Two ways to tour a birderís paradise
Elkhorn Slough
Neil Wiley

Iíve visited Elkhorn Slough several times, kayaking up the slough from Moss Landing, and hiking the reserve on the ocean side of Elkhorn Road. And while I enjoyed my previous trips, I never saw so many birds, or learned so much about the sloughís wildlife as I did on my February tour with Bruce Elliott and Yohn Gideon.

Bruce is a retired senior biologist supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Game. One of the countryís leading birders, he identified the species, sex, and age of birds that I saw only as fuzzy dots. He then proceeded to explain their evolutionary development, habits, and preferred environment. He did the same for seals, sea lions, and otters. Biology is interesting; he made it fascinating. Watch for his trips available through Cabrillo College Extension.
The first half of our Elkhorn safari was via a 27-foot pontoon boat captained by Yohn Gideon, another naturalist with long experience and expertise with slough wildlife. The boat ride provided close range viewing of animal life on the water and along the banks of the estuary. We saw sleepy seals, raucous sea lions, playful otters, and 27 species of waterfowl and migratory shorebirds in the lower slough.

Then after a morning of motoring through the slough, we drove up to the visitorís center on Elkhorn Road. After a tour of the small but excellent museum and a picnic lunch, we hiked a little over two miles on the South Marsh Loop Trail. Our hike took us to a fine viewpoint, down to a barn where we compared the eating habits of hawks and owls, across a bridge for closer views of waterfowl, then past a rookery pond and cattail swale. Along the way we spotted many birds, from tiny kinglets and chickadees to giant egrets and herons.

We saw a lot, but only sampled a fraction of the 2,500 acres of marsh and tidal flats that host over 400 species of invertebrates, 80 species of fish, and 200 species of birds identified to date.
You should see even more than we did if you visit the slough this month. April is the best month to see migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Be sure to bring your binoculars, a camera, and a bird guide.

The reserve and visitor center are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 831-728-2822, or visit For more information about Elkhorn Slough Safari cruises, call 831-633-5555.


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