VIDEO--Nesting Birds On The Farallon Islands--
Millions of seabirds gather to nest on the rocky islands just off the shore in colonies on the Pacific Coast. In general these areas are not accessible, but some can be viewed from boats along the coast.
Some of the species of seabirds you might see are: Double-breasted Brandt’s and pelagic cormorants, Cassin’s auklet, tufted puffin, thin-billed murres and pigeon guillemots. These are the most abundant. The California sea gulls nest inland at Mono Lake. (For more information about gulls at Mono Lake see link at end of this article.)
Nesting colonies frequently number in the millions. The Farallon Islands and Castle Rock off Crescent City are two of the largest colonies of nesting seabirds in the Pacific south of Alaska. You know when you are getting close to these locations because the noise from so many birds can be deafening. The clamor is just a part of the general excitement of nesting colonies as they hustle about the area. The birds compete for the choice spots on the rocky cliffs and ledges and the movement is accompanied by squawks and vigorous flapping wings.
New sounds can be heard as the eggs hatch and the nestlings squeal to signal their parents.
The Channel Islands in Southern California are likewise rich with seabird hatchlings and is vital to the seabird population of California.
The National Park Service states:
The Channel Islands are critically important to seabirds, supporting:
Viewing Locations in Northern California
The second largest seabird rookery in California is located on Castle Rock off Point St. George in Crescent City. Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets are the two most numerous nesting there; however, many species can be spotted. The rock is about half a mile offshore, so you can use a scope or a boat to see the rookery up close. Take 9th St. east from downtown Crescent City until it ends at Pebble Beach. Turn right at the beach and continue along the shoreline to Point St. George. There are excursion boats and boat rentals at Crescent Harbor near the downtown area.
Point Reyes Lighthouse
This historical site stands on the edge of the rocky cliffs where the rookeries of cormorants, murres and guillemots can be seen. Follow the signs for Sir Francis Drake Highway from CA 1 just south of Point Reyes Station and follow the signs to the lighthouse. There is parking, but it does require a walk up to the lighthouse and then a stairway to the lighthouse. The rookeries can be viewed on the cliffs below.
These islands are located 26 miles out past the Golden Gate Bridge in the Pacific Ocean and are home to the largest seabird rockery in California and one of the largest south of Alaska. No one is allowed on the islands, but boats can circle around them and can viewed with binoculars and scopes. Excursion boats lead by naturalists are available during the spring and summer.
The famous Seventeen Mile Drive bordering the Pebble Beach Golf Course and luxurious homes is also known for Point Joe Bird Island and Fan Shell Beach that offers some the best seabird and shorebird watching on the Pacific Coast. Brandt’s cormorants nest on the Bird Island. There are parking areas along way to stop and view.
Take Ocean View Drive south from Pacific Grove until it turns into Sunset Dr. The north entrance to The Seventeen Mile Dr. is on the right. There is a charge for the drive, and it ends in Carmel.
Point Lobos State Reserve
Three miles south of Carmel off CA 1 there are viewing areas for several large rocks offshore that house rookeries. Maps are available at the entrance and the road ends at the southern boundary of the reserve.
Located off CA 1 13 miles south of Point Lobos State Reserve. There is a parking area on the ocean side of the highway just over 1 mile past Bixby Creek. From there you can view several hundred thin-billed murres as they raise their young.
Trinidad State Beach
This is located on the southernmost part of the Pacific Coast where the tufted puffin can be seen regularly. Birders from around the world visit here to see these beautiful birds and their nesting site. The best viewing point is at Elk Head which is reached from Stage Coach Rd. a mile north of the beach. Go past the intersection on Anderson Rd for 200 yards, then turn west on a dirt road. There is a parking area at the trail head of the 1 mile walk to the northernmost point on Elk Head.
Seagulls nesting at Mono Lake