7. Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Jutting into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco, Point Reyes Peninsula and the surrounding 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore attract an enormous diversity of birdlife. More than 460 species have been recorded at Point Reyes, nearly half the entire North American total.
With a sprawling urban area to its south, it’s no wonder Point Reyes is a haven for birds. They find shelter in its saltwater estuaries, coastal scrub, freshwater wetlands, riparian corridors, and coniferous forests. Whether you go to search for spring or fall migrants, or to watch the seashore’s 120 nesting species, you’ll quickly learn why Point Reyes is a favorite of our readers. “The fall migration at Point Reyes is exciting because you never know what will turn up along the outer peninsula,” says Randy Little of Milpitas, California. “Each fall is different. A Horned Puffin one year, King Eider another. Black-throated Blue Warbler, Connecticut Warbler — seems like anything can turn up.”
Another huge draw: The Palomarin Field Station, located at the southern end of Point Reyes National Seashore. Its environmental education programs attract more than 10,000 people a year. Biologists at the visitor’s center demonstrate bird-banding and mist-netting techniques. The field station is a branch of PRBO Conservation Science, the nation’s oldest bird observatory.
Location: On the California coast, 22 miles north of San Francisco • Best time to visit: Spring and fall migrations are most productive, but the birding at Point Reyes is good year-round • Birds: Seabirds, shorebirds, warblers, woodpeckers — you name it, it’s probably at Point Reyes • Contact: Point Reyes National Seashore: (415) 464-5100; PRBO Conservation Science: (415) 868-1221
“Here is an incredibly varied world of sheer cliffs above frothy waves; of long white beaches and rolling sand dunes; of sheltered bays and estuaries … of meadows and brush-matted hills; and high ridges of deciduous trees and moss-hung conifers.” — “Point Reyes, California” by Kenn Sherwood Roe, Birder’s World, December 1991, pp. 54-58