Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN

Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN
Sunrise at Birch Lake, MN

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Big Sur Outting

May 24, 2020

Last Sunday Cindy and I left the house early and took about a two hour drive to and then up highway 101 to Pfeiffer Beach. We had heard that it was open, but the parking lot was closed, so we joined another few score of cars parked off the road. (The day use area opened by the time we were finished exploring the beach and charging $10. So the the couple of hundred extra yards we walked, looked pretty good)

Almost immediately after starting our walk to the beach, Cindy spotted a band-tailed pigeon, then another one. We spotted four in the same area, all pretty far away and not showing their banded tails. We enjoyed more birds in the mixture of trees along the road and the creek as we walked down to a tail to the beach. Both of us got involved in landscapes and little plants and flowers.

Distant band-tailed pidgon

 Soon I lost Cindy as I went straight to the overlook and she kept to the main trail to the beach  while I investigated little trails that had interesting flowers on them.

Narrow leaved clover (Trifolium angustifolium)

View of the beach from the cliff we were exploring

The flower of the day was some variety of Indian Paintbrush

Rattlesnake Grasses

Finally I made a determined effort to get to the main trail that led from the day use area to the beach. The trail led down to an overlook, then did a sharp left turn and descended to several landings of stairs,  before finally reaching the beach. I spotted Cindy from the landing, finding lots to photograph so I rushed to join her. We were soon both enchanted with the shelled animals attached to the rocks.

The rocks were providing nesting sites for cliff sparrows

Cindy enjoying the incoming tide

I would have liked to explored this cave but the cold water was too deep 

This was the most interesting part of the beach - many of the rocks held various shellfish species

Black Tegula (Tegula funebralis)

California mussel (Mytilus californianus)

Think these are barnacles
The only guy breaking with required mask wearing and social distancing - that is my food box in the corner of the picture

After lunch we drove up a super steep, curving, narrow road  which leads to Hunter Liggett Army Base, then came home down Hwy 101. It all made for a great adventure.

The L-O-N-G view down from almost to the top of the mountains..........

......zooomed picture to show Hwy one just before the turn.

Postscript:  This will probably be my last blog for a while. I'll be figuring out how and where to live, and hopefully work, after my job at Monte Vista and Alamosa National Wildlife Refuges has been suspended for the foreseeable future. I sort of expect I'll not get to be a volunteer anywhere for a few years, until I'm vaccinated against Covid -19.   But I'll blog occasionally when I  have an adventure to share. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A Visit to The Indians

May 17, 2020

Cindy always takes me out on interesting trips to her favorite places each weekend.  This past weekend, she proposed a trip back to her workplace, Fort Hunter Liggett, and then through it to a wonderful corner of the Los Padres National Forest. She said she had three goals: find and photograph an elk herd, find the harlequin lupine, and locate some band-tailed pigeons. Plus she knew of a couple of trails we could hike.  And in case that wasn't enough, she offered to take me out to supper. Of course, she had me at let's go out, so I promised to be ready to drive out at 6:00 A.M. as we had an hour's drive ahead of us.

The day started off sunny and calm, but by the time we reached the base, we were seeing clouds building, making for photographic opportunities. And at our first stop, we saw elk- but further away than we could photograph them. We went to a parallel road and found those wiley beasts had figured out how to be equidistant from the two roads. So we gave up on those and went on to a second place where Cindy often spots elk. There we had a much better view of a much bigger herd - probably thirty-five individuals. I saw a buck with nubs in my binoculars but didn't capture him in my photographs - I was only able to take a few parts of the herd.

Storm clouds coming off the coast 

While stratocumulus clouds formed in the east

Some of the elk herd we saw resting in the shadows under oaks

We checked off that objective and went on to hunt for the harlequin lupine. That was a much harder goal to achieve.  We looked, gave up, hiked, then, as we continued our exploration of the forest, Cindy suddenly recognized a side road we were exploring as THE ROAD. Five minutes later we found several patches of the harlequin lupine growing in very poor, gravely soil.

Harkequin lupin (Lupinus stiversii)

Most of our day involved traveling several of the little side roads that lead to dispersed campsites with stops to photograph flowers and other interesting sights. The first road had a little family camping in a pop-up trailer. We passed them and their dog as we drove down the road. But we stayed the most time at at a rocky outcropping that was the home of the Chumash Indians.

