On the Dock of the Bay

Beautiful day at Bodega Bay, a spot in northern California that I gravitate to several times a year. Our visit earlier this month was highlighted by my dear sister and brother-in-law joining Athena, her camera, and me.

Upon our arrival, fishing boats were traversing the marked channels and fog horns pierced through the briny, moist air.

There is a commercial fish-cleaning dock I like to go to early when the fishing activity is bustling. We can usually find opportunistic sea lions vying for scraps thrown in the water.

This day we found two sea lions hauled out on the dock of the bay. They were sleepy, intertwined.

Common on our west coast, California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are classified as eared seals in the Otariidae family. They’re called eared seals because they have visible ear flaps; seals don’t have these. You can see the “ears” in the next two close-ups.

I’ve read they can turn the flaps downward while swimming and diving, so water doesn’t enter their ears. They have hearing function both in air and under water.

California Sea Lions Wikipedia

Eventually one sea lion went for a swim. This sea mammal weighs several hundred pounds, and yet they manage to slip into the water almost soundlessly.

But the quiet ended there when the docked sea lion began barking very loudly…and went on for about five minutes.

This sleepy harbor seal dozed through all the commotion.

The bay is lively with birds, too.

By now the winter birds have migrated here from colder climes. Marbled godwits, a shorebird, and surf scoters, a sea duck, were two species we were celebrating that day, as we do not see them in most other months of the year. By March or so they will be heading back north.

Here are the marbled godwits (below). They are distinctive for their long, bi-colored bill.

Surf scoters are eye-catching with the male’s bright-colored bill, white eyes and white markings. Found all along our west coast in winter, they are large ducks, males measure at 19 inches long (48 cm).

Other bird species around the bay included western grebes, a few common loons and many herons and egrets. This snowy egret, below, found delicacies in tide-soaked sea grass.

There is a small pond by the bay where a gregarious flock of yellow-rumped warblers popped around. We’re lucky they spend their winters here on the west coast.

A five-minute drive up from the bay is a Pacific Ocean overlook called Bodega Head that offers hiking and gorgeous ocean views. Whales can be spotted from up here too, but not until about January.

The ocean rocks showcased brown pelicans, western gulls, Brandt’s and double-crested cormorants. A friendly birder with a scope gave us a distant view of a common murre, as black oystercatchers called from the rocks.

On the west coast we have black oystercatchers with a black belly, red bill and red eye; whereas the east coast has the American oystercatcher, a white-bellied bird.

The tide was low so we had the added pleasure of spotting a few sea stars clinging to the sides of the rocks (below).

We ate our packed lunch and watched the birds, humans and sea mammals as they foraged for sea life.

Then, after hours at the coast, it was time to head home. Fog horns continued their rhythmic warnings as we reluctantly drove off.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.

73 thoughts on “On the Dock of the Bay

    • Yes, it is a terrific spot to visit. We’ve been going there for decades and know all the best spots for various wildlife, a trick I’m sure you know well in your neck of the woods, Belinda. Thanks for stopping by.

    • You’re right, Wayne, no bird attacks! But I’m sure if Hitchcock would’ve been there he would’ve conjured something up! Great fun to get your comment, I’m smiling. Cheers, Wayne.

  1. It looks and sounds like a wonderful day! I love the Oystercatcher’s colorful bill, and the Scoter’s exotic looks.

    I always imagine the fog horns wishing me well, and asking me to hurry back if I heard them while heading out of town. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Since I have no idea when I’ll be next in Bodega Bay thanks for sharing your day. It was lovely from my desk chair!

  2. It was (almost) as much fun to read about our day there as it was to experience it with you and Athena. You see and capture so much and express it all so beautifully. What a joy to be with you. (And thanks for the credit on the photo! :>)

    • It was a grand day we spent together at Bodega Bay, Chenille, I have a giant smile on my face recalling it. Thanks for your photo contribution, and of course for making the trek all the way out to the west coast. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Wonderful, Jet. So nice to imagine you all wandering one of my favorite places on the coast. And I always learn something- ear flaps! And Athenaโ€™s bird photos with your ID are a delight. Did you have clam chowder at Spud Harbor? ๐Ÿ˜„yum!

    • You truly do know Bodega Bay, Jane, including the clam chowder question here. I do love the clam chowder but the garlic no longer likes me, so we passed by. But the line was long as always at the serving window. A true joy to see you, thank you, Jane.

  4. A great post, Jet! The Sea Lions are cute and know how to pose very well. Amazing bird life too, Athena does a wonderful job with the camera. Have a great weekend!

    • With all the outdoor places you like to visit, Lenore, I am sure you would enjoy Bodega Bay. I’m happy I could introduce you to it. Thanks very much, lovely to “see” you.

  5. What a wonderful day out for you and your family! And the birds seemed friendlyโ€ฆ Thatโ€™s a lovely shot of the killdeer, and I smiled at your descriptions of the sea lions – they donโ€™t stay quiet for long! Hard to tear yourself away at the end of the day.
    Thanks for sharing this, Jet – and great to โ€œseeโ€ you back!

