Thursday, April 14, 2016

Birding Coon Creek

                   The Coon Creek Trail Begins
Montaña de Oro State Park - Coon Creek is a coastal canyon at the south end of the park.  Round trip 5 miles. The trail follows the creek as it flows to the sea.

I volunteer for the state parks as a roving docent.  My duties involve walking the trails, answering questions, interacting with visitors, and in general being a presence in the park.  I know, sounds like a tough job, but someone's got to do it. 

 Yesterday morning roved with Mike (don't you love the pink socks).  The trail is narrow and has a few ups and downs and rocky areas and is more challenging than the Bluff Trail. The day was mild with no wind, a perfect day for a rove. 

As soon as we neared the creek, vegetation became intense.  In some areas the plants had grown over the trail. (photo, on right Hemlock, on left Mugwort)   In the willows between the trail and the creek, birds such as Wilson's Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Wrentit, and Bewick's Wren, were singing their hearts out.  Mr. Wilson has a piercing song.  In no uncertain terms he was communicating his territorial rights.  (Bird list at end of blog)
We stopped many times to listen to bird songs and to admire native plants.  Spring is a rare and fleeting time of year. I felt fortunate to be walking this beautiful trail.
Sticky Phacelia (above) was in dense patches on the steep hillsides. 

During our entire walk we were never without bird song.  I was hoping to hear the haunting song of a Canyon Wren.  Shortly after passing over the first bridge we heard the song.   On our return, the Wren was singing but at a distance.  The song sounded like it was coming from a high cliff or one of the many rocky outcrops, preferred habitats for the Canyon Wren.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get a usable video of the song.

I did manage to record a few other bird songs.  The video recordings are rather primitive, but the songs can be heard.  You might want to turn up the volume.

My favorite plant was the prolific Thimble Berry which has a beautiful flower and large velvety leaves.  The berry will be red and edible.
 Bird List for Coon Creek - Wilson's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Canyon Wren, Bewick's Wren, Wrentit, Bushtit, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Purple Finch, California Quail, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Scrub Jay, Downey Woodpecker, Ann's Hummingbird, Red-tailed Hawk.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Birding the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden

The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is located in El Chorro Regional Park, across from Cuesta College and the Dairy Creek Golf Course.  Yesterday morning Bullock's Oriole and Hooded Oriole were seen in the garden.  

The morning was damp and foggy as I entered the Botanical Garden, not ideal conditions for birding.  Did I get a slight glimpse of an Oriole? No, though I did see 25 other bird species.  (See bird list at end of blog)
The American Robin was looking especially perky this morning, with its deep rufus (orange/red) breast and charming behavior of head tilting to find a worm.  Until recently I thought the Robin was listening for worms; raise your hand if you have had that same thought.  Instead of listening for worms, they are looking for them.  Bird eyes are located at the side of their head; unlike a human eye, a bird's eye does not move.  The Robin's classic head tilt directs the eye.  We are much like Robins.  When we see see a worm out of the corner of our eye; what do we do, we move our head to get a better view.

After birding the Botanical Garden, checked out nearby Dairy Creek and the campground which abuts the golf course.  The Dairy Creek Golf Course has become a habitat for our North American "Big Bird," the Wild Turkey. 
 I had  progressed only a few feet along the golf course path when I heard the first gobble.  For several minutes experienced birding nirvana as I observed the courting behavior of a colorful, male, Wild Turkey, gobbling his heart out while posing and strutting on the Golf course.  Unfortunately for this lone male, no female turkey was in sight. (above photo by Len Blumin)

Coincidentally, a few days ago, at Montaña de Oro, I recorded a Wild Turkey gobbling from his perch in a Eucalyptus tree.  (Yes, they can fly short distances.) The terrain was such that I could not get a view of the Gobbler, but he definitely sounded lonely.  At the moment of the recording I am about 1/2 way down Horse Camp road.

The various habitats of El Chorro Park and the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden offer some of the best birding on the Central Coast.  Spring is a special time to bird. Dust off your binoculars and get out and about.

Bird list - Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Scrub Jay, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Wrentit, Bushtit, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Anna's Hummingbird, Eurasian Dove, Mourning Dove, Brewer's Blackbird, California Quail, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Cedar Waxwing, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey