From Birds to Bobcats: Wonderful Wildlife Watching in Point Reyes

From Birds to Bobcats: Wonderful Wildlife Watching in Point Reyes

Point Reyes is an amazing place, with some of the most impressive biodiversity I have ever seen. Just by taking a quick drive along the main roads, you can tell it is a haven for nature. There are tons of birds, as well as a decent number of mammals! This truly is a natural wonder. I recommend Point Reyes for anyone looking for a beautiful nature experience with tons of wildlife. For example, around 490 species of birds have been spotted there.

The best way to learn where to go and what to look for is to book a tour. The tour we took was lead by Daniel, a local guide and photographer. He knew where to look for most of the large mammals in the area, namely bobcats, coyotes, and otters. We found all three of those, and some other amazing wildlife as well! The tour was excellent, and Daniel was very friendly and a great guide! He also knew the importance of respecting the wildlife (an important trait in wildlife guides). If you would like to book a tour with him, click here: Point Reyes Safaris.

A few minutes after we entered Point Reyes, we were off on our wildlife tour. Daniel picked us up before we checked into the hotel, and we started looking for wildlife. Just a little bit in, we spotted a bobcat prowling around a field, looking in gopher holes for a snack. We slowly drove up, and I started taking pictures out the window. The bobcat was incredible, and had cute little ears and a super pretty spotted coat. It slunk around a little field while I hung out the window, snapping burst after burst of photos. I thought it was an incredible animal, and it was also my first ever bobcat sighting, making this regal cat sighting extra special. The bobcat then walked down into a gully and disappeared. We were about to leave when we spotted a coyote on a hill near the gully the bobcat disappeared into. It was very striking to look at, and had a pretty white coat, a long, pointy snout, a beautiful tail, and a set of perky ears. It was also intently staring at the gully the bobcat disappeared into. Daniel explained that the coyotes and bobcats both depend on the gophers as a food source, and that if a bobcat caught a gopher, coyotes would sometimes drive the bobcat off and steal the gopher from it.

After the first bobcat and coyote, we continued driving down the road we were on, and spotted another bobcat within a relatively short amount of time. This one was farther away, however, so we didn’t stop. I did learn a trick for photographing them here though. Bobcats are a very shy animal, so instead of following it, the trick is to get in front and let the cat approach you. This trick is very good to know if you end up spotting a bobcat in an open field.

On the way back, we spotted a heron standing in a field. The heron then proceeded to spear and shake a lizard, then attempted to eat it. It was very interesting to watch as the lizard flopped around and the heron tossed it and shook it in an attempt to get its next meal. After the heron, we saw some of Daniel’s friends standing at the top of a nearby hillside, looking very intently at a lump in the grass. They waved us up, and Daniel parked the car nearby. We joined them on the hill to discover that the lump in question was a badger resting on top of its set (the technical term for a badger den), lounging in the sun. Its face was an adorable white-striped cone with a cute little nose poking out the front, and beautiful eyes. It was also quite rare to see one, as they are nocturnal, so we lucked out in spotting this one! In case you didn’t know, badgers have huge claws that they use for digging, that are actually really cool to look at! As we sat there, we watched as a coyote trotted by behind the badger and disappeared down the hill. The badger was awake by then, and began scratching itself and surveying the area with its shiny little eyes. There was also a bobcat down the hill, but I barely noticed it as I watched the badger doing its morning stretch routine. We left the badger to do whatever it needed to do, and walked back down the hill to the car. When we got there, we saw something strange. A herd of cows were all gathered around Daniel’s car, and were licking it. Once he shooed them off, we noticed plenty of tongue marks on the car. One cow had even taken it upon itself to adjust one of Daniel’s side mirrors by licking it. These cows were licking the car because of the salt from the sea that was still lingering on the car, likely deposited there by the fog that is common in the area. Daniel mentioned that cow saliva is actually really hard to get off of a car, and that he really hates the cow situation there for more than just the saliva problem caused by it. The other problem with the cows is that large portions of Point Reyes are owned by a bunch of ranchers, which is not a good thing for a protected wildlife location. This is a problem because cow ranching introduces plenty of invasive plants, messing with the local ecosystem.

