The last day of my birthday weekend spent exploring California’s redwood coast was a sensational treat. Mostly thanks to two pygmy owls.
But before the owls.
This chatty, energetic flycatcher is common in this area, but rare near Portland. I was happy I got the chance to see one.
Continuing along Highway 101 we passed herds of elk.
They weren’t in Elk Meadow like they’re supposed to be. Instead, I found an American Kestrel.
Undeterred, we walked the remaining distance to the trailhead. This was a good call, because moments later we encountered two bull elk grazing by the road. Reminded of the moose in Alaska, we followed the same guidelines for the elk. We gave them space, and spoke loudly and calmly so as not to startle the animals, and we passed without incident.
Further down the road, I noticed a chubby song bird silhouette in the distance. Oh wait, I recognize that silhouette!
A Northern Pygmy-Owl! The above picture is pretty much only good for perspective (the owl is about the same size as the Doug-fir cones on the tree to the right). So here are some better pictures.
What a cutie. The last occurrence of a NOPO I had was during Birdathon this summer. Our team heard and briefly caught a glimpse of one in flight high above the trees in an urban park.
I haven’t had this intimate a sighting since my first “official” day birding at Stubb Stewart State Park almost a year ago. In fact, because of that first encounter, I consider the Northern Pygmy-Owl the “spark bird” that ignited my passion for birding. It was thrilling to find another, especially in this beautiful setting.
And we hadn’t even gotten to the trailhead yet. Honestly, I could have gone back to the car and been perfectly content, but I’m glad we continued on.
Fern canyon is awesome. Canyon walls covered in five types of ferns tower overhead while the trail meanders along the stream.
It feels prehistoric. In fact, this was a film location for a scene in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Tiny Compsognathus dinosaurs attack and eat bad-guy hunter Dieter Stark. See that excellent film clip here.
No dinosaurs this time. But there was an American Dipper!
Ferocious if you’re a worm or aquatic insect.
We returned to the car via the beach where we passed flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the swampy bits.
And found bird bones.
And yet another elk.
But that’s not how the story ends.
Driving back on 101, I spotted another Northern Pygmy-Owl on a small Douglas-fir as we whizzed by. Owl! I shouted. Tomas asked, Are you sure? Yes, of course I was sure. So he cautiously made a U-turn on the highway to get to the shoulder where we could get a better look and not be smashed by semis.
I couldn’t believe it. What luck to run into two pygmy owls in one day. As if I needed another reason to love the redwood forests. Now I had two more.
Happy bird-day to me.
Tweets and chirps,