Sunday, March 7, 2010

I'd Ride 82 MIles for a Glaucous Gull

How far would I ride for an unusual bird that I might not otherwise see for my BIGBY? That was the question when I was birding with a Leif and his son Hannes from Sweden, and we found a Glaucous Gull (pictured) at Piedras Blancas (we had travelled by car). Would I ride over 40 miles, one way, to see if I could re-find this bird? There were still several rarities within 10 miles that I had not seen yet, so why would I ride over 80 miles for a bird that might be gone? First, I needed to increase my mileage in preparation for my longer rides for the year. Second, the bird (if it was there) should be easy to find. It also had been re-found several times after I had found it, and very recently. Third, it is a beautiful ride in March. Fourth, Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and the county line with Monterey County is a great road for cycling - wide bike lanes, great scenery, and no terrible hills.
So, on March 7, I found myself getting up early to try and beat the onshore wind to Piedras Blancas. I put narrow tires on my touring bike and loaded one pannier (with food and my scope) and the handle bar bag (with my optics). I almost beat the wind as it did not start blowing in my face till Villa Creek and not hard till San Simeon. It increased further while I was at the Elephant Seal area so I was glad I had made it when I did. And the Glaucous Gull was there! It was not close enough for a good photo, but it stood out as a large gull and the only one in the flock that was all nearly white. The Elephant Seals were greatly reduced in number from a couple of weeks ago (mating was over and most of the pups had weaned), but gulls hung around to feed on dead pups. I even got a second BIGBY species as an early Grasshopper Sparrow sang "tickbuzzzzzzzzzzz" from a pasture on the way up, near Villa Creek.
And the ride home! SWEET! The tail wind was so strong that at times I hardly had to pedal! I stopped to check various spots for bittern and saw 2 Golden Eagles, but no more new BIGBY birds. I got home at about 3:30 and felt like I could have gone another 20 miles or so. In all, I pedalled about 84 miles and increased my BIGBY total to 208 species.

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