Thursday, 15 August 2013

California - Monterey Bay and Big Sur - 24 to 28 July 2013 (part 2)

Day Four - Point Lobos

Our accommodation while in the area was the Colton Inn in Monterey. We were pleased to find that the balcony backed onto a small stream. Every day we had visits from the birdlife including this precocious individual who raided the Strawberry plant, on the balcony, every morning .

 Western-scrub Jay

We started our exploration of Big Sur at Point Lobos. It became pretty clear right from the start that there was a reason why the trails are so wide and well maintained. The whole of Big Sur has Poison Oak growing just about everywhere. This plant is highly toxic and promotes an allergic reaction in most people to a lesser or greater degree. Contact does not have to be direct, getting oil from the leaves on items then transfering to the skin is just as problematic. It promotes intense itching, fading to bruising over about a month. The smoke from burning Poison Oak is a particular problem when wild fires occur. It ws obvious that we would have to be really careful about pushing into brush cover.

Poison Oak- growing everywhere

Our first trail was to overlook Bird Island to see nesting Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants.

Brandt's Cormorants

White-crowned (Nuttall's) Sparrow in cliff top vegetation

Pigeon Guillimot

The coast at Point Lobos

 Cove at Point Lobos

Carolina Wren

 Western Scrub-jay

The coves were kelp filled with clear water but views of Sea Otter were all further off shore and distant. It was possible to locate them by listening for the 'tap, tap, tap' as they break clams open against stones balanced on their bellies.

We took a walk near a camp site and identified some of the butterflies.

Woodland Skipper

Field Crescent

Then finished off with a quick look at Carmel Beach as darkness fell.

Rock sandpipers

Elegant Terns

Surf Scooter

Heermann's Gull

Day Five - Monterey Bay & Carmel Valley

A whale watching trip into Monterey Bay allowed more views of seabirds while searching for or watching Hump-backed and Blue Whales. We also saw Risso's and Bottle-nosed Dolphin and a nearby Sea Otter. There were hundreds of Sooty Shearwater, and Pink-footed although less numerous. Also Black-footed Albatross and more Common Murres were seen.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the harbour

Shearwater highway

James - scanning for birds and mammals

There she blows - Blue Whale

 Hump-backed Whale

Black-footed Albatross

Risso's Dolphins

 Californian Sea-lion

 Sea Otter
 Brown Pelican

After lunching at the wharf to the sound of Sealions newly returned from their breeding grounds, we took a drive up the Carmel Valley where a walk along a road revealed Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpeckers, Oak Titmouse and more hummingbirds including Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

 A small outflow by the dam allowed opportunities to view birds coming to drink.

Day Six - Big Sur - Andrew Molera Reserve

We visited this reserve (that has an established ringing effort) on a clear sunny day.

 Andrew Moliera reserve

We took a path that lead to the sea to find ourselves on a sandy beach with paddling Brent Geese and a very familiar looking gull. There were also some interesting butterflies, sun super charged and really difficult to photograph.

 Brent Goose

 American Herring Gull

 Lorquin's Admiral

We picnicked in the designated spot and enjoyed watching some of the local residents.

Californian Ground Squirrel

 Spotted Towhee tending to youngster

 High Chapparral - showing dryness of surrounding area

The Big Sur river

A quick visit to the Pfeiffer State Park was most impressive. We loved seeing the Redwoods but couldn't find American Dipper on the Big Sur and the day had gone all too quickly.

Giant Redwoods aged 800 to 1200 years old

A fanstastic place to be revisited in a few days time.

Day Seven - Pinnacles National Monument

A day away from the coast to a semi desert site. Chris was ever hopeful of locating good birds, perhaps even more so as something memorable on his birthday would be great. Our first new species as we made our final approach to the park was Road Runner - 3 in the open, darting up the hill away from us.

Pinnacles reserve

On entering the park we were a little concerned that temperatures up to 35degrees were expected. We covered up, refilled all water bottles and headed off. It seemed less than promising at first but a shady spot before the trail began to ascend towards the caves gave us Canyon Wren, Bewick's Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch and White-chinned Swift.

 Respite from the Sun.

 Stella's Jay

 Dark-eye (Oregon) Junco

Pushing on brought no birds of prey except Turkey Vultures with a coupleof opportunistic Stella's Jay.
We returned to the car park to find the temperature in the car hitting 38 degrees. While taking a rest in the shade,we watched more Turkey Vultures high above the pinnacles, then picked up a Golden Eagle and later a Californian Condor. It was very high above us andno wing tags were visible. At one point this species was down to 22 individuals and a scheme to bring them back from the brink has been working to secure their future.
Another scan of the bushes in the car park revealed a Phainopepla flying to a clump of bushes that eventually
cam out of hiding with patient perseverence.
Stopping off by the vineyards, where water seeped from the irrigation system, we found Yellow-breasted Chat, Lark Sparrow, Collared Dove, Lawrence's Goldfinch and Western Bluebirds amongst the vines.

Western Bluebird

The run back via the Carmel Valley gave us Yellow-billed Magpie, a whole bunch of Californian Quail and a few Great Horned Owl. The day also gave us Black-tailed Deer, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, and Bush Rabbit.

Californian Quail

Day Eight - Back to Big Sur

We managed to get breakfasted and on the road to Big Sur befor 9am and just as well because it was soon full of people, making parking an issue mid morning, but then we made it to Julia Burns State Park before the rush and had stunning views of a fog free coast with a sea as calm as a mill pond. Still, there were no Black Swifts although we did find a Cassin's Vireo.

 Kelp growing along the coastal margins

Moving on to Pfeiffer Big Sur, a walk along a river finally gave us Pacific Wren, followed by American Dipper. Both apparently making the most of the cooling water.

Pacific Wren

American Dipper

We saw three Californian Condors, including a juvenile over the ridge. We were also alerted to the presence of a Bobcat by a perplexed Chipmunk - pretty good considering the numbers of people in the park.

Californian Condor above the ridge

Bobcat resting up just feet from the car park and picnic site.

Risking the old coast road was an experiece to say the least, but no new birds were found. A last look at the Carmel State Beach showed waders, geese and gulls coming in to the fresh water of the river mouth. We also found several California Quails on the front lawns of some Meadowside residents.

Day Nine - Moving on from Monterey

A last look at Sea Otters and Sea Lions from Fishermans' Wharf where we had breakfast before getting on the freeway inland.

Sea Otter in the harbour