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Central CA Part 14: Lake San Antonio & Big Sur Coast

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  • MiriamEagl@aol.com
    29 OCT 02 I was a little apprehensive about the timing for today s excursion, seeing as I had planned to do Lake San Antonio plus the Big Sur Coast, but it
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2002
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      29 OCT 02

      I was a little apprehensive about the timing for today's excursion, seeing as
      I had planned to do Lake San Antonio plus the Big Sur Coast, but it turned
      out perfectly. Got to the lake right around sunrise and slowly cruised some
      of the campgrounds, quickly discovering that the BBB wasn't kidding when it
      said they had a huge population of Mule Deer: they were all over the place,
      including several stags with good racks! (One was even spotting the
      volleyball net...) Best "campground" bird, though, was a couple of Turkeys
      gobbling at each other! More California Quail zipped across the roads by the
      dozens as well. The most incongruous bird was a Great Blue Heron stalking
      his way through the oak woodland (maybe he was hoping for a ground
      squirrel...)!

      They had a little mile long nature trail that was very nice; the most action
      was at the picnic area half way around. Both towhees hopped around, as well
      as a family of California Thrashers and a couple of Wrentits; it was kinda
      fun seeing these three similar brown chaparral birds together! A
      White-crowned Sparrow feeding on the ground jumped straight up when a
      thrasher with breakfast came tearing through! Back at the car a Bobcat went
      tearing across the road at breakneck speed; what a look!

      Wandered over to Harris Creek, which was by far the best viewing of the lake
      bird-wise. It was a little cove with several Coots and Mallards, but also
      several White Pelicans and Western Grebes. And this place was almost as good
      as the famous 101 Rest Stop: the magpies were all OVER, just putting on a
      great show! The steam and clouds over the lake gave an ethereal effect, and
      as I found more boat launches and spots to view the lake (including a one-way
      fishing access road), added DC Corm, Eared Grebe, and California Gull to the
      list. At the visitor's center had yet another Chippie in with the Whiteys
      and the token Goldie; gee, maybe I should tell David about this???
      (According to his range map they should all be gone by now...)

      I wanted to try and get out of there around 9:00 to start heading over the
      Nacimiento-Fergusen Road to the coast; the ladies at the park wanted to
      dissuade me, I think, as they explained that going by way of Paso Robles was
      just as fast, and besides, you have to go through Fort Hunter Liggett and
      they'll want your driver's license, registration, birth certificate, great
      grandma's social security number, etc. etc. But since that was the plan, I
      opted to stick with it, and I'm so glad I did: besides the nice Ferruginous
      Hawk on the way out, it wasn't bad at all going through the fort: a very nice
      lady DID ask for my driver's license and registration, but that was to fill
      out a visitor's form to let me on base, and she told me exactly how to get to
      the road! And I had barely made the turn when a big, beautiful Golden Eagle
      came tearing into a tree! After awhile he got fed up with the Ravens
      hassling him and took off again, but what a show!

      The habitat was beautiful through here (oak savannah), and there were lots
      more magpies, but once out the other side of the fort you're in the Padres NF
      (glad I had my Forest Adventure Pass), and while the road IS narrow and windy
      as the gals had warned me, it was only 15 miles to the Coast Highway, so that
      made it a perfect birding road! I stopped every mile, and it quickly went
      into luscious riparian woodland following the Nacimiento River, where in
      addition to the excpected stuff picked up Winter Wren for the trip, and
      another cute Red-breasted Sapsucker! After awhile you rise up into the hills
      (I hesitate to call them "mountains" after Yosemite et al, but this is after
      all the Coastal Range) and got the Steller's Jays, and I thought I may have
      had a Pygmy Owl calling, but I always associate them with much higher
      elevations, and the dickey birds didn't seem to be upset (as opposed to when
      I tried whistling back and they ALL got irritated, especially a wing-flicking
      Hermit Thrush!). Anybody know their status in these mountains?

