Saturday, March 19, 2011

Walking Montana De Oro State Park

On February 26, it was my birthday and I could not think of anything more fun to do than to take a long walk from home into the local state park to see what I could find on a beautiful day. I started off walking up the park entrance road (Pecho Valley Road) and turned into the park on Army Road, so named because the army shelled this part of the park during WW2. (It was later used as an entrance for off road vehicles!)  With these past abuses of such incredible property a thing of the past, I now was able to walk through a mostly recovered habitat on a soft sand trail.  I played my iPod (with external speakers), trying for Bell's Sage Sparrow (left), but had no responses.  The usual scrub species such as Bushtits, Wrentits, White-crowned Sparrows and California Thrashers were conspicuous.  Just as I was getting to the parking lot for the Sand Spit Road, I heard a Sage Sparrow singing from the slope above; another tick for my walking year list.

From here I hiked up the paved road and back to the paved entrance road.  As I walked farther south into the park I came into the large grove of eucalyptus trees (photo left), which are beautiful but belong in Australia!  The birding is slow amongst such stands of trees here.  I descended the road as it parallels the creek and I heard the double chip of a Pacific Wren (formerly Winter Wren).  I couldn't get this bird to come into view despite some active "pishing", but counted it as another new species for my walking year (see my list of species to the right and below this post).  At lower Hazard Canyon, I took the trail down along the creek and out to the rocky shore.  I hoped to find some of the rocky shore birds that I had not seen for my year yet because of the length of the walk from home (about 3 miles one way).
The habitat along the creek here can be birdy when the sun is shining down into this canyon, but on this day it was slow!  As I came out to the shore, I saw the uplifted layers of marine sediment that form the rocky shore here.  They provide the habitat for birds such as American Oystercatcher, turnstones, Surfbirds, Whimbrel, Spotted Sandpiper and our three species of cormorants.

It was a beautiful blustery day, but where were the rocky shorebirds?  Except for some Pelagic Cormorants, I didn't see many birds as I scrambled over the sometimes slippery rocks (left).  I took many pictures of the rock foundations (below and on my facebook page), but had to go about a mile south before I finally found a Whimbrel, some Black Turnstones and a pair of Black Oystercatchers (all three new for the year).  As for the Surfbirds I expected here, I got skunked.  I almost didn't see Spotted Sandpiper, but did flush one as I returned toward Hazard Canyon.  I always get a kick out of its odd looking stiff shallow wing beats whenever I see this species fly.  I found an adult Glaucous-winged Gull (below) as I walked north and several Harbor Seals (below) which slid off the rocks and into the water when I walked up to take their pictures.  I also saw a Gray Whale spouting offshore, but no pelagic species when I trained my scope onto the ocean on several occasions.

When I got to the end of the rocky shore I kept going north on the sandy beach, toward the trail back to Army Road and the way home. The total walk was about 10 miles.

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