Bird Walk in Beautiful Big Sur

I had often heard tales of wonders and heavenly sceneries of the land known as Big Sur and this past week I was able to witness it all with my own eyes. Often reality doesn’t meet our expectations. Beautiful views perfectly taken from movies or photographs blind us from the usually unreliable weather which in turn make every scenery much more bland than we expected. But this time it was different. The typical muggy weather in Monterey Bay still could not hide the gorgeousness of Big Sur. It truly was out of this world.

And how did I end up in Big Sur? Well, thanks to my now former EFTA colleague Karina I participated in my second bird walk with Monterey Audubon Society with the destination being the Big Sur River Mouth/Andrew Molera. This walk was led by the one and only President Blake Matheson who has been birding since high school. After meeting in the Monterey Del Monte Mall we all squeezed into Blake’s car and were on our way.

BirdWalkBigSur

The trails were ravishing. Blake (far right wearing a cap and light blue) is a world class birder. Have a long way to catch up. This world is truly filled with talented people.

On the way I thought of everything I had heard about Big Sur and thought that like everything else in life, it was merely an exaggeration. My pessimistic thoughts quickly vanished as the drive through the coast absolutely enamored me. Enormous islets and boulders decorated the rocky intertidal like the carefully placed accessories of a young woman heading out to a cocktail party.

After arriving to our destination the views were even more breath taking. Hills than rolled for what seemed miles and skies that were cloudy but yet had a certain transparency. Blake added to the experience by being a truly world class birder and identified birds in mere seconds by their silhouettes and calls. Only rarely would he use his binoculars. His pygmy owl calls were also right on point since even the passerines were fooled.

cormorantrock

This rock contained the three types of cormorants that inhabit the west coast. Pelagic, Brandt’s, and Double Crested Cormorants.

Why the pygmy owl call? The pygmy owl is one of the most ferocious hunters in existence with its main source of food being passerines. When hungry it is silent and deadly but when satiated… it is completely harmless. It even emits a unique bird song when it is dozing off due to a filled belly. The passerines notice this call and know exactly what it means — the pygmy owl is completely defenseless. They quickly congregate towards the sound, mock, and sometimes even attack the pygmy owl. Hearing Blake’s pygmy owl call made the nearby passerines approach our area and take quick peak at us. Seeing that it was only us lowly humans they would sadly disappear. The mobbing would have to wait for another day.

RiverBigSur

Big Sur River Mouth. Where the river meets the ocean.

At the end of the day I came back home content after seeing the Warbling Vireo, California Thrasher, Black-headed Grosbeak and scarcer birds like Purple Martin, Willow Flycatcher and Indigo Bunting. But this trip did do something else for me… I’ve only been in love twice before in my life. Once after discovering Middle Eastern food and now with California.

 

dangomez04
dangomez@sas.upenn.edu
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