Wednesday, July 31, 2013

At Long Last-Pictures of the Tour

Great Birds up Mines Road included Phainopepla, Rufous-Crowned Sparrows, Yellow-Billed Magpie, Golden Eagle, White-Breasted Nuthatch and Bullock's Orioles

Added Lawrence's Goldfinch, Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Black-Chinned Hummingbird, and Greater Roadrunner
No time to climb them and look for Gray-Crowned Rosy Finches this year.  Regardless, they are beautiful from afar.

Arriving at the Field Campus was great.  Just above 5000 feet in elevation, lots of great birds could be found in the Lakes Basin/ Yuba Pass area.  I was lucky to get to be there for about 10 days.  Five of those days I helped out with Jim Steele's Birding By Ear course.  What was better, finding Spotted Owl, Northern Goshawk, Black-backed Woodpecker, Evening Grosbeak and Williamson's Sapsucker OR not having to cook for myself over a campstove with just one pot?
Thanks Field Campus Staff!!!

Yuba Pass birding is fantastic.  Most Bay Area and beyond Audubon groups make a pilgrimage to the Pass in early summer.  Who can blame them?  Mountain Quail, Evening Grobeaks, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Goshawk, Hammond's and Dusky Flycatcher, and a chance at the elusive Black-Backed Woodpecker.  
Yellow-Headed Blackbird
White-Faced Ibis are abundant down there.  I wish I would have gotten a good shot of the American Bitterns that are often readily viewable off of Marble Hot Springs Road.

A gorgeous day riding.

(Surrogate) Momma Merganser with her hands full.  Certainly not all of these are genetically hers.

  Monitor gave me so much trouble in 2011 riding up it from the east side.  I got my sweet revenge this summer riding from the Markleeville side this year.  That day started with a marauding group of PINYON JAYS in the town of Markleeville.



Yeah, okay, I missed finding a Cordilleran Flycatcher, but it's hard to feel like it wasn't worth the ride and hike up.

This shot is near Bishop.  My camera was acting up on the east side, so this is one of my few pictures from that area. 


Riding my bicycle through Joshua Trees in July was maybe a little bit stupid. It was 108 degrees the day I arrived.  I feel better about it now that I'm home.
The birds were nearly silent, even at dawn.  Fortunately, a couple of Cactus Wrens were around.

Some birds were surprises along the way.  Certainly, this Western Screech Owl was a big surprise.  The surrounding was a monocrop of Creosote Bush, not to mention this was 9:30 in the morning and about 90 degrees.
Riding through the Big Sur was amazing.  I didn't mind the climbing since the headwind died down a little after Cambria.  California Condors!!!
Certainly would have rather seen a living animal, but I'm glad to know they are around.

Sorry for the poor quality picture.  I need a new camera.  There were ten Martins in the area.  Twenty minutes later a Black Swift fly overhead.  Certainly one of the most exciting twenty minutes of the whole trip! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Final Leg--Pine Mountain Club to HOME!

