Birding Hotspots Along the Mendocino CoastA selection of Coastal Birding Sights in Mendocino County, from south to north.
links will take you to the eBird hotspot for that area. Other links will take you to pages within the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society's site with more information and maps, or the link will take you directly the organization responsible for that location's website.
Point Arena to Elk - especially interesting during the winter months, when large numbers of raptors (including Ferruginous Hawk) hunt the fields. There are numerous places to pull out along Hwy 1 to see the raptors; also watch for Lincoln's Sparrows and Say's Phoebe.
Lighthouse Road - drive out to the end and park before entering the Lighthouse property. Walk north across the field to look over the mouth of the Garcia River (best with a scope). Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and winter migrants are abundant here. In winter, look for Sandhill Crane in the fields across the river and to the east. A few Pacific Golden-plovers sometimes winter on the lawns around the Lighthouse cabins.
Stoneboro Road - The field on the south side is an excellent location to see wintering Ferruginous Hawk. Red Crossbills are sometimes found around Duxbury Loop. Near the end of Stoneboro, take Bristol Drive and park at the circle; look north to the mouth of Brush Creek for wintering Tundra Swan, Snow Goose, and others. Walk east to look over Hunter Lagoon for waterfowl, and watch for raptors, including Peregrine Falcon.
Kinney Lane - another good place to find wintering raptors, Say's Phoebe, and others. Western Bluebirds often hang out in the picnic area at the end of the road.
Elk and vicinity - The fields near town are good for raptors and White-tailed Kite; also watch fencerows for Lincoln's Sparrows. Merlin is sometimes seen in or near town. From the bluffs at Greenwood State Beach, scope for seabirds. The mouth of Greenwood Creek can hold surprises. Peregrine Falcon is resident here in fall and winter. Cormorants and Murres nest on offshore rocks in summer. At night, listen for owls calling from the canyon below Philo-Greenwood Road (including Saw-whet and Spotted Owls).
The Navarro River Beach State Park - - In May, look for Black-Headed Grosbeak (and, very rarely, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak) and Bullock's Oriole near the old Captain Fletcher house. Check willows for migrating warblers and other songbirds in spring and fall. In winter, check river for waterfowl, including Common Goldeneye, Brant, and sometimes Red-necked Phalarope.
Big River beach, river, and trail - Easily accessible and productive estuary. Great Blue Heron and Osprey nest in tall Douglas-firs on south bank. Sparrows and other songbirds in brushy areas behind the beach and along the road, year-round. Waterfowl and waders in the River.
The Mendocino Headlands - the town of Mendocino has spectacular bluffs on its south, west, and north sides where numerous seabirds and shorebirds (including Black Oystercatcher) can be viewed throughout the year. In spring and fall, watch for migrating flocks of seabirds, especially Pacific Loon and Surf Scoter flying over the ocean. Brown Pelicans cruise by all summer. A colony of nesting Brandt's Cormorants and Common Murres on the rocks at the northwest corner of the Headlands puts on a great show in early summer.
The Caspar Pond - northeast corner of Hwy 1 and Fern Creek Road is a small pond with interesting birds found year round.
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: (47 acres, entrance fee for non-members, facilities). West off Highway 1 one mile south of the Noyo River Bridge (Ft. Bragg). More than 180 species have been recorded here. The various habitats include cultivated gardens, pine forests, lawns, coastal prairie, and ocean views; 40-50 species per visit, mostly landbirds; watch for hummingbirds.*
Rose Memorial Park 760 N Franklin St. The cemetery has a good variety of songbirds. It is especially good in winter, when the Banksia trees attract warblers, Orioles, Tanagers, and large numbers of hummingbirds. One of the best places to see Pygmy Nuthatch. Walk up the train tracks to hear Virginia Rail, Sora, and Marsh Wren along Pudding Creek.
Glass Beach: A former town dump, named for shards of sea-washed glass. Turn west on Elm Street at the corner of Elm and Main (Highway 1, north edge of Ft. Bragg). Go to the end of Elm Street (.24 mile) park, walk west .24 mile to the beach. Search any mounds of seaweed for shorebirds in fall migration early in the morning. Up to 20+/- Harlequin Ducks often roost on large rocks south of the main path; walk around the chain link fence to the first cove.
Bald Hill: At the north end of Pudding Creek Bridge (Hwy 1) take Pudding Creek Road east about 1 mile around a sweeping left curve, then turn left (north) onto Bald Hill Road; pass some houses until you reach a small woods and open pasture. Park where you do not block gates and walk the road. This is private land bisected by a public road which ends at a driveway. Bird from the road only. Watch for raptors, especially Ferruginous Hawk, search any Canada Goose flock for other species. Tricolored blackbirds sometimes are abundant in fall/winter.*
Virgin Creek Beach: Reached by entering the well-signed south entrance of MacKerricher State Park and walking .7 mile north along an interior road (Haul Road). Also can be reached by parking in a large unpaved turnout on the west side of Hwy 1 about 1 mile farther north, look for the "Virgin Creek Trail" sign among the shrubbery, then walk about .25 mile west to the beach. Excellent in migration and winter for shorebirds.*
Lake Cleone/Laguna Point: Enter the well-signed main entrance of MacKerricher State Park, park at the lake's parking lot. Bird the trail around the lake (1 mile), and/or drive in another .24 mile, park again, and walk the .3 mile long boardwalk to an elevated platform. Search for seabirds and rocky shore birds including Rock Sandpipers (high tide best) among the shoreline rocks; don't overlook the marine mammals.*
Ward Avenue: Walk along the Haul Road north from Lake Cleone .5 mile of turn off Hwy 1 onto Ward Avenue and drive to its end where there is room to park. Search the shore and ocean for grebes, loons, and alcids among the sea ducks, including Black Scoters.*
Ten-Mile Beach: Park at a pull-out at the SW corner of the Ten-Mile River bridge about 4.5 miles north of Ward Avenue. Access to the river and beach is by an unimproved, privately-owned trail and the Haul Road leaking from the parking area. Follow the Haul Road west into the dunes, then when the road turns sourth, continue west via trails to the beach. Search for shorebirds, especially in fall, and Snowy Plover all year. Look through the flocks of gulls.*
Juan Creek: Pull out on Hwy 1 near Milepost 82.91 (5 miles north of Westport). In summer, be alert for Purple Martins which nest under the bridge over Juan Creek and search the ocean anytime for seabirds, especially Marbled Murrelets.*
From Ten Mile River to Hardy Creek by Karen A. Havlena
Usal Beach and the Lost Coast by Jerry White
* Sections By Dorothy Tobkin; excerpted from Northwestern California Birds by Stanley W. Harris; Living Gold Press
A List of Mendocino County Coastal Birds (PDF)
An identification guide to the birds of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (PDF)
A Mendocino Coast Botanic Gardens birding checklist (PDF)
Photos on this page are copyright Tim Bray.
Black Oystercatcher. Photograph by Ron LeValley