Thursday, June 13, 2013

The First Leg--Over the Bay and beyond

Howdy readers.  Sorry for the delay.  Biking and birding all day in the middle of nowwhere doesn't leave me with a lot of time, energy, or means for updating a blog.  I'll try to catch up a little bit now...

   I've made it to the mountains!  I'm writing from Sierra Nevada Field Campus near Yuba Pass on Highway 49 where I worked last summer.  I've been here for several days, but it's taken me a while to catch up on all of my eBirding (which allows me to keep track of my year list).
  So now that I'm caught up, I figured I'd better catch up on what my trip has been like so far.
  I left Pescadero on May 29.  It was a fairly short ride over to my friend Heidi's house who lives in Palo Alto.  I chose to ride up Alpine Road in order to go through Heritage Grove.  I like going through the old growth on my way out of town.  It's a nice farewell to the Redwoods.  
  After a fantastic stay with Heidi, I rode to Sunol to visit my friend Tanya.  Another amazing time with a great friend.  Both friends ended up feeding me really well to ensure the first leg would be well fueled.  Thanks Heidi and Tanya!!!
  After leaving Sunol, the birding really began.  I rode out to Mines Rd. that runs south of Livermore. That area of the coast range is spectacular, but also contains some very interesting species of birds.  PHAINOPEPLA were abundant on all of the elderberries.  I've only seen this species in the desert, so it was amazing to see them this far north.  I should have known that I would see YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES in that area, but I'd never been to Mines Rd. before.  It was a great surprise to see this California endemic.  My first carbon-free GOLDEN EAGLE soared overhead a few miles up the climb along Mines. 
  I spent a good amount of time with all the RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS.  I'd never heard this species before, so I wanted to make sure to learn the song.  Turns out, there seems to be a good amount of habitat on both Mines and Del Puerto Canyon for them.  My first WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH was also out Mines Road.
   It sure was a beautiful ride through the mountains.  I'll try to post some pictures soon.  I paid for it though, as I heard from one local that the road peaks out at near 3000 feet in elevation before dropping down to Del Puerto Canyon.  I rested at the top of the Mines before it drops down to The Junction (restaurant) at the corner with Del Puerto.  While laying in the shade at the summit, I heard both CASSIN'S VIREO and LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES.
   I headed down Del Puerto Canyon after dinner at the diner and camped at Frank Raines OHV park.  Fortunately, there were no OHVs while I was there.  What I did find along the way were both ROCK and CANYON WRENS.
  The bird life was really nice there at the campground.  Being a semi-arid location, the plant life was quite different than the coast, which makes for interesting bird life as well.  All around the campground were LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES and WESTERN KINGBIRDS.  I had been led to believe that it was possible to miss Lawrence's Goldfinches on this trip, but they sure were numerous in and around the campground.
  Waking in the morning, I continued the decent down Del Puerto Canyon.  It sure was nice to not have to pedal so much getting through that part of the mountains.  Downhill for many miles sure does make for some enjoyable bicycle birding.  There were a few interesting birds riding down along the creek in Del Puerto.  I got a nice early start in the morning and found several GREEN HERONS and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS in various locations.  Probably the most surprising bird was a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER just a mile or so down from the campground.  It seemed a bit late as I would have thought the birds should have been much farther north by June 1.  There it was however, singing away in Del Puerto Canyon.
  Much farther down the road, where the grade evens out a bit I got a nice view of a GREATER ROADRUNNER.  I certainly hoped for this species, but as the morning got later, and I got closer and closer to the Central Valley below, I wasn't sure I would find one.  It was certainly a relief to add this fun bird to the years list, but even more fun just to get a chance to watch it for a while.  
  Graffiti Rock is a well-known landmark on Del Puerto Canyon for birders and apparently, local high schoolers.  I was told to make sure I check the Tree Tobacco plants for hummingbirds.  I missed Costa's Hummingbird, but did find a BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD. 
  So Costa's was a miss, as was Yellow-Breasted Chat and Blue Grosbeak.  I'm not giving up on these three for the year.  I think I may have a chance for them somewhere on the east side of the Sierra.  I'll have to do my research once I get closer. 
  For now, I need to head out for a walk.  I'm not going to find a Northern Goshawk just sitting on this couch...

1 comment:

  1. Ahoy, Mark! Thanks for the update. Sounds like things are going pretty well for you. We're getting ready for your leg down thisaway (the Ranch denied my request to ride through. . . bummmmer). I'll try to scout out places where elusive species may be hanging out, so keep us updated about your (wish)list. Go get 'em doggy!