Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wrapping Up Winter Birding



Recently, I have been riding after those wintering birds that will be leaving soon or that I have been putting off seeing for various reasons. In the latter category are the nocturnal owls that I have not chased because I hate to bike at night - its too dangerous. On 3/4 I decided to "bite the bullet" and get some nocturnal owling done. After work, I rode over to a local Sushi restaurant, on the other side of town, for dinner and so I would be closer to the owling spot while it got totally dark. (The food at "Sushiya" was excellent, including the Nochi - the best $1.00 dessert at any restaurant I know!) I then had to get on my bike and go up into Perfumo Canyon for Screech and Saw-whet Owls. I had a Trek headlamp which mounted on my handlebar (it lighted the road well) and a Trek band which went around my leg, that flashed a red light as it went up and down when I pedaled. I also use an iMainGo2 (internet sale - pictured) with a padded protective case and speakers for my iPod, which has owl recordings downloaded on it (by my computer-savvy daughter).
The first good owl spot was almost 4 miles up the canyon and there was no moon. This spot has open pasture, nice stands of live oaks and willow and Sycamore riparian around a stream which was rushing from the recent rains. It is usually a good for owls. I listened and heard nothing, so I played Saw-whet and W. Screech on my iPod as I walked my bike on the dark and damp road. Fortunately, there was practically no traffic as I had turned my lights all off. Finally about a half mile up the road I heard an incessant Saw-whet whistle call and two much lower pitched Great-horneds chimed in. The Screech took a little more work, but after hearing three Saw-whets and four Great-horneds, I heard a far off Screech call. At this point I was very cold and I had my owls, so I quickly went down to town and back to work to thaw out.
I took another cycle from work on 3/5 after I got out of court early. I pedalled up to the TV towers on Cuesta Ridge - about 2,000 feet in elevation gain in about ten miles. I took Stagecoach Road to avoid riding on Highway 101 up the grade and then linked up to the narrow pothole covered road to the towers. The first stand of Sargent Cypress had a Townsend's Solitaire (Bigby # 1 - pictured) . The ridge was not very active with birds for the most part, but I did have a Rufous Hummingbird farther up the road for my second new Bigby species for the day. The ride back to work was a very quick downhill into town.

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