I last left off when I was in Pine Mountain Club at the top of the Grapevine in southern California.  LA County.  It was an absolute treat to be able to spend a couple of days with my friends Scot and Kristin.  I birded just a little bit in those couple of days.  One morning I hiked through San Emigdio Canyon and encountered a couple of Black Bears.  The first one I just scared off of the trail in order to keep hiking, but later I came across a bear cub and decided it was time to turn around.  The birds were fairly quiet in the canyon, though I found my first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD of the year there.
  Leaving the Transverse Range was interesting.  The best birding in that area seems to be through Quatal Canyon, though that road is dirt.  My other options were to head south to Ojai and then the coast which would have added about 100 miles to the trip, or ride through Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge then through the Cuyama Valley.  The only problem is that there are no services (no water) beyond New Cuyama until you are almost to the coast.  So camping wouldn't be an option.  Despite that, I decided to go that way.  It meant getting an early start and riding almost 100 miles to Santa Maria.
  Most of that ride was downhill, so it turned out that it wasn't even the hardest day of the trip despite being the longest by about 20 miles.  Plus, I found a couple of BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS while riding down the mountain.  The other great thing about that ride was feeling the first cool breeze coming inland off of the coast.  I was so happy to be getting back to the ocean.
  A night in Santa Maria meant that in the morning I could ride out to the coast and look for LEAST TERNS, which I got to see at Oso Flaco Lake.  Another real treat turned out to be thousands of SOOTY SHEARWATERS just passed the surf at the Oso Flaco Beach.  I looked for an early Royal Tern, but found none among the Caspian and Elegants.
  Up to Morro Bay, I camped out at the State Park.  In the morning, I rode over to Turri Road to look for CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS.  As the morning got later and later, I was about to count them as a miss. Finally, I heard a flock of Kingbirds working the open fields together.  Five Westerns and two Cassin's!  Yahoo, I made for the coast again.
  The ride north was pleasant enough until about Cambria.  At that point, with the late start that I got, the wind was fierce.  Yup, another headwind.  Seems my loop through California was planned backwards in terms of the wind, though I'm happy with the planning in terms of the birds I got to see.
  Anyway, back in the wind, I also had a spring break in my rear brakes.  Because of the headwind, I have no idea how long I rode with one breakpad touching the wheel!  When I figured it out, I simply disengaged my rear brakes and kept going.  Big Sur or bust!
  Riding into the Big Sur was great. The wind actually died down in the mountains.  Then there was the nice family who waited for me most of the way up one of the mountains to offer me a basket of strawberries.  Those strawberries, that I ate on that cliff were the most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted. 70 miles that day.
  One night in Plaskett Creek.  Finally, I was on a route that had other bike touring folks.  It was fun to find a culture of tourers and to be a part of that for a couple nights.
  The next day was wild.  Gorgeous views, so I took it slow.  CALIFORNIA CONDORS were soaring about near the waterfall that drops down to the beach at Julia Pfeiffer.
  I was really shocked to find a roadkill RINGTAIL on Hwy 1.  I took pictures as it seemed important to document that it had once lived there.
  Camped in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  I was excited to get north towards Monterey, I thought I'd just stop briefly along the way to bird here and there.  Turns out the biggest surprise of the trip occurred just north of the town of Big Sur.  I heard a chatter that wasn't familiar that was coming from a meadow by the side of the road.  10 PURPLE MARTINS were flying about chasing bugs and each other and perching in a tree.
  Now I did try to do my homework before starting the trip, but Purple Martin was just not on the radar.  Apparently, they breed in Big Sur. Now I know
  For the next 20 minutes, I was thinking how wonderful it was to see Purple Martins and scratching my head that I didn't know that I could see them there, when suddenly, a lone BLACK SWIFT flew overhead.  Wow, two big shocks in 20 minutes.  This was some good birding.  I had never seen a Black Swift before, so I was absolutely elated by my luck.
   I camped in a hotel room in Seaside that night.  Luxurious.
  The next night was Santa Cruz where I stayed with my friends Emily and Eric.  Another night with a bed.  Thanks yall.
  The ride home the next day was bitter sweet of course.  Well, mostly it was just sweet.  It's good to be home.
  And, now that I'm home, all the pictures will be going up soon.  Right after one more nap on the couch...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Eastern Sierra and Western Mojave

