Friday, May 21, 2010

Cerro Alto Campground

Cerro Alto Campground is within Los Padres National Forest and is only about 8 miles from Morro Bay. On May 15 it was a 16 mile one-way ride from my home in Los Osos, with a moderate hill for the last couple of miles on Highway 41 before the turnoff to the campground. As is evident from my blog, I have birded at this location on many occasions. It is an excellent place for migration and it is good for breeding species. It is a great place to study bird song April through July!

On this particular trip I was pedalling to Cerro Alto to look for unusual migrants and to look for Black-chinned Sparrow, a local breeder that I had not yet seen for the year. As I was locking up my bike near the beginning of the entrance road at about 8:15, MacGillivray's Warbler was singing from a nearby oak and Warbling Vireo and Black-headed Grosbeak sang from the close by creek side riparian willows. It was hard to unpack, change clothes for hiking and lock up the bike when I was surrounded by various bird songs and calls that demanded attention for a student of birds and their vocalizations. After many interruptions, I finally got changed into hiking shorts and shoes I had brought, and put my pannier in a day pack with my lunch and anything else I did not want to leave with my bike.

As always, I walked the entire entrance road and up the trail past the end of the campground to check for migrants. There still were interesting migrants such as Hermit and Townsend's Warblers as well as the local breeders of interest such as Olive-sided Flycatcher and Western Wood Pewee. By the time I finished birding along the creek it was almost 10:00 and I hurried up the trail which climbs west out of the campground so I could look for Black-chinned before it got any later.

As I took the trail up out of the canyon, I passed a variety of blossoming wildflowers. The trail started in the shade of oaks and other trees, but gradually had fewer and fewer trees as I climbed up to the ridge top. I passed a Velvet Ant as I hiked. Not really an ant, it is a wasp and the female pictured is wingless. I've never seen a male, as far as I know.

Among the flowering plants was the yucca, with its beautiful spike of cream colored flowers. I must admit that I am not a fan of the cooked yucca root, at least as I have had it prepared for me in Central and South America. The flowers, however, are beautiful.

As I climbed over the top of the ridge I descended a short distance to a "T" where the trail met the trail coming down from Cuesta Ridge. The chaparral here had burned a few years ago and it looked good for Black-chinned. I played a recording since I thought it was getting late in the day for their song. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Bell's Sage Sparrows called and sang around me. I heard no Black-chinned so I took the trail toward the eucalyptus grove. After less than a quarter mile I heard a Black-chinned song (BIGBY # 271). I played the recording and heard a couple of others. One came close, but stayed in cover or too far away to photograph. A little further down the trail and a black-chinned sang right next to the trail. I managed to get the photo here. Another sang on the other side of the eucalyptus grove along with a couple of Rufous-crowned Sparrows.

As I hiked past the last of the Black-chinneds, I saw some movement of hairy legs go down a hole in the ground - slightly smaller than a gopher hole. It was the hole of a tarantula, but the spider would not come back to the opening as long as I stood there. If it had come out, I am not sure if I would have tried to pick it up. I had held them before, but I didn't know if that was wise when they are at their hole. I took a photo of the hole with a key for scale before finishing the hike back to my bike and then the ride home.

No comments:

Post a Comment