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Where to Witness Fall Migration in Newport Beach

August 9, 2022

Pay close attention to the clear skies in Newport Beach because the next bird you see could be a California gnatcatcher, an endangered bird that dwells in the coastal sage scrub of Newport Beach’s Back Bay. In fact, Newport Beach is a playground for all sorts of roaming creatures, especially in the fall, when certain species of birds and whales pass through on their annual migration. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher, a wildlife enthusiast or just a casual hiker, here’s where you can catch all the action this fall.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve (aka the Back Bay)

Sprawled across 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands, the Back Bay plays host to migratory waterfowl that journey from the Pacific Northwest to the warmth of our neck of the woods. Put on a light jacket, pack your binoculars (these birds won’t let you get too close) and hit the trail to spy on some unusual duck species like the Bufflehead, which boasts a striking black-and-white patch on its head. Or the Northern Shoveler, which stands out thanks to its long, shovel-shaped bill. Or the Northern Pintail, which can be recognized by its slim neck and pointed tail. To increase your chances of spotting these winged creatures, arrive a little after dawn when they are most active and can be found busily foraging out in the water. (Because as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm).

Whale Watching at Newport Coastal Adventure and Davey’s Locker

If you’re looking to get a closer look at sea creatures on their winter commute, hop aboard one of the whale-watching cruises offered by local businesses like Newport Coastal Adventure and Davey’s Locker. If you venture out anytime from October till the end of the year, you’ll have a good chance of spotting a Minke Whale. (Look for a white band on their flippers and a low, bushy blow when they surface for air). As they begin their migration from Alaska to Mexico, gray whales can also be seen in scattered groups. You might also see—if you’re so lucky—the long and sleek fin whale and the snub-nosed Risso’s Dolphin. Nothing is a guarantee, but you can safely count on encountering common and bottlenose dolphins on any given trip. Not to mention, you might also spot California sea lions and harbor seals lolling about by the buoys.

Crystal Cove State Park

Calling all spider enthusiasts. It’s mating season, which means you might see a lot of creepy crawlers around Crystal Cove’s backcountry trails. (The 2,400-acre park encompasses 15 miles of backcountry trails and a 2.5-mile trail that runs along the coast bluffs). It’s especially true for tarantulas, as they come out of their burrows looking for love in the fall. If you’re squeamish, there’s still plenty for you to explore. On the coastal side, you’ll spot snowy plovers and white-crowned sparrows, which are almost a telltale sign of the seasons changing. In the backcountry, you might encounter colorful yellow-rumped warblers, orange-crowned warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets.

Written By: Mariam Makatsaria

Written by Visit Newport Beach

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