Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pedalling for Poorwill

With the time change, giving me more time in the evening after work, and temperatures in the 70's on the coast, it seemed like a perfect evening on 3/16, to get my BIGBY Poorwill. I changed into my bike clothes, put on the wheels with wider tires onto my touring bike, packed my camera and lights, and headed out to Montana de Oro. I wanted to get to the top of Pecho Valley Road at 7:00 for the sunset, pictured here.
After the light show, I cycled out to Islay Creek Road where Steve Schubert had seen Poorwill. Just as I was starting out the dirt road along Islay Creek, three mountain bicyclist were coming down the road. I figured they had probably flushed any poorwills off the road and I hoped the birds would return. I proceeded about a mile or so up stream until I saw the first shape in the road, which flushed about the time I thought "Poorwill". This quick look was followed by another spotting of a Poorwill feeding from the road - fluttering 2 - 3 feet off the road and landing back on the road. I watched for about 5 minutes and then tried to take a picture. I used my bike light to illuminate the bird, whose eyes reflected red in the light. I then realized that my camera would not autofocus in the low light. I tried to hold the light with one hand and manually focus with the other. By the time I was able to do that, the bird had flow. I proceeded to go a short distance up the road and saw another Poorwill. Here I realized that my light's charge was low, so I decided to get down the dirt road before it was totally dark. Coming back I flushed 2 - 4 more Poorwills, including one which flew along side me, as I carefully coasted down the rocky road. The last Poorwill was just across the creek from the back of the state park campground, sitting on the road.
After getting to the paved road I put my flashing leg band on, and used the remaining headlight charge only when vehicles approached from head on. I could barely see the road when the light was off. Besides the exciting ride, I did hear the loud, clear, and incessant whistling of a Saw-whet Owl about 1/4 - 1/2 mile on the Los Osos side of Hazard Canyon (at 8:00 PM). I barely made it home before it was completely dark. The ten mile evening ride yielded BIGBY # 212.

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