Top Birding Spots in Santa Cruz County!
Local Birding Expert, Todd Newberry, scoping out some of the many bird species that call Santa Cruz County home
Todd Newberry, local birding expert gave his picks for top birding spots in Santa Cruz County:
The UCSC Arboretum - Newberry's top pick for quantity – in two hours you can see as many as 50 species. Hummingbirds are active all day every day of the year and there’s a marked Hummingbird Trail that takes you past the tiny birds’ favorite nectar plants. Purple Finches sing all day, coveys of California Quail run about, Orange-crowned Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Spotted Towhees and many more species are easy to spot and even easier to hear. Pick up a Bird List at the Arboretum Gift Shop on your way in.
West Cliff Drive, from the Lighthouse to Natural Bridges - Its south-facing coastline means a sunny exposure – so it’s always a delight to walk or ride bikes along the paved path. “You can see an extraordinary number of birds,” says Todd, “especially at low tide along the rocky shore, such as the spectacular Black Oyster Catcher.” Western Gulls and Pigeon Guillemots nest along the cliffs and Brown Pelicans fly overhead in summer and fall. You can see three kinds of loons, three kinds of cormorants – the list goes on and on. If you walk as far as the Natural Bridges Lagoon, you’re likely to see both Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets - striking white herons, as they feed
The Watsonville Wetlands - offers excellent birdwatching much of the year, except in the middle of the rainy season when it’s just too wet. Several kinds of ducks make their homes and nests here and you’re likely to see scores of other birds -- at least eight kinds of raptors, White Pelican, Kingfisher, Ibis, Bittern, and five kinds of heron just for a start. Newberry recommends that beginners go on a birdwatching trip with the bird club – the Wetlands is so big that it helps to have a guide your first time out.
Looking for more birding spots? Download a printable checklist or visit the birding page on the CVC Website!
Lifelong birder Todd Newberry is a founding faculty member of UCSC, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, and the author of the book, 'The Ardent Birder: On the Craft of Birdwatching.’ He leads birdwatching trips for the UCSC Arboretum and other groups in Santa Cruz County.
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