After this, we decided to take a beachside walk to look for otters, as well as snowy plovers. After we pulled into the parking lot, we began walking down the trail, and almost missed an otter popping up near us. I spotted this river otter off to our right in the water as we walked by, and it was super cute! The little otter was popping out of the water between fishing dives, and eating any of the fish it caught. It was quite entertaining to watch, and kept popping up and munching its latest fish before diving back under to get another one. Daniel’s trick to photographing these erratic little otters was to estimate where they would pop up and when in order to get a photo. It was super cute, but we eventually had to walk away and keep looking for more wildlife. That wildlife showed up quickly enough in the form of two more otters swimming through, and some amazing snowy plovers! These plovers are unfortunately endangered, but they are extremely adorable. It is easy to overlook them, as they are the same color as the sand and almost camouflage too well, as well as hiding in people’s footprints, making them even harder to spot! I am surprised I didn’t accidentally step on one, as they are so hard to see. Daniel and I really enjoyed photographing them, and gradually slid closer to them to get a better shot. Dad commented after we got up that it looked like elephant seals had slid through the area.

Speaking of elephant seals, I will now explain our unguided sections of the trip, which includes elephant seals! I would like to jump straight to the seals, as we all need more elephant seals in our lives (even if you don’t know it yet) but I will stick to chronological order for this post. So, first things first, we set out on an unguided drive to look for wildlife the day after Daniel’s tour. It was raining, so we took some of Daniel’s advice for rainy days (to look for hawks on the poles near the road, as hawks don’t like flying in the rain) and drive around the park. We did find a ton of hawks on poles, and near the end of our drive out, we spotted a beautiful coyote. If you thought the one on Daniel’s tour was pretty (which, to be fair, it was) this one would blow your mind. It was beautiful, with a silky, perfect coat and an incredible snout (with some great ears on top). After the coyote, we started moving towards Drake’s Beach to look for elephant seals. On the way to the parking lot, we spotted a kestrel on a pole and stopped to take a few photos before starting to drive again. We parked at the beach, and immediately heard the sounds of seals. I looked over the barricade at the side of the road and found myself face to face with an adorable, chubby seal. When I say adorable, I mean really adorable, with a whiskery face, a little nose and big, round, shiny eyes. These things are really amazing, and if you are trying to deny it, scroll down and look at their faces in the pictures I have provided. We even got to pass through the barricade with a park ranger to get a closer look at them, and there was a huge cluster out past the barricades and across a small channel, just yawning and making massive amounts of noise (it sounded like a lion roaring).

After the elephant seals at Drake’s Beach (which I hated to leave because the seals were so cute), we went to the lighthouse. On the way there, we saw some incredibly pretty windblown cedar trees bent into incredibly shapes, to the point where they looked like giant bonsai trees. We went out to the cliffs, looked down into the huge ocean below us, and just enjoyed the view. That was when we started spotting whales. At first it was only a jet of water, but then more blowhole spray and whale tails started popping out of the water all around the cliffs. The other weird thing about this was the fact that the whales were all going the same direction. This was because we had just gotten to see part of the gray whale migration. It was really weird to see that many whales just swimming along like nothing but a simple school of fish! The landscape was also amazing in that spot, composed of huge, jagged cliffs overlooking the water in a stunning way! On our way back from the lighthouse, we stopped because we spotted a flicker. I had been seeing these birds on the drives around the park, but they were irritatingly skittish, and I had never gotten a photo. Thankfully, I got out without scaring the bird, and it was super pretty to watch. After the flickers, we went back to the hotel, since we were starting to get hungry.

Speaking of meal options, the food here was good, if you know where to look! Olema House was amazing, with a great tavern burger! The dessert there was also exceptional. It was a simple cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, but it was done very well, and packed a ton of flavor. For breakfast (a very important topic), you should go to Bovine Bakery, as their food was insane. I would give you a recommendation, but I liked everything I got there! Another dinner option is Station House Cafe, which was not quite as good as Olema House, but had better fish and chips. In short, if you want fish and chips, go to Station House, if you want an amazing burger, go to Olema House, and if you want chicken, I can’t help you.

Point Reyes is an exceptional wildlife location, with an outrageous amount of biodiversity, and a beautiful landscape. The combination makes it a place you should see at least once in your life! If it were me, I would go at least twice, but I love birds that much, and bobcats are awesome too! And, let’s not forget the coyotes either. If you want to see amazing wildlife of all different types in one place, Point Reyes is the place you should look!