I will to go to California in July this year for a business trip and should then be able to take 5 days off for vacation at the end of the month. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to do some mammal watching between San Francisco and LA along the coast.

I read many trip reports on mammalwatching about the area and have already some ideas but I still have a few questions:

  • Is July a good month to visit Point Reyes, especially for bobcats? I’ve seen many reports about this park but people were always there for the winter time (January-April) so I’m wondering if it is worth spending some time there in summer or go directly elsewhere after landing in San Francisco
  • I will definitely spend some time in the Monterey area (Moss Landing and whale watching with Monterey Bay Whale Watch that I see has very good praise) but would you have any other recommendation about other places I should not miss in the area down to LA? What about the Channel Islands?

Thanks in advance for your feedback knowing that I’m more interested in large mammals than rodents for example and that I’m not a big fan of bats…



  • vnsankar

    If you’re looking for Bobcats, July is really tough. I don’t think there’s a point in going to Pt. Reyes unless you’re looking for other stuff besides Bobcats there too. You could try swinging by Old Hernandez Rd/Willow Creek Rd and Pinnacles NP in San Benito County (which is between Moss Landing and LA), but this area is also better earlier (or later) in the year. Summer is a bad time to look for Bobcats as due to the heat, they are mostly nocturnal in my experience. Once you get past like mid April, I find they are tough to observe in the coast range until October or so.

    To get to LA from Moss Landing/Monterey, you can go through Central Valley or Big Sur. Big Sur has interesting rodents but not as many easy large mammals. You’ll see Northern Elephant Seal and if you go to Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd if you’re very lucky Bobcat or Mountain Lion. If you go through Central valley/inland, you can go to Pinnacles and also Panoche Valley or Carrizo Plain. Panoche Valley and Carrizo Plain are most well-known for endemic rodent species of the San Joaquin Valley (3 kangaroo rat species, Nelson’s Antelope Squirrel) and San Joaquin Kit Fox. You’re there at a good time to see the kit fox; also, the Giant Kangaroo Rat is worth looking for even if you’re not into rodents IMO. An awesome and very rare animal. To be honest, at this time of the year much of the non-rodent and non-bat stuff in Central CA is pretty tough to find.

    You can do Channel Islands (i.e. Santa Cruz Island), but it’ll take a day and the only thing you’re really guaranteed is the Island Fox I think. I guess you could also go inland in Sequoia NP but besides Black Bear, few animals are reliable here. You also have a small, but real chance for Bobcat in this park too by the way.

  • vdinets

    You can sign up for a trip to San Miguel in the Channel Islands where you’ll see northern and possibly Guadalupe fur seals and Steller’s sea lions (but it’s a long hike to the rookery). The boat trip to the island is a good chance to see both species of common dolphins, and sometimes southern cetaceans not seen in Monterey Bay, such as pilot whales and false killer whales.

    • Jon Hall

      Vladimir, they aren’t running San Miguel trips at the moment. The island has been closed for over a year because of unexploded bombs. It opened again 2 weeks ago but I think the only way there at the moment is to charter a plane. Island Packers may run a trip in the autumn but that was;t sure a week ago – i too want to visit

      • vdinets

        Oops… and Santa Barbara is also closed. Well, with good binoculars it’s possible to see Steller’s sea lions at Ano Nuevo or during one of Farallones trips, but there’s no other place for northern fur seals. You’ll have to sign up for our Bering Sea Islands trip next year 🙂 Actually, it’s a good idea anyway.

      • samuelmarlin

        All islands in Channel Islands are closed or just San Miguel?

      • samuelmarlin

        What would you consider best to visit between Ano Nuevo and Piedras Blancas?

      • vdinets

        Some islands are still open: Santa Cruz (the best for foxes), Santa Rosa and Anacapa. Also Catalina, of course.
        At Piedras Blancas you can watch the seals at close range just off Hwy 1. At Ano Nuevo you have to stay a bit farther away, but you get a good chance to see California voles (although they seem to be rare this year).

    • samuelmarlin

      Thanks a lot for the info

  • John Fox

    On a July 21, 2007 birding pelagic from Santa Barbara we had Guadalupe Fur Seal, Stellars Sea Lion, both common dolphins, Rissos dolphin, Short-finned Pilot Whale, and one of the common rorquals, I’m not sure which one. The animals were all over the place, sometimes in large numbers and mostly with great looks.

    On an October, 2010 trip for the Island Gray Fox we got zilch; not a single marine mammal.

    That Santa Barbara trip was by far the most lifers of any pelagic I’ve been on in North America.

    • Jon Hall

      There’s also a good chance of seeing Northern Fur Seals on one of the Farallone Pelagic trips too that time of the year I think. Look at the results of the various Big Day California reports. If I remember right hey always see them. You were lucky with the Guadaluoe Fur Seals John!

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