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Birding in California is a treat, as there are so many different habitats and species to see. The state is located along the Pacific Flyway, one of the four major migratory routes that birds use across North America. There is a coastal and an inland route. In addition to migratory birds, there are species that make certain areas of California their homes year-round.
Pelagic birding trips can be great fun. Boats carry passengers out to sea, in search of 31 different pelagic bird species as well as seven different kinds of marine mammals. Trips vary in length and in cost. They leave from all parts of the coast, including San Diego, Long Beach, and San Francisco harbors.
Coastal birding can be done either with an organized group or as an independent excursion. It can also be combined with other activities; for example, an incredible way to see coastal birds in Morro Bay is to rent a kayak and paddle out into the estuary. Many coastal state parks have trails that allow hikers to explore bluffs and riparian areas in search of local birds.
Birding in the inland valleys is somewhat more difficult, as many of the bird areas require several hours of driving from tourist areas. Still, places such as the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve in Lodi, the Shasta Valley in Northern California, and the Salton Sea within an hour of Palm Springs are well worth the visit.
The mountain ranges of California have their own species. Because of the elevation gain and subsequent seasonal weather changes, birding is usually restricted to the summer months, but it is possible to see non-migratory birds year-round. As is true with the coastal areas, birding in the mountains can usually be combined with other activities. A visit to hiking areas such as Devilís Postpile in Mammoth Lakes will provide many opportunities to see birds. Visitors to Palm Springs can take the tram up through seven ecological environments, ending up in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, where several trailheads or nature loops can be accessed.
There are also birding festivals that take place around the state. Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra communities hold an Annual Bird Chautauqua every June. Based in the town of Lee Vining, the event combines field trips, presentations, and dinners for the gathering. The Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival occurs over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, also includes field trips and gatherings, including a special Family Day with low-cost activities for parents and their children. The Christmas Bird Count, organized by Audubon California, is a series of events that take place statewide, allowing interested individuals to participate in citizen science.
Birds are a huge part of California fauna, and visitors can find wonderful opportunities to observe them in their natural habitats. Every part of the state has bird watching hot spots. Whether a seasoned birder or a novice to the pastime, birders find that California is a great place to visit.
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