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Central CA Part 15: Andrew Molera SP

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  