It’s For The Birds: San Luis Obispo Birding
Thinking of a birder, some people get an image of a slightly dotty, pasty-looking man or woman in tweedy clothes, with binoculars and high boots. They are gazing through the binocs somewhere in the middle distance even though there’s a terrier chewing on their ankle.
The only part of the caricature that’s right is the binoculars, which is the essential tool of birding. Other than that, birders mostly look like you or me, dressed in REI-type clothes (often well-used), wearing comfortable walking shoes and a hat.
San Luis Obispo County birding is among the best spots in the country because it’s on the Pacific Flyway, the migration route north and south along the coast. SLO’s advantage is that it is not densely urban, and has many different habitats from ocean to shoreline to grasslands to mountains, so a lot of bird species can find their niche.
You don’t have to be an expert or compulsive birder to enjoy seeing these beautiful creatures in their own habitats. If you enjoy a walk in the country, you can enjoy watching the birds along the way. Here’s a few of the more than 200 species recently seen at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival:
Brant Goose. This little goose hails from Alaskan waters, but whether it’s in Alaska or Morro Bay, it likes eel grass. The eel grass is dying out in Morro Bay so there are not as many coming every winter as there used to be. But you can still enjoy seeing flocks of them coasting in for a landing on the bay.
Snowy Plover. You can see why this little guy is endangered. If you make your nest on the sand at the edge of the beach, anything walking along that finds you can eat your eggs. Dogs are not welcome where Snowy Plover habitat is protected. Snowy Plovers live with the crash of the surf in their for their whole lives.
Yellow Billed Magpie. The only place in the world you can see the Yellow Billed Magpie is along the Central Coast of California. While there are a couple spots near here that have them, they’re easier to spot along the country roads of SLO than anywhere else. Magpies are part of the Corvid bird family, along with Crows, Ravens, and Jays. Researchers have learned that Corvids are capable of incredibly smart behaviors, like stealing your lunch, so keep a sharp eye on them!
Varied Thrush. This is the cover picture, a piece of bird art so beautiful that no magazine editor can resist. But in reality it’s a shy bird that likes to flit about in low bushes or trees, feeding on insects or berries it finds on the ground or on low branches. It is most commonly seen in the conifers of the Pacific Northwest, but like a lot of humans, it leaves the rainy forest for SLO in winter.
Bring your binoculars next time you visit the SeaVenture. There’s a lot to see out there when you look closely.
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