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From Ten Mile River to Hardy Creek
By Karen A. Havlena

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This long, narrow section begins at Highway 1, MM 70.00, on the north bank of Ten Mile River, and follows this state route north for 13.5 miles. At the mouth of Hardy Creek, Highway 1 leaves the ocean behind as it winds inland and ends at Highway 101 in Leggett. Along the way, birders will encounter a sea stack-laden, rocky shoreline, grassy fields, creek mouths lined with willow and alder, and an occasional sandy beach.

Please note that most of this part of Highway 1 is quite narrow with very little, if any, shoulder or bike path. Extreme caution should be taken when birding along this route. Park only where there is a pullout or vista point. In other words – bird at your own risk.

There are many grassy pastures along the route, beginning at MM 70.32. Look for Ferruginous, Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks, White-tailed Kites, and other raptors during migration and winter. The occasional Peregrine Falcon or Merlin can be spotted flying over the immediate coastline. There is coastal access at Seaside Beach at MM 70.70, but bird species are limited. However, Ospreys, Black Oystercatchers, Whimbrels, and migrating Wandering Tattlers can be found. In summer, scope the sea stacks from MMs 71.54 to 71.90 to view nesting Western Gulls and their chicks. Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Brandt’s and Pelagic cormorants roost on large rocks from here north to Hardy Creek.

Look for a public vista point with trails at MM 74.09. A grove of Monterey and Bishop pines, as well as a small marshy spring, grassy fields, and rocky shore can be explored. Various species of sparrows, warblers, thrushes, finches, as well as Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Winter Wrens and migrating Western Tanagers may be viewed here.

If one is seeking vagrant species during spring or fall migration, Chadbourne Gulch (MM 75.43) has hosted several of the area’s rarest finds. Kentucky Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Grosbeak and Brown Thrasher are examples of very rare birds seen here (only one time each). Thick willows and a small canopy of alders hide a small creek flowing to the ocean. The birding can either be great or very quiet. Like most birding locations, it is best to go in the morning. There is plenty of room to park just beyond MM 75.43; to access the gulch coming from the south, turn onto the dirt road to the left just beyond the curve. The highway winds down and around the gulch, then it climbs back up the steep hillside toward the village of Westport.

Westport is a small community with a general store and gas station, post office, wastewater treatment facility, and the Westport Headlands Park. There is public access at this small park with a stairway to a beach. Front yard gardens attract hummingbirds along the few streets of the village, such as Hillcrest Street. Occasionally, Hooded Orioles are seen.

Just north of town, on the east side of Hwy 1, is the Westport wastewater treatment and recycling facility at MM 77.71. There is a viewing platform of the ponds that in the fall and winter hold various species of ducks, geese, shorebirds and a few warblers. Greater White-fronted Geese, Aleutian Cackling Geese, Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, Pectoral Sandpipers, Palm Warblers and an American Redstart have been found here. The facility is open Thursday and Friday, 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. and Saturday, 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Across Highway 1, there is another public access area, with parking, that is signed “Pete’s Beach.” It provides good views of large offshore rocks. Westport is the last town with a gasoline station on the northern portion of Highway 1 until one reaches Leggett at Highway 101.

After passing the Westport Cemetery, the highway curves down and over Wages Creek Wages Creek Campground is private, but there is a large pullout where one can park just north of the creek at MM 78.30. Be very cautious birding here due to the narrow road and traffic moving downhill from both directions! Bird at your own risk. Spring and fall migrating warblers such as Black-throated Gray, Wilson’s, Orange-crowned and the occasional Black & White or Palm Warbler can be searched out. Flocks tend to cover a large area from the willows and alders by the creek to a Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir covered hillside adjacent to the pullout.

One can take a short, side trip at MM 79.00 on Branscomb Road. This narrow, county road, CR 429, winds along a ridge top east to Highway 101 at Laytonville. Birders need not go more than about two or three miles on this road to see Varied Thrushes in late fall or winter. In summer, Winter Wrens, Pileated Woodpeckers, Pacific-slope and Olive-sided Flycatchers and Purple Martins nest. Black-throated Gray and Hermit Warblers have nested farther east near the small mill town of Branscomb, approximately ten miles east of Highway 1.

Back on Highway 1, shortly after crossing De Haven Creek at MM 79.22, the roadway widens for bicycle lanes in both directions. A Rock Wren was seen at this location once. There is camping at Westport-Union State Beach at MM 80.55. The wide bridge over Howard Creek affords easier birding than Wages Creek. Willow Flycatchers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Pygmy Owls, as well as various vireos and warblers have been found. There is day use parking on the northwest side of the bridge, with a stairway down to the small beach and restrooms at the parking area.

Moving on, there is a public vista point near MM 81.25. Watch offshore for Caspian Terns, Pigeon Guillemots, murres and loons. Across the highway, a small county yard hosts numerous sparrows and finches, especially from late fall to early spring. Other species that like weedy areas could be looked for here as well. A Clay-colored Sparrow was found at this location among Lincoln’s, Golden- and White-crowned Sparrows.

At the southwest side of Juan Creek bridge, MM 83.00, is a large turnout. This is one of the most reliable locations to scope the waters for Marbled Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Red-throated and other loons, and murres. Purple Martins have nested in small numbers under the bridge. If one drives or walks just a short distance down the old highway to the southwest of the bridge, there is good habitat for warblers, vireos and flycatchers. Do not venture past the locked gate, as the forested canyon to the east is private property.

Continuing north across the Juan Creek bridge, at MM 83.50, is a turnout high above the mouth of Hardy Creek, the last stop for this section. This cove harbors the same, offshore species as Juan Creek, as well as Ospreys. The large rock nearest the south end of the pullout has had nesting Black Oystercatchers visible with binoculars or spotting scopes.