Road Trip Bird Sightings: Shasta to Benecia
- Just took a whirlwind trip up to Shasta and Lassen with a dear friend visiting from Florida, a California ex-pat, who is an international conservation biologist...in other words, she wasn't bored when we stopped for every damp spot in the mountains and was thrilled to observe the bountiful wildlife and mountain birds, right along with me.
Shocking to see Shasta devoid of snow...guess that it is just another cinder block mountain, after all. The ravens and crows kept us company outside of our motel window in Shasta City, and we visited the little Museum there that showed the after-effects of that terrible toxic spill at Dunsmuir twenty years ago (recovering nicely, thank you), and an extensive exhibit on writer and former Oakland resident Joaquin Miller and his positive writings about local native tribes, back when sympathy for the Indians could get you killed. Brave man, despite his dandified dress.
Speak out for what you know is right, and maybe the future will sing your praises.
Manzanita Lake at Lassen NP was its usual hotspot for wildlife activity: over two dozen nighthawks (largest number I have ever seen there) swept the sky as the light faded over that exquisite, natural, native trout hotspot, and happily waaaaaaay more bats than I could count, of at least three different species. Hundreds skimmed the lake (and took flying drinks to wash down all of those bugs) and when I turned my binocs to Venus, hanging low and bright in the sky, I saw hundreds more, as far as the eye could see (with the help of a pair of magnificently light gathering Swarovskis).
The next morning we saw the usual montaine suspects, like osprey and Western tanagers, orange crowned warblers, family groups of pied billed grebes (the grebelings with adorable harlequin faces and burning red eyes), and mallards and buffleheads and big gray coot chicks, nuthatches calling in the trees, and the local spotted sandpiper, bobbing on a floating log as it searched for prey.
Best mammal seen was a mink, slinking along the vegetation at lakeside.
Driving up to the Lassen summit, at around 8,500'(just a few small snow patches left on the ground), I hung out at the parking lot while my friend walked the path to Bumpass Hell (oh yeah, the vacationing kids love to say this one aloud!), and was rewarded by the sights and sounds of a Clark's Nutcracker, a solo Townsend's Solitare, and great views of the gloriously sky blue Mountain Bluebird, only my second time for this lovely fella.
I also saw a mystery buteo soar over the summit: big, long winged, non-banded tail, with black primary tips and big white patches on the secondaries. Couldn't see a dark leading edge to the wing, so couldn't quite make it into a redtail. Bad light, blah blah. Some mysteries just stay mysteries.
As we returned to my Bay Area home, we made a brief stop at Lake Herman, my friend Pat's former happy walking ground, when she still lived in CA and worked at Marine World. She and her dog used to enjoy watching the beaver family there. Darned if I didn't spy a hunting bald eagle, training its eagle eye upon the placid lake waters! Those bad boys seem to be everywhere that there is fish-producing water these days. Yay, species recovery!
Gotta love our wild California.