2022-03-06 A Few Hours At Bodega Bay

Common Loon - Gavia immer
Crabs seemed to be the preferred menu item for these divers. Loons normally spend three years in coastal marine waters before successfully finding their way to their inland freshwater breeding grounds. 
Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
These small grebes ranged over all quadrants of the deeper waters in the harbor. Waterfowl and shorebirds were the objects of my affection during the half-day I spent exploring Bodega Bay.

Bodega Bay is only 34 miles from my Point Reyes Camp near Point Reyes. Years ago I stopped at The Tides Restaurant and enjoyed their good food and a ring-side seat watching birds and wildlife a couple dozen feet below on the harbor’s waters. I found more of the same on this visit.

After breakfast I collected my camera gear and walked back to the docks from which I’d been observing the bay during my morning meal. The water must have been deep, for all the waterfowl I saw were divers. Perhaps the highlight of the day was when Common Loons brought crabs to the surface for consumption. Also present near the dock were Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, and Eared Grebes.

Nearby, along the rocky shoreline north of the restaurant, I discovered both turnstone species (Black and Ruddy), and Willets in the company of Marbled Godwits (these two species seem to hang out together often). Also, at the end of a spit, was a dense cluster of winter plumaged (or basic form) Dunlin.

On my prior visits to Bodega Bay, I’d neglected exploring the nooks and crannies of this harbor. Today I resolved to remedy this oversight. Near the northern reaches of the bay, I found the road leading away from the Coast Highway, providing me access to those parts of the bay hidden from my past visits.

The first place I found was the boat launch area on Eastshore Road called Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center. It was high tide, and perhaps a thousand shorebirds loafed in the shelter of this corner of the bay waiting for the tide’s retreat ‌to resume foraging in exposed mudflats, fattening up for what would be a long journey north to breed in a month or so.. By far, the Marbled Godwits outnumbered all other shorebird species here, but mingling with this crowd of godwits were more Dunlins, Sanderlings, and a few Whimbrels. I didn’t notice at the time, but one image I captured of the Dunlin showed a Western Sandpiper in the background.

Later, I drove out to the far point along Westshore Road, where the bay opens up to the Pacific’s turbulent waters, exploring and watching for bird-life along the way. I saw more Common Loons, Buffleheads and Eared Grebes here.

When I completed my explorations of the bay, I returned to CA-1 and drove north, keeping my eyes open for a safe place to park for the night at the roadside. The criteria I used was the absence of “No Overnight Parking” signs, and an adequate cell signal (for the internet). I was heading in and out of heavily forested lands, and much of it was Redwoods.

I looked for wild places to visit along this route, but I found quite a bit of the formerly “wild” places had been civilized and settled. Most of what I saw seemed to be high income estates. I understand the attraction, but it seems a shame to parcel out such a beautiful country.

As the day progressed, and my drive lengthened, looking for a stopping place took on more importance. I didn’t want to be driving in the dark and still looking for a safe stop. I think driving at night is a sin when in such spectacular surroundings. I finally found a place perched 460 feet on the cliffs above the Pacific, and settled in for the night. I used the time to finish weaving the yarn from my visit to Point Reyes. I’d traveled only 53 miles from my campsite near Point Reyes, but the twists and turns along the way made it seem like much more.

I seem to stay two days behind real-time in sharing my adventures. Such are the demands of travel required for preparing words and images. I can only hope that you, the reader, might enjoy the journey as much as I.

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