Saturday, June 5, 2010

Trip to Ragged Point and Back

I had planned to cycle north on Highway 1, on May 29 to look for Black Swifts reported from Black Swift Falls near the Ragged Point Inn. I also wanted to spend the night there with my wife for our anniversary; tick off 2 birds with one cycling trip, so to speak. Since I saw a Black Swift on the prior Monday near my house, I cycled up for my anniversary and whatever species I might see on the way there or back, along the coast. After walking the dog and doing some other husbandly chores, I didn't get on the road till about 9:30 - just in time for the onshore wind from the northwest! I potentially had 50 miles of headwinds ahead! I also had a sore left leg from an injury I got the day before - playing doubles squash.

Fortunately, the wind was only bad in a couple of spots and my leg felt alright once I warmed up. I didn't stop much along the way unless I saw or heard something worth stopping for. I did hear some Cassin's Kingbirds near Harmony, in some eucalyptus trees at a farm next to the highway. There were several, with a couple making their burry two note call from trees and power lines. A Bullock's Oriole also chattered nearby. A little farther up the coast three Greater Yellowlegs (late in the season) called as they flew up from a small wetland bordered by pasture and the road. The white rumps on these medium sized shorebirds showed as they circled and landed behind some green cover, between pools of water. I had a planned stop at Santa Rosa Creek, a willow lined watercourse that flows through the small artsy tourist town of Cambria and out to the coast. Many common breeders such as Black-headed Grosbeak and Wilson's Warbler sang from the thick cover, but I heard nothing unusual. I stopped for lunch at a liquor store that has tables overlooking a pond and Pico Creek, at the north end of San Simeon (where tourists stay to go to Hearst Castle).

I arrived at the Ragged Point Inn at about 3 PM (Celeste arrive about an hour later). The only steep hill between there and Los Osos was right before the Inn. The wide bike lane along Highway 1 ended about 5 miles south of the Inn. Our room was elegantly comfortable and the Inn's large grassy area, surrounded by flowers and cypress trees, had a great view of the ocean below. White-throated Swifts and Cliff Swallows flew overhead and finches and an Olive-sided Flycatcher sang from the trees. I sat in the warm sun in our room's patio and watched and listened to the birds as they darted around overhead. I was glad I had already seen the Black Swift for my BIGBY as there were no large all-dark swifts in the area that I could see. (I could find none at the end of the day or early the next morning either). I did stand next to the cypress trees at the edge of the grounds and watched the sun sink into the ocean that stretched out below. First the sun flattened into a bright yellow pancake and then it shrank from the left and right side to a dot in the center before going out totally.

The weather at the Inn was sunny and warm on Saturday and Sunday. We did a little walking around the the Inn and up a nearby dirt road that went up the hill on the inland side of the highway. We ate our meals at the Inn's restaurant. We found a table outside next to the lily pond that had a great view of the grounds and the bright blue sky as we ate our breakfast.

After breakfast, I packed up my bike and we loaded the car Celeste was driving. We had planned to meet at the trail out to Ragged Point, but neither of us could find the trailhead from the road, so we decided to meet at the elephant seal spot just south of Piedras Blancas instead. I stopped at a wetland a little south of the old Piedras Blancas Motel and saw a lone out-of-place looking White-faced Ibis that I had missed on the way up. I also passed a herd of Tule Elk further south- just north of Arroyo de la Cruz! (What are they doing there?)

My wife and I walked around the elephant seal lookout and took pictures. I was not sure what was more amusing - the seals with their loud burping sounds and mock fighting, or the tourists with strange calls and varied plumages. We agreed to stop for lunch at Soto's Market in Cambria. I found a mixed flock of black birds near the intersection of Highways 1 and 46 that contained a dozen or so Tricolored Blackbirds among the Brewer's and Red wingeds. At Soto's, my wife ate a large sandwich and I had a portabllo mushroom stuffed with crab.  We ate across the stret on a bench in front of the bank and we were serenaded by an old guy playing a guitar and singing Beatle's and other tunes from the sixties.
I rode the 28 miles home from Cambria without any stops. I had enjoyed the bike ride (and the romantic anniversary stay!), but had no new BIGBY species to show for 100 miles of riding (the ibis was a new county BIGBY bird though).

1 comment:

  1. hey Jim, just found your blog. I live in Nipomo and have two owl nesting boxes set up--had several hatchings of owlets this year. Still have fledged owlets begging for food nightly. Such fun to watch.

    there's a new online news magazine for SLO called edhat--just google it. It runs off reader participation, and they are always looking for interesting "columnists". Your pix of your cyling/birding trips would be a natural.

    Saw a couple fo fellows near two parked cars, near the Los Osos creek willows off Turri Rd. They both had big binocs and looked to be searching the ridge behind the creek. Wonder what they might be looking for. (Near the old piece of haying equipment)They sure looked serious.