Big Sur is a large stretch of land in California, located off the well-known Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1. It is the region of coast located between Carmel and San Simeon, with the San Lucia mountains on the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The area was originally inhabited by the Esselen, Salinan, and Ohlone indigenous tribes. The Spanish settled there in the 1830s, and more major settlements occurred during the Gold Rush – leading to a surge in inhabitants in the region. This population boom did not last though, with less people calling the region home presently than in the 1800s.
The region has several state parks, including 6 state park beaches with many hiking trails – perfect for birders and fans of the outdoors. There are quite a few spots here that are prime places for birders of all levels to see the nearly 400+ species of birds that pass through the region each year, and a portion of the Big Sur coastline is even considered an Audubon Important Birding Area. There is a bird-banding station operated near the Big Sur River mouth that is run by the Ventana Wildlife Society, and their research informs many on the birds that call this area home.
The California Condor, one of the most endangered birds in the world, also calls this area home. Nearly extinct in the wild in the 1980s, their recovery has been a great national success story. They now are known to sometimes roost at or near the Big Sur Lodge – a group of 62 luxury cottage guest rooms located in the redwood forest of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Quite a few breeding colonies of birds make use of the land, and one of the biggest conservation obstacles the condor faces are wildfires, which California is known for.
Owen traveled here in October 2021 with his good friend and guide Nathan Goldberg, and photographed the Spotted Towhee, Steller’s Jay, Turkey Vulture, Anna’s Hummingbird, and more.