A Day at Bodega Bay

I went to Bodega Bay last week, a west coast fishing village in Northern California. The day began with fog and low cloud cover, as always; and by early afternoon the fog had lifted, the sun was shining.

A shallow inlet off the Pacific Ocean, the bay is about five miles (8 km) across.

There’s a small road that curves around to the back of the bay. On the way you pass the town’s lodge and restaurant. Below is the restaurant, and below that is the dock in back.

Driving along, you pass the small local grocer (Diekmann’s) where you can buy firewood and bait. Turn off the main road and follow it around past the marina and chowder shop, and you’ll find plenty of picturesque places to stop and view the bay.

The marine influence is most pronounced in the bay’s water levels. At low tide there’s a lot of mud, naturally. I’ve visited this village close to 50 times, and it always looks different because of the tides.

In December it is crab season, and you will see individual crabbers venture out into the mud at low tide in their wellies digging for crab.

But at this time of year, the crab season hasn’t yet started.

You can, however, spot an occasional crab along the mudflats, darting in and out of the mud holes.

Courtesy Wikipedia

We go to Bodega Bay for the birds…primarily shorebirds. It is located on the Pacific Flyway. Most migrating birds do not arrive until autumn, where they will stay for the winter. But some birds, like the marbled godwits in the two photos below, are early arrivals.

Ruddy turnstones (below) were a pleasant surprise to find on the dock. They, too, are a little early. Early birds.

Several harbor seals joined an animated flock of brown pelicans in a feeding frenzy, and occasionally a silvery fish popped out of the water.

Alfred Hitchcock came here for the birds, too, in 1962. “The Birds” was filmed here.

I wrote a post about it: The Birds and Bodega Bay.

As you continue along the road, you come to Campbell Cove beach and a small adjacent pond.

Fog horns and squawking gulls dominate the soundscape here, and the air is redolent with briny sea. Small boats cruise to and from the sea.

The pond is small…but with a big history.

Today it is a quiet little pond where songbirds perch in the reeds. We watched northern rough-winged swallows dipping in the water, and a pied-billed grebe.

But in the early 1960s this spot was a maelstrom of bustling construction proudly touted by Pacific Gas and Electric to be the first commercially viable nuclear power plant in the U.S.

Then a remarkable group of local residents-turned-activists rallied, had the construction permanently shut down.

Over the victorious years since then, the construction hole (aka Hole in the Head) has filled in with rainwater and natural springs, and native shrubs have grown up.

Read more here: Sonoma Magazine Bodega Head article

Upon leaving this corner of the bay, the road switchbacks up and leads to several hiking trails and a Pacific Ocean overlook.

It’s windy and wild with precipitous cliffs.

At this time of year, many species of shorebirds are gathered on the ocean cliff rocks in various breeding stages.

This juvenile brown pelican will learn how to use its wings from a great height.

This western gull has an egg on her nest.

The road ends here at the edge of the earth.

Just like the birds, coming and going, we head back home, completely fulfilled by an adventurous day at Bodega Bay.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

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55 thoughts on “A Day at Bodega Bay

    • It is indeed an easy, fun place to spend the weekend, Craig. Your instincts are right about the chowder house, and I got a kick out of all the bait at Diekmann’s, too. Many thanks for your words today, my friend.

    • I enjoyed your comment, Mark, thanks for stopping by. I loved hearing that the bewick’s wren was your fave. Athena was thrilled with that photo after spending quality time in the reeds trying to get a step ahead of that one! Many thanks. (I told her about your king cobra…wow.)

  1. A beautiful spot, I remember visiting it once and having a delicious lunch. It was interesting to learn about the nuclear plant and its being denied. To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    • Yes, Bodega Bay would not be a beautiful, tranquil spot today if it hadn’t been for that small group of “thoughtful, committed citizens,” Eliza. I am still thrilled with that story every time I visit there, because PG&E is not an easy corp. to fight. In the end, the activists were able to prove that building a nuclear plant on top of the San Andreas Fault was a bad idea. phew! My warmest thanks.

    • I thought of you when I was at Bodega Bay, Walt, because there are a lot of folks fishing on the shorelines and the boats. The birding alone, as you say, is enough for me. And yes, isn’t that a great story about the nuclear power plant that never got built? My warmest thanks for your words and visit today.

