Wildlife Viewing Tips- Coastal Discovery Month

January 31st, 2017

Great wildlife viewing encounters involve good timing, observation skills, and a little luck! California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities anywhere. Use these tips to improve your chances for a memorable wildlife experience!

Be outside during dawn, dusk and incoming tides

Birds, fish and mammals are active during these times. Look for churning water surfaces, diving birds, shiny dolphin backs, seals and otters in bays and on open water. Listen for songbirds singing in bushes and trees, especially during spring and early summer.

Be calm and stay a while

Adopt an unhurried ‘vacation’ state of mind. A state of relaxed alertness is the best way to see wildlife.

Blend in

Animals react to movement. Sit quietly next to a bush or tree and practice the ‘art of invisibility.’

Keep it steady

When kayaking, keep a slow, steady paddling rhythm. You’re more likely to have curious seals, otters, or dolphins approach you.

Zoom in

Use binoculars, spotting scopes, and zoom camera lenses to see wildlife action ‘up close at a distance’ that is less likely to disturb natural animal behaviors.

Look and listen for signs of wildlife

Look for animal tracks and droppings (scat). Large birds like ospreys, hawks, vultures, and cormorants leave noticeable white droppings (whitewash) on bushes, trees, sea cliffs and rocks. When you see this, lookup to find where birds roost or nest.


Low tide exposes fascinating and fragile life on the rocks

Venture carefully on rocks for a close-up peek into the exciting tidal world of animals feeding, interacting or waiting for the incoming tide.

Look for whales when seas are calm

Look for whale spouts or blows, tail flukes and dorsal fins. Big splashes may indicate a whale has just breached. Look for The Whale Trail viewing sites along the Highway 1 Discovery Route.

Stay on trails

Going off trail may harm animal habitat or bird nesting areas. Keep dogs and children safe by staying on designated trails.

Watch where you step

In tide pools, walk on bare rock to avoid crushing fragile tide pool animals, and keep away from seaweed – it’s slippery! Please leave tide pool critters in their natural home. Tide booklets may be available in stores and real estate offices.

Stay at a distance, including drones

If birds and animals get nervous, they show it by looking at you, raising their heads and stopping what they are doing. Any change of an animal’s natural behavior is a disturbance.

Please do not feed wildlife

There is plenty of food available in the wild. Human food can create digestive problems and improper nutrition.


Stay away from animals that appear sick or abandoned

If you find an injured bird or land animal, you can help by calling Pacific Wildlife Care: 805.543.9453. If you suspect a marine animal is injured or in danger, call the Marine Mammal Center: 805.771.8300.

Be a stewardship traveler and lend a hand with trash removal

Human garbage is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. Get a Stewardship Traveler Clean-up Kit to pick up litter on the trail, the shore and even in the water. Free kits and appreciation tote bags are available in Avila Beach, Cayucos and Cambria visitor centers.

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