  Only a few people know what I'm talking about when I describe where I am right now.  Some people know Frazier Park, less know Pine Mountain Club, where I actually am.  The best way to explain it is that I am in the east/west running mountain range that seperates the Coast Range and Central Valley from Los Angeles.  My good friends Scot and Kristin have put me up for a few days rest after crossing the Mojave kind of worked me.  What a relief this overcast day in the mid-eighties is!
  So a lot has happened since I last wrote from Bridgeport.  Put simply 500 miles and 12 new species.  But that leaves out a lot of what really happened.
  Leaving Bridgeport, I made my way down to Lee Vining.  I birded the County Park area on the north end of Mono Lake.  The nesting Osprey were a treat as the parents took turns flying off to other lakes and coming back with fish.  Wilson's Phalaropes spun in the water.
  After a day at Mono I hustled back north to Lundy Canyon where the birding was decent, though I didn't pick up any new species.  A BALD EAGLE up in the canyon was a very cool sight, as was a nice show of wildflowers.
   Back to Lee Vining, I watched a band play at the famous Mobil Station while I ate a nice meal from the gas station.  Those who have been there, know that the food is actually decent.  The band played a couple of Townes Van Zandt songs which was a great way to end the evening and head down into the sagebrush for a night's sleep.
  Out in the sage, COMMON NIGHTHAWKS were everywhere, and upon waking, there were multiple GRAY FLYCATCHERS calling around my tent.  Southbound to Mammoth Lakes.
  Due to a heatwave, I had to hangout in the Mammoth area for several days.  Bishop (where I was headed next) was 110 degrees, and Ridgecrest was 117!  Yikes.  Mammoth was alright with me.
  One night, while waiting for the heat to break, I headed out to the ESE side of Glass Mountain to a little aspen grove called Wildrose Canyon.  It was an awesome morning birding.  A RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was a great bird to find for the year!  I missed a Virginia's Warbler that people had seen a couple of weeks earlier.  Damn!  I've still never seen one.  Looks like I'll have to get back there sometime.
  Fortunately, a friend of mine, Sierra, was staying with her family in Mammoth.  They were so sweet to put me up for a few days while I waited out the heatwave.  Two night sleep in a bed did wonders for the body!  Thanks Sierra!!!
  So with the heatwave beginning to subside, I rode down towards Bishop.  I think the high that day was only 104!  I was shocked when I stopped on the way into town in Birchim Canyon to find quite a bit of bird activity at around 11 am.  The creek running through was substantial, and I had to dunk my hair to cool off.  In all the heat, I managed to hear one and see another YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.  Very cool to watch them sing.  The BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS there, were my first of the trip.
  Views from the eastside were incredible.  Unfortunately, my camera is a bit temperamental.  I didn't get any good shots of Mt. Whitney for example.
  Lone Pine was another stop for the night, camping out in the random sage again.  I got up at 5 am (what had become my normal schedule to beat the heat) and headed for Carl's Jr.  Don't worry, I had already eaten breakfast.  Folks had told me that the land behind this fastfood joint was good birding.  It sure was!  A BLUE GROSBEAK was a new bird for the year.  Again however, I missed another good bird that was supposed to have been around...Summer Tanager.  Maybe one will turn up again this year in Pescadero.  Slim chance, but I've got to hope.
  South to Ridgecrest.  GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE on the way down at Diaz Lake, well actually five of them.
  Ridgecrest was hot.  108 or so.  I got a hotel and tried to fix my flat.
  Up in the morning at 5 am.  Flat again.  Pulled lots of metal out of the tire, put in a new tube and started headed towards Red Rock Canyon State Park.  I got nine miles out of town and...FLAT TIRE AGAIN!!!  I didn't get it.  It was already 9:30 and nearing 95 degrees.  I was trying to get out fast, but had to hitch a ride back into town.  It didn't take more than 25 minutes to get a ride with a guy who was retired military.  He said he felt bad for me standing out in the heat.  He even took me to a bikeshop, where I learned I had pinched the tube when I replaced it and that's what caused the flat.  At least all the metal was out!
  Back out riding that same nine miles out of town.  11am.  Sure was later than when I had wanted to start.  Sure was hotter (100+).
   Now the heat is one thing.  I can handle a little heat, but when you add a headwind.  Now that's just cruel.  Fortunately, despite the Mojave being hot and desolate, I kept running into service stations at the right times.  I made it to Red Rock just in time to run into a couple of other birders from Sacramento.  The encounter went like this:
"Is that your bike over there?"
"Do you want a cold beer?"
"Wow... yes."

  Those sweet folks gave me one for then and one for after dinner too.  Wish I could remember their names.  (If you are reading, drop me a line and THANKS AGAIN.)  Nice moments in bike touring happen when you least expect them.
   Then we found out we were all birders...
  Too bad the birds were so quiet, it would have been fun to have all walked around together.  I birded the evening and the morning there and found a whopping 9 species.  At least there were a couple of CACTUS WRENS about.  
  Next day, I rode to Lancaster.  Near the town of Mojave, at 9:30 am, there was a WESTERN SCREECH OWL on an exit sign.  Pictures to come...  It was, in fact, my first screech of the year.  I never thought my first one would be in the Mojave Dessert.
  Okay... I've got to run.  I'll have to catch yall up the rest of the way soon.