    • Great fun to share a day of Bodega Bay with you, pc. I really like that shot of the killdeer too, the bird, the seaweed and even the errant crab leg. And sea lions, well you know how adorable they are. I enjoyed your stout discussion so much today. Now you got me chuckling again, just thinking about it. Cheers to you, my friend, and Mrs. pc too.

  6. I was there for a visit many years ago and went to the commercial fishing wharf at Bodega Bay. It was warm and everything about it was wonderful. This post brings it all back and then some. Lovely pictures of all the life in that area. Have a great weekend, Jet.

  7. How different your Bodega is from the bodegas of New York City.

    Not having heard of a godwit, I wondered whether the name has anything to do with god, good or wit. The dictionary says the origin of the name is unknown.

  8. How beautiful to see the Pacific Coast and their Flora and Fauna. Your post are so entertaining as well as interesting. Evokes what I like most. Thank you, my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • So wonderful to receive your lovely words, H.J. It was also great fun sharing the Pacific coast with you, my friend. Your comment reminds me to head on over to visit the beautiful Red Gallery. My warmest thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Always such a pleasure to visit you and your distinctive travelogues. The West coast has
    so very much to offer us! Fish and animals of all sorts live along these beautiful waters.
    How fortunate we are to see your wonderful photographs to remind us of just how
    beautiful our world is! Thank you Jet

    • It is truly a pleasure to share some of the beauties of the west coast with you today, Eddie. We are lucky in the blogosphere to be able to share our own parts of the world with others to, as you say, remind each other just how beautiful our world is. Sending lots of smiles to you, my lovely friend. Thanks so much.

  10. Thank you for sharing your enjoyable walk. Love these birds. Good to know that sea lions have hearing function both in air and under water. Fascinating!

  11. The variety of wildlife you and Athena present to us always is stunning, but this time a different tiny detail caught my attention: your mention of the fog horns. We used to have them here, but some years ago they were removed, and I certainly miss them. There’s nothing more evocative than hearing a foghorn at night, and nothing more nerve-wracking than trying to figure out exactly where that sound is coming from when you’re out on the water! The good news, of course, is that the birds, seals, and sea lions don’t need a fog horn to find their way home!

    • Hi Linda, I’m glad you enjoyed the visit to Bodega Bay here. I, too, really like the fog horns. It is really tricky to find the source, but I did, also fun. Many thanks for your visit and comment.

  12. Looks like a beautiful day at the Bay… (hmmm, does that make me a poet?) ๐Ÿค”
    I sure enjoyed all the lovely sights and sounds. Newport to the north of you has some of the loudest sea lions I’ve ever heard… though come to think of it they may come in second to the ones just up the road from Shore Acres (near Charleston, OR). Their barking seems to carry a long way in the fog. First time I heard them up that way, I couldn’t imagine what was creating all that ruckus. I have to admit to a certain fondness for the Harbor Seals… they are so very cute! Eric managed to catch a mom Harbor Seal sharing her salmon with her pup during a recent kayaking trip. We are so blessed to share visits with these marvelous creatures.

    Once again, thank you so very much for sharing these adventures and images. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you… even if it DOES take me awhile to get here at times!!! ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿค—
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours….

    • Dear Gunta, it was a complete delight to have you stop by and to hear about the sea lions along the coast. What great fun it must’ve been for you and Eric to catch that touching scene with the harbor seal mother and pup. Always a joy to hear from you, thank you, Gunta. Sending my best wishes to you and Eric for a lovely Thanksgiving.

  13. When I see the word Foghorn of course I think of a big rooster. ๐Ÿ™‚ The many places I visit to see and photograph fog don’t have or need those warnings so I’ve only heard recordings.
    You picked a fine day for a family visit to the bay. So many wonderful sights and beasties. And your title brings to mind one of my favorite songs. โค
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Athena!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the vicarious visit to the bay, Steve. And happy the title brought to your mind Otis Redding’s lovely song, one of my favorites, too. We enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving, my friend, and I hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend too. Cheers.

  14. That is an impressive amount of wildlife for one trip! Loved the sea lions (didn’t know about the ear flaps). The 6th shot is a darling. Obviously do not have access to them here in the heartland, but used to get glimpses when I’d have to go to San Fran for work back in the day. Never seen the Black Oyster before (as you stated, we get the Americans) and I’ve been trying extra hard to tin on of those surf scoters – what a cool bird. Thanks for taking us along on your wonderful excursion. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Hi Brian, I’m glad you joined us for a day at Bodega Bay. Also glad I could share the adorable sea lions, and the black oystercatchers and surf scoters with you. And I hope you are having fun this Thanksgiving weekend enjoying time with loved ones and, knowing you, you’re probably outdoors enjoying the wildlife too. Have fun and many thanks for your visit, Brian.

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