Saturday, April 16, 2011

Point Reyes National Seashore - March 2011

Despite living less than 3 hours away, we had never visited Point Reyes National Seashore. So, we decided to rectify that in March 2011 especially after learning that it is a great place to see bobcat this time of year.

Our trip starting with a quick half day side trip to Tennessee Valley in the Golden Gate National Recreation area. This area of Marin is a great place to see bobcat so whenever we are in the area we stop by. Today was no exception. Within a half hour we saw two different bobcats in the same general area but both were a little far away for good photos.

Once at Point Reyes, our luck continued. Along the Pierce Point Road, we spied another bobcat on a nearby hill and watched it hunt for a while. As we left Point Reyes, we saw our 4th bobcat of the day hunkered down in the grass in the fading light at the end of the day. A four cat day definitely exceeded our expectations.

Stalking Bobcat

Pouncing Bobcat

On day two, we decided to check out the Point Reyes lighthouse. This area of Point Reyes is a great place to see migrating gray whales and sea birds. The total mammal tally for the morning included dozens of Black-tailed deer, a Black-tailed Jackrabbit and we were able to see a Gray Whale mother and calf as they passed by the point.

Juvenile Blacktail Deer

Blacktail Deer Overlooking South Beach

The bird life was plentiful as well and included Clarke's Grebe, Willets, Burrowing Owls, a Common Murre colony, Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, White-tailed Kites, and various sparrows.

Clark's Grebe

The Flying Willets

White-crowned Sparrow

The afternoon on day two was even better than the morning. We went back to the Pierce Point Road area to cruise the road and take a hike at Abbott's Lagoon and at Tomales Point. We were rewarded with good looks at distance of two more Bobcats, a fleeting glimpse of a Long-tailed Weasel, lots of Brush Rabbits, a Coyote, dozens of Tule Elk and a whole lot of birds including a good look at an American Bittern hunting.

Tule Elk

Tule Elk and Tomales Bay

Tomales Point Trail

But, by far, the highlight of the day was a closeup encounter with a Bobcat that was basking in the afternoon sun in a pasture right off the road. This experience made the whole trip.


Day three started with rain. In fact, it rained the whole night and didn't clear up until mid-morning. Despite the late start, we had a good day of mammal viewing which included more Brush Rabbits, three Coyotes, Elephants Seals, Harbor Seals, and a Striped Skunk. The bird sightings were plentiful as well and included Western Gulls, Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, White-winged Scoter, and Marbled Godwit. There were no Bobcat sightings today, but lots of false alarms as we quickly learned most of the local dairy farms were well stocked with domestic cats that roamed the pastures.

Resting Elephant Seal


Striped Skunk

Gluttonous Seagull

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

The weather on day 4, like pretty much most of the week for that matter, was great. Partly cloudy and not too breezy. We took advantage of this by doing a lot of hiking so there was less wildlife spotting. But, even a slow day out in nature beats working. We did manage to see four more Coyotes, lots of California Quail, Brush Rabbits and a couple of Black-tailed Jackrabbits. We did strike out on our efforts to find Pileated Woodpeckers which are known to hang out hear the visitor center.

Brush Rabbit and Shy Friend

Turkey Vultures

California Quail

Day 5 was our last day so we decided to concentrate our efforts in the Pierce Point Road area since we had the most wildlife luck there. We also took a quick side trip to drakes beach. We had good luck in both areas and managed to see 3 Coyotes, 2 Bobcats, more Blacktail Deer, an Elephant Seal and some better looks at the Burrowing Owl and American Bittern.

Blacktail Deer in Field of Flowers

Pierce Point Ranch

American Bittern

We left Point Reyes in the early afternoon after a great week. On the way back to highway 101, we spotted our last bobcat of the week as it trotted through a pasture with some sort of prey in its mouth.

Far Away Bobcat with Lunch

Looking back now, we can't believe that we hadn't visited this area of California before. Between the wildlife and great scenery, it is surely an area not to be missed for anyone coming to Northern California.

Mammal List:
- Bobcat
- Coyote
- Black-tailed jackrabbit
- Long-tailed weasel
- Elephant Seal
- Harbor Seal
- Gray Whale
- Black-tailed Deer
- Tule Elk
- Marsh Rabbit
- Striped Skunk
- Botta's Pocket Gopher
- California Vole
- Lots of dairy cows and domestic cats