Central California April 2013
After southern California it was like a step back in time staying in Big Sur. Eclectic, hippies, and glorious steep mountains rising straight out of the Pacific.
At Big Sur Campground, the dominant birds clearly were the Steller’s Jays. Aggressive, noisy, and always around.
The first morning there a very helpful staff member was quite specific as to where we might see an endangered California Condor. 7 miles south, where Hwy 1 bends left around a steep canyon you’ll see a new “A” framed home out on the point across the canyon. It is around this canyon where she said we might see the beast… er…bird. So we headed south, set the odometer, found the house, and Deborah and I got out and scanned the skies around us. We saw Turkey Vultures, and Red-tail Hawks. Then suddenly as Sibley’s suggests, a bird that can be mistaken for a small airplane glided down the coast from the north. The California Condor came right over us. We were also able to get more good looks down on top of one of these remarkable Condors while carefully peaking over the cliff at the ocean from the pullout by the A Framed home.
To see this special life bird was right up there in the thrill-of-a-birding-lifetime for us.
While it was hard to top the Condor sighting… the next day we hiked and birded the fabulous Andrew Molera State Park. A leisurely mile long stroll along the Big Sur River to the Ocean traversed a number of varying habitats. Along the drier Oak upper reaches we saw FOY (First Of Year) Swainson’s Thrush, Bewicks Wren, and California Quails as well as this FO2Y (First Of 2 Year) Hutton’s Vireo. But the best was yet to come.
As we approached the backwaters near the sea we got these looks at Cinnamon Teal just before breaking out to where the Big Sur River joins the Pacific. We sat on a log looking over the river for a bit before noticing what might just be some Brant landing on the other side of the dunes along the beach. OK, that does it! Shoes off, rolled up pants and across the river for a better look at this secluded coastline.
Boy was it worth it.
Herring, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged and FO2Y Mew Gulls were all present. Eared Grebes rafted up off shore and several shorebirds worked the delta where the fresh met the salt water. Greater Yellowlegs, Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Lesser and Western Sandpipers were all busy searching for nourishment.
The highlights were the flocks of FO2Y Brants cycling on and off the beach and nearby shoreline. The low light was I got back to the car before having to go all the way back to that log to fetch the keys which fell out while prepping for the river crossing.
Next up - Carmel Valley. We toured my old stomping grounds of the Monterey Peninsula and then Point Lobos State Natural Preserve on April 21st. This place is just as spectacularly beautiful as I remember. Sea Otters, windswept Cypress and pristine inlets of clear turquoise waters sheltering mom and pup sea lions almost over shadowed the birding. We did, however, manage to see some FOY White-throated swifts, and an FO2Y Pigeon Guillemot but the highlights here clearly were these 100’s of nesting Brandt’s Cormorants. What a great day!
From our base in Carmel Valley we also visited Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Preserve. A perfect spot for water birds happy in brackish water. Among new birds for 2013 were Clark’s Grebe, Long-billed Curlew, Forster’s Tern, Pelagic Cormorant, and Short-billed Dowitchers. First of 2 year birds were Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope and Hammond's Flycatcher. Another great day to be outside!
Sea Lion with pup
Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers
Sea Otter - my favorite animal!
Our last California coastal stay was in Santa Cruz. We had a great family reunion there and managed to add Bushtit to the year list. Also, one day, my oldest sister Candy, her husband Lee, and my nephew Peter joined us on a venture to Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve. While it was a little quiet there we managed to spot a Harlequin Duck swimming with Surf Scoters offshore for another FO2Y bird.
After bidding farewell to my extended family we headed east to visit one of the most beautiful places in the world - Yosemite National Park.
On a bird walk sponsored by the Yosemite Conservancy on 4-30 several year and 2 year birds were viewed including Vaux Swift, Western Tanager, Cassin’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Brown Creeper, Pileated Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Violet –green Swallow, and Black-throated Green Warbler.
The tour leader scared me by promising he could deliver my target bird for the morning. Nearing the end of the walk I was about to give up when there it was, a White-headed Woodpecker working the bark near the ground. This completed my life list of the 16 North American Woodpeckers listed by Sibley.
About half way to our next stop at Lake Havasu, AZ was Bakersfield, CA. We battled wind for a few days but did venture over to Lake Ming for some birding. There “performing “ Common Peafowl” were striking to say the least.
We were also able to see a bird I’d never heard of before. The Rose-ringed Parakeet (which I understand is now called the Nanday's Parakeet) has established a population in the Bakersfield area.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Surf Scoters and Harlequin Duck
2nd year Glaucous-winged Gull with plunder
Leaving California on May 6th the 2013 year list stands at a modest 193. (Last year at this time I’d seen well over 300).
Excitingly, we've added 39 new birds over the 2 year RV Adventure. It stands at 443 and the 2 year goal of 500 different birds seems possible.
Next, Lake Havasu, AZ