Connecting at either end with Hwy 1, 6.6-mile Swanton Rd passes through varied habitat and offers a scenic inland birding alternative to the coastal areas discussed above.
Directions. The south end of Swanton Rd is 1.4 miles north of Davenport; the north end is at milepost 35.21 (0.8 mile north of the Pelican Rock pullout). We will describe the birding route and this road’s features from north to south–in effect looping the birder back toward Davenport. For those who would like to bird this road in the other direction, the stops are recounted at the end of the description with mileages beginning from its south end.
Birds: From its north end, Swanton Rd climbs through coastal scrub and into a Monterey pine forest (one of only three native, natural stands of this pine in the entire world). Small pullouts at 0.2, 0.3 and 0.5 mile are positioned beside coastal scrub at the edge of pine forest, and stops at 0.6 and 0.8 mile are well within the pine forest. Park at these and search the pines for Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, Townsend's and Hermit warblers (September-March), and look for Allen’s Hummingbird (spring), sparrows and goldfinches in the scrub. Red Crossbills can be found here during their sporadic irruptions, and sometimes even when they are otherwise scarce in the region.
At 1.1 miles the summit of Swanton Rd skirts the edge of extensive grasslands (no public access off the roadsides) where swallows and nesting Western Bluebird, Chipping Sparrow (presently rare), Tricolored Blackbird, and Pine Siskin range. Park on the right at 1.2 miles, just past private Last Chance Rd on the left) and scan the area from there. A nearby pond is now the county’s only regular Tricolored Blackbird breeding site, and foraging blackbirds may be seen along Swanton Rd here. In spring and summer this spot is lively with swallows, goldfinches, Purple Finch, and Allen’s Hummingbirds.
Swanton Rd then drops into a valley and follows Scott Creek on its way to the coast. Heading downhill, a stop at 1.6 miles is set within mixed conifer forest. After reaching the bottom of the downhill section, stops can be made along the Scott Creek at 2.5, 2.8, 2.9, 3.3, 3.4, and 4.2 miles. Stop at several of the various pullouts to look for birds. The forest here is diverse: alders and box elders along the stream, huge bay trees, redwood, maple, Douglas-fir, live oak, and even California nutmeg. Winter Wren is resident here, as are California Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Brown Creeper, Hutton's Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Song Sparrow. Listen for Pileated Woodpecker calling from the surrounding forest. Other breeding species include Warbling Vireo, Pacific-slope and Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Swainson's Thrush, Wilson's Warbler and Black-headed Grosbeak. A pair of Northern Parulas nested along Scott Creek in 2003, and there are a growing number of nesting records for Red-breasted Sapsucker. In fall and winter look for Varied and Hermit thrushes, Townsend's Warbler, and Fox Sparrow.
Check the riparian habitat and fields where the road crosses Big Creek at 3.6 miles and Archibald Creek at 4.6 miles. In addition to the species mentioned above, look for Vaux’s Swift, various swallows, Red-shouldered Hawk and Golden Eagle. Swanton Rd continues through agricultural fields, and then climbs away from Scott Creek past coastal scrub (stop at 5.6 miles) and into grassland with cattle (stop at 5.8 miles). Watch for raptors, Loggerhead Shrike, Blackbirds, and Great Blue Heron and Great Egret stalking the fields. The road crosses Molino Creek, and underworked migrant trap, at 6.0 miles. Approaching Hwy 1, Swanton Pond on the right side of the road (6.3 miles) has various ducks (including Ring-necked, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye) and Virginia Rail in winter, and swallows, Marsh Wren, and Common Yellowthroat in spring and summer. The weedy margin sometimes harbors rare landbirds. Scan for raptors over the fields across the road from the pond. This area was made famous in 2002 by the appearance of a Crested Caracara. The grasslands and fields near the south end of Swanton Rd and along Hwy 1 are one of the best places in the county to find flocks of Tricolored Blackbird (especially August to February).
Mileage readings from the south end of Swanton Road (0.0 mile) to the stops cited above are: 0.4 (Swanton Pond); 0.7 (Molino Creek); 0.9 (pasture); 1.1 (scrub); 2,1 (Archibald Creek); 3.1 (Big Creek); 2.5, 3.3, 3.4, 3.8, 3.9 and 4.2 (along Scott Creek); 5.1 (mixed forest); 5.5 (grassland); 5.9 and 6.1 (pine forest); and 6.2, 6.4 and 6.5 (scrub and pine forest).