All four of my survey sites at Elkhorn Slough are very unique and have taught me a lot about how migratory shorebirds behave at stopover sites. I survey these four sites twice a week in order to collect data on the species types and quantity of shorebird species that arrive and depart from these places. Some sites have more shorebirds than others because they have more available space but overall they are all great places to watch shorebirds.
One of my sites is Jetty Road. This site is very common among professional birders, tourist, and school groups that are learning to identify birds. It’s a great location that is easy to find and offers opportunities to spot many species in one location. At Jetty Road you can find marble godwits, willets, black-bellied plovers, dunlins, long-billed curlews, whimbrels, yellowleg spp., western and least sandpipers. Right across the dunes you have the opportunity to enjoy the beach and see snowy plovers feeding and maybe see a male creating nests for the female.
Another site that is a hot spot for birding and holds the record for having the most shorebird species in one day is Parson’s Overlook in Elkhorn Slough Reserve. This is a huge mudflat that gets exposed during low tide and it’s a great location for shorebirds to feed without competing for habitat with other shorebirds. Here you can find the same birds that I mentioned above but in enormous numbers. Other species such as American avocets and dowitchers seem to inhabit this location in large numbers as well maybe because it is disconnected from human disturbance.
South Marsh is another site that I monitor that has a variety of species, however not as many species as Parson’s Overlook or Jetty Road. This site has marble godwits, willets, yellowleg spp., whimbrels, long-billed curlews, western and least sandpipers. This is also a great place to see leopard sharks and bat rays swim around looking for food!
Lastly, North Marsh is the only site that has the least species of shorebirds. This is a great site to see American avocets, black-necked stilts, dowitcher spp., and yellowleg spp.. These four species tend to prefer areas that don’t have a lot of action so North Marsh is a perfect habitat for them because most of it flooded most of the time. You can also see raptors, terns, pelicans, cormorants, Canada geese, and ducks any time of the day. Observing birds in the Monterey, CA area is truly enjoyable!