  2. Nothing like being able to view ‘the edge of the earth’. What makes it even more exciting
    is of coarse the great photography! thank you Athena!
    California is unique no matter where you go and Bodega Bay is totally awesome!

    • Great fun to have you stop by today, Bill, espec. knowing you’re cruising around the Canadian shorelines right now. When we were at Bodega Bay I watched a couple pull up in their car and unload all kinds of fishing gear and out came the crab pot. Cheers to you on your wild adventure.

    • I loved The Birds too, Wayne. And this little town has all kinds of reminders of the filming of it, a fun amount of jokes, too, about the birds as you can imagine. Yes, the Hole in the Head pond was where the nuclear plant construction had begun and after a few years of litigation and protests and disputes, abandoned. It’s a great success story. Many thanks, my friend.

    • Thanks so very much, pc. It is a real treasure to have this little village on our nearby coast, and the success story of stamping out the nuclear plant construction is such a pleasure to share. Wonderful to see you, my friend. Have a fun weekend!

    • Hi Jan, much of Bodega Bay is the same as always. It’s still a village and wonderfully dominated by the influence of the sea. But it is not as quiet as it was even five years ago, as more Bay Area people are making their second homes here, and there are more tourists, too. It’s best to come early in the day…. Wonderful to see you, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Looks like a place where much time could be whiled away. 😉. I especially like the first shot and the shot of the coast. We’re on Southern California now for family time and enjoying the escape from the Arizona heat, although it’s a heat wave here. 😉

    • Yes, shorebirds are not easy when it comes to identification…so many similarities. And gulls with their many looks as they mature are also challenging. But unlike songbirds, they stay in place a little longer so a camera helps to freeze the markings while you look them up. Thanks Eilene, I’m glad you enjoyed the Bodega Bay post and the Hitchcock post, appreciate it.

    • The brown pelicans are not as widespread, so yes, you will have to come to the coast and in Calif. they’re here year-round. But other than color, they are very similar to the white pelican in size and behavior. We almost lost the brown pelican to extinction (due to DDT), so I am especially grateful to have the brown pelican in such abundance now. Wonderful to have you stop by, Diana, thank you.

  4. Was immediately thinking what a great place for shorebirds and sure enough you confirmed soon afterwards. That is a lot of Godwits, we get them in the 1s and 2s at time. Thank you for taking along on your visit to Bodega Bay.

    • Hi Brian, yes, we are lucky in Bodega Bay to get large flocks of marbled godwits. It’s a real treat, because as you said, usually they just come in 1s and 2s. Wonderful to have you visit with us, thank you.

    • I really like that photo of the flying pelican with one wing tipped in the water, too. I’m happy you liked it, rabirius. Flying pelicans are a marvel to watch. They have big bodies yet can get within inches of the water’s surface, gliding soundlessly over the water. When they spot a meal, they lift up a bit and then plunge with full abandon, head first, into the water. Many thanks.

  5. Terrific post, Jet. We were just there! Love your bird observations (and I remember your Hitchcock post well) We always make our way to the headlands and never miss a stop at Spud Point for a bowl of clam chowder. 🤗

  6. As lovely as this place is, my first thought when I read ‘Bodega’ was of the sort of small stores common in urban areas, mostly. I found that the place is named after a fellow who was named Bodega; perhaps his family was engaged in merchantile trading.

    It won’t be long until our white pelicans begin arriving. We have the brown year round, but the white are winter visitors; it’s one of our ways of marking the season’s change.

    • I liked hearing about the incoming migration of the white pelicans, Linda. Texas has an incredible amount of bird species, very fortunate for you. My warmest thanks for both your visits.

  7. A charming visit with you and Athena… I love these smaller towns along the north coast. It’s been awhile since I was down that way… That Western Gull with egg capture was something special. I’ve loved watching the progress Athena has made with the camera. Not to mention the birding skills of the both of you! I so enjoy traveling along with the both of you! 💞

    • Wonderful to have you stop by and join us at Bodega Bay, Gunta. I love these smaller town along the coast too. And your kind words about watching the improving progress of Athena’s photography and our birding skills was warmly appreciated. It’s a lovely gift to have the time on earth to improve our much-loved skills and the mobility to continue frolicking. Sending warm thanks your way.

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