Sunday, April 28, 2013


A change of pace was in order.  Wednesday morning Phoebe Adams and I headed north on Hwy 101 to the Pinnacles.  Rock spires, ramparts, and crags that bear no resemblance to the nearby foothills, dominate the landscape  Massive monoliths, sheer walled canyons and boulder-covered caves define millions of years of erosion.

Traffic was light; from King City we headed East thru typical California rolling countryside; the hills turning yellow from lack of rain.  We meandered along looking for birds.  To our delight we saw Yellow-billed Magpie, Western Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, and a Cottonwood populated with Western Kingbird.

After checking out the charming visitor center/country store we continued a few miles further to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area where we headed up the Condor Gulch Trail. . . .
 . . . . toward the Overlook - noted for its excellent viewing of soaring California Condors.

Birding along the trail was fabulous.  Several Ash-throated Flycatcher; one carrying nesting material.  Oak Titmouse and singing House Wren were numerous.  In the canyon, Pacific-slope flycatcher, Wilson's Warbler, Purple Finch, and overhead, White-throated Swift.  We saw many soaring Turkey Vultures, but no Condors that I could positively identify due to their altitude. 
Phoebe had made yummie burritos for lunch.  While we enjoyed our meal, a Steller's Jay (photo- crest does not show) kept us company.  I tossed him/her a morsel of burrito.  I do know not to feed the wildlife, but sometimes I just cannot help myself.  I clearly heard the Steller's say, "thank you."

Before leaving the park, we stopped back at the Visitor Center.  I must admit a most fortuitous decision.  Upon exiting the car I spotted a teenage Condor soaring over the parking lot, a great sighting as it was in view for several minutes.  The Ranger in the Visitor Center told us that the  Condors roost on isolated rocky outcrops and usually soar on the afternoon thermals.  I highly recommend a visit to Pinnacles National Park.  I can hardly wait to return.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


9:30 am - Weather perfect.  Met Harry and Norma at San Simeon State Park Lagoon.  Passing over San Simeon Creek is Hwy 1.  The bridge is ideal for Swallows to paste their mud nests.  Some swallows were actually nesting inside the bridge, entering thru small round openings.  Nest building was in progress by Northern Rough-winged (photo below) and Cliff Swallow.
As we approached the Lagoon we were met by a Song Sparrow who let us know, with his splendid song, that we were infringing upon his territory.   Great-tailed Grackle entertained us from the Willows (so much for peace and quiet).  A pair of Brant Goose, a pair of Mallard (photo below) plus a Double-creasted Cormorant, one Curlew, and a handful of Least Sandpiper were along the edge of the Lagoon.
We were hoping to see Snowy Plover (photo by Mike Baird).  When they are not moving they are nearly impossible to see, as they blend in perfectly with their environment. Fortunately we saw several fly; once they land they are invisible.
Nesting season has begun for the Snow Plover, "a species of special concern." Usually, nests are built on flat, open beaches or dunes.  Nests consist of a shallow scrape or depression lined with beach debris   (small pebbles, shell fragments, plant debris).  Driftwood, kelp, and dune plants provide cover for chicks that crouch near objects to hide from predators.  State Parks protects the Plover by fencing off the nesting area with a single cord and signs, and placing wire protection over the nests.

One of our best sightings of the morning was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  First we heard it, then saw it flitting about in Willows by the creek.  I have often heard the bird, but this was the first time in years that I have actually seen the little darling.   Our next and last stop was Lynn's patio in Cambria. Lunch and, of course desert, was Yummie!!