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and other birds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monterery and Salinas, CA

Waking up today was sad because the fog was everywhere. We decided that it would be a good day to go to the Monterery Aquarium, hoping that by the time we had finished seeing all the displays the fog would have lifted along the coast. My favorite displays were the jellyfish and seahorses.

Leaving the aquarium we walked along the pathway from Monterery to Pacific Grove even though it was still foggy. Some of the birds we saw were Black Oystercatchers, California Gulls, a Red-shouldered Hawk plus Double-crested Cormorants.

After drving along the coast we decided to drive inland toward Salinas where we stopped at a county park. Among the birds we saw there was the unique Acorn Woodpecker. This bird drills holes into the bark of trees that they later fill with acorns to eat during the winter months.

Lastly, we found an excellent diner "Ellie's American Diner" where we had dinner. The food is awesome!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Off to California - Santa Cruz

I have wanted to revisit the Watsonville area of CA since I was there with my sisters in January 2010.  Several weeks ago my sister, Jenny along with her husband and I decided that all of our schedules coordinated so travel plans were made.  We left this AM arriving in San Francisco just after noon PDT.  After renting a car we drove down to Santa Sruz to the UCSC Arboretum. The flowers here are spectucular which makes the arboretum is a mecca for several species of hummingbirds.

Anna's Hummingbird

Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird

California Quail

California Towhee

The Rufous vs Allen's Hummingbird and the California Towhee are new life birds for me.  Now if I could just figure out which hummingbird it actually was I'd be happier!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk - CMP State Park

Today was another Butterfly and Dragonfly walk at the Sate Park. We saw a total of 16 species of butterflies with 2 new species for this week being an American Cooper along with another rare skipper - Clouded Skipper (left).

American Cooper Butterfly

Little Yellow

Damselflies mating

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Brazilian Skipper - My Yard

Rare Skipper Sighting -A rare Brazilian Skipper has been found in my yard by Will Kerling.  It is one of 3 seen in Cape May County.  It's not known if any Brazilian Skipper has ever been seen outside of Cape May County.  This was an awesome find but sadly, I was at work and didn't get to see it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Visitors to the rotten fruit

After several classes in attracting butterlies to my yard where I was taught the importance of putting out fruit that was rotting I joined the other legions of people who do this.  The butterflies nectar on the rotting fruit.  Last week I was given a large supply of unsaleable peaches by a local produce stand.  Now I have 4 plates out for the butterflies.  Each day it's great to see how many butterflies can be at the fruit at any one time.  We have Red Admirals, Mourning Cloaks, American Ladies, Painted Ladies, Eastern Commas and Question Marks.  Last week I saw a Red-spotted Purple on the fruit.  Then last evening when I came I found another visitor.  This visitor wasn't one that I really wanted to see - a Praying Mantis.  Fortunately, it was eating a fly at the time and not a butterfly.  After getting a few photos I shooed it away.

Then this afternoon I noticed a butterfly that was similar in coloring to a Monarch but it just didn't look quite right.  Surprise, it was another new yard butterfly - a Viceroy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Butterfly and Dragonfly Walk - CMP State Park

The CMBO has a new walk on Sundays with several of their naturalists that looked really interesting to me so I decided to go on it.  The walk was led by Will Kerling who has studied butterflies for many years.  His knowledge about them is increbible. He was assisted by Chris Tomlinson, Nancy Watson and Mike Hannisian. 

We covered 2 different habitats during the walk. We saw 18 species of butterflies - Little Yellow, Cloudless Sulphurs, a rare White M Hairstreak, Orange Sulphur, Varigated Fritillary, Mourning Cloaks, American Snout, Black Swallowtails, Common Buckeyes, American Ladies, Painted Ladies, Pearl Crescents, Common Wood Nymph, Long-tailed Skipper, Fiery Skippers, Sachems, Ocola Skipper and many, many Monarchs. We had good looks at most of them along with a Cloudless Yellow Sulphur that had just emerged from a chrylsis and was drying his wings.  (left)

Ocola Skipper (left)
The most unusual bug we saw was a Wheel Bug (left).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Gardens

The gardens have really grown since planted in June and July!  I just love them and all of the birds, butterflies, dragonflies and all that is visiting them.