      Coming down the other side was glorious: it was mostly chaparral with some
      patches of grassland on the very tops of the hills, but there were also some
      patches of deep woodland where the road would do hairpins, and it was in one
      of these patches I had a knockout male Townsend's Warbler! You shortly saw
      the Pacific Oceans, and the vistas were marvelous; the hawks liked it, too,
      as a pair of Redtails came in close, a Sharpie flapped alongside me for
      awhile, and yet another Golden Eagle sailed overhead! Kept an eye out for
      one of those condors, but only had TVs, alas.

      Once I hit bottom I headed south to find the "Gorda Overlook" mentioned in
      the BBB, which indeed gave you a distant look at some pinipeds WAY down there
      on the rocks, but I can't help but wonder if something got lost on the way to
      the publishers, because I know from a previous trip that several miles south
      of here just into SLO County there's a TERRIFIC pullout (complete with Brown
      Bin sign) where you can virtually walk right up to the Elephant Seals! And
      that spot is NOT described in the book, so I couldn't help but wonder if
      THAT's the overlook they really meant to describe. I plan on stopping there
      on the way home Friday; it's too good to pass up!

      From there I headed north and stopped at a few vista points; some were better
      than others, and at one especially good one had Brandt's Cormorants, Brown
      Pelicans, and a lone Black Oystercatcher. At the Big Bridge (don't know what
      creek that is, but EVERYBODY stops there to take pictures) had a slough of
      gulls including a couple of Mew for the trip. At a couple of stops you could
      make out Chestnut-backed Chickadees making noise, and a Savannah Sparrow
      popped up in one patch of Pampas grass. I pulled into Julia Pfeiffer Burns
      SP just to yet a bozo off my bumper, and picked up a HUGE flock of
      Band-tailed Pigeons wheeling overhead, just like you see city pigeons do!

      Made it to Big Sur right around three, just in time to check into Big Sur
      Lodge, which is right inside Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This is a terrific
      place to stay (the cabins are comfy, clean, modern, and spacious, if you can
      live without phone or TV, and you have your own little balcony out back), and
      boasts a roosting tree for the reintroduced California Condors. Alas they
      didn't decide to come in tonight (although an Osprey cooperated instead), but
      I didn't have to go far for a wonderful roast duck dinner and a cup of
      delicious coffee/chocolate ice cream with coconut and macadamia nuts! :-)
      Bird List:

      Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
      Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
      American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
      Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
      Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
      Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus
      Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
      Great Egret Ardea alba
      Snowy Egret Egretta thula
      Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
      Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
      Osprey Pandion haliaetus
      Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
      Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
      Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
      Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis
      Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
      American Kestrel Falco sparverius
      WILD TURKEY Meleagris gallopavo
      California Quail Callipepla californica
      American Coot Fulica americana
      BLACK OYSTERCATCHER Haematopus bachmani
      Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni
      MEW GULL Larus canus
      California Gull Larus californicus
      Western Gull Larus occidentalis
      Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata
      Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
      Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna
      Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
      Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
      Red-breasted Sapsucker Sphyrapicus ruber
      Nuttall's Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii
      Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
      Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
      Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
      American Pipit Anthus rubescens
      Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
      Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
      Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
      WINTER WREN Troglodytes troglodytes
      California Thrasher Toxostoma redivivum
      Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana
      Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
      Wrentit Chamaea fasciata
      Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
      CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE Poecile rufescens
      Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus
      White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
      Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
      Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
      Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
      Yellow-billed Magpie Pica nuttalli
      American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
      Common Raven Corvus corax
      European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
      House Sparrow Passer domesticus
      Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
      House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
      Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
      Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
      Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
      TOWNSEND'S WARBLER Dendroica townsendi
      Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
      California Towhee Pipilo crissalis
      Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
      Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
      Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
      White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
      Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
      Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
      Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
      Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
      Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus

      74 SPECIES
      So Far: 186 SPECIES

      Mary Beth Stowe
      San Diego, CA
      MiriamEagl@...
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