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Memories of Crescent City

Common Loon - Gavia immer
This bird was in alternate, or breeding plumage. When I met these birds before in Crescent City California near the boat basin of the harbor, they were in non-breeding (basic) plumage.

Tucked into the northwestern corner of California and surrounded by redwoods, you will find the town of Crescent City. When I visit family in Southern Oregon, I enjoy the first leg of my southbound return trip to San Diego, by driving down the Smith River road to the coast.

Crescent Harbor surprised me the first time I stopped to investigate. Loons and murres are often shy when seen along the coast and most likely to be encountered at sea from a pelagic boat. But I discovered these birds boldly swimming among the docked fishing boats in the harbor. This pegged the needle on my birding “Happiness Meter” and I learned that visiting the harborside in this small town was time well spent.

There are several places around the harbor worth exploring. My first stop is usually the Fisherman’s Marina, but it is surrounded by several other worthwhile possibilities. To the north is a sandy shore that stretches almost a mile out to Battery Point, where shorebird encounters are likely. Extending west from the marina, a commercial dock and pier provide views into the central harbor and Pelican Rock, where oystercatchers nest. The roadway along the south jetty separates the open ocean and the harbor, and provides possibilities for meeting multiple species of shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls and other birds.

A short drive north into town leads to a route that can carry you west past city parklands, and the sandy shoreline until you reach the lighthouse at Battery Point. Here you will find more jetties protecting the harbor from the stormy water of the open ocean. These jetties are no match for the tsunamis that sometimes cross the Pacific, and have caused havoc here. Hiking and biking the roadways along these jetties can provide meetings with sea ducks and other species.

The lighthouse at Battery Point sits prominently on a rocky outcrop where the sea meets the harbor’s northern edge. On my most recent visit I discovered a thicket on the point that sits across the small isthmus connecting the lighthouse’s rocky perch, where I found several species of passerines feeding on aphids and other invertebrate prey. It was an interesting contrast to the shorebirds, waders, gulls and seabirds I’d been meeting on the harbor.

During my most recent August visit to this area I also discovered a road that explored the grass covered dunes north of town, where various sparrows and open country grassland species could thrive when the seasons suited their needs. This visit did not yield any noteworthy images from this area, but the gallery below provides samples from my past visits to the region.

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