San Antonio de Padua Mission - California's third mission built in 1771 - this is on the base
 and is where we turned to get to the national forrest

Another stop for the sky 

Several ruddy ducks were using the pond we revisited on the base

I was excited to find milkweed in abundant amounts.  I didn't find any blooming plants
but think it is California milkweed ( Asclepias californica)

We found a few grinding holes as we walked through a rocky area. But it wasn't until the following day that I found out I COULD have visited the wagon cave, an overhang that the Indians used for camping/housing.   We hiked in clouds, mist, and a little sunshine, but the clouds mostly won.  The area doesn't seem to have an official trail but is open to hiking, biking, and rock climbing, although you may not add pins to the rocks. I first did a trail that wound through the lower parts of the outcropping, and occasionally over the rocks, then went on the upper trail until I caught up with Cindy.

The beginning of our hike

The outcropping near the beginning of the trail

One of the narrow places I squeezed through

Lanceleaf liveforever (Dudleya laceolata) was growing at eye level along a tiny dry stream in a lush bed of moss

A grinding hole taken from almost straight down

When I popped out into a more open area, I saw a storm coming - we only got tiny sprinkles of rain

The path led over the front rock and then through the trees/rocks

Sometimes it even ran over open ground

These lupines were growing in the middle of  the trail

I caught up with Cindy  on the upper trail as she stopped to admire the creek twenty feet down in the gorge

A creek view from the top trail

A little pool carved out of the rock 

I found a place just at the end of the pool and got a foot massage in a little waterfall  - got clean toenails too

I spotted this "Easter Eag" - about three feet high from the high trail

We ended the day's explorations by continuing to the campground past which the road is closed, due to mudslides. But we captured several more interesting bugs and plants in stops along the way.

A  bush katydid on a bush poppy flower

I think this is cobwebby thistle

Large milkweed bugs on California milkweed

Santa Lucia sticky monkey flower

Cobalt milkweed beetles - who could have guessed?

'Elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

Spotted cucumber beetle in bush poppy flower

As for the band-tailed pigeons - they saved us for another day. But we got our supper at San Miguel at the Taco Mafia and brought home enough for a second, and maybe a third, meal. That delicious supper just topped an outstanding day.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Birding Big Day in Morro Bay

Cindy and I decided to spend last Saturday morning in the area of Morro Rock,  so we could also turn in checklists for global big day. I ended up going back the following two days, in order to get decent pictures. And of course, there were lots of stuff I HAD to look at. And take pictures of.

I have been trying to take this picture of Morro Rock since I first saw it from the south. I finally got the early morning light to take it from the town of Morro Bay's marina.

Morro Rock

Singing canyon wren male (Click here for audio)

Dark-eyed juncos are very common  

White crowned sparrow are the most common

California lesser goldfinches have green backs but still sound like the Texas ones

California towees are super common

I got this bushtit at Morro Bay State Park...

...but we watched a pair working on the nest - actually mostly just saw movement and
zooming birds at Morro Rock - it looks like a dirty sock

Non-nesting brown pelicans were feeding at the breakwater at Morro Rock 

All these pelicans are under three years old and still in juvenile plumage

The California quail have paired up and we always see the male and female together. Haven't seen any with babies yet. This pair was in the camping area of Moro Bay State Park.  The male was on a little house doing sentry duty while the female grazed. Then she jumped on the picnic to wipe her bill.

California quail male

And his female

Just inside Morro Bay State Park is a Heron/Cormorant rookery.  It is supposed to have breeding Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Black-crowned night herons, and cormorants.  I didn't find any night herons there but there were plenty of the other three species. 

Turkey vultures use the rookery as a roost

Female cormorants were sitting on eggs while the males came back and forth

Condo's are in short supply

I think copulation was in progress at this nest

I think this one of those California red tailed hawks

A great egret and three snowy egrets were feeding on the incoming tide  - I missed the other two but love seeing the differences between them. 

Then I got distracted by the surfers - but one had to wait WAY longer on them than on the birds

I am STILL trying to take good pictures of the sea otters.

Still trying to photograph sea lions

I've been hearing harbor seals barking. I finally found them - all in one place. 

This was about half of the seals - guess they haven't gotten the social distancing message

I'm always on the hunt for native bees. This is the ONLY bumblebee I've seen in California.  And it isn't all that common.  I seldom see more than one at a time.

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)

We found forty species over two sites and two days. Not much by Texas standards, but the most birds I've seen far. 

Hope you too are getting to get out into nature, but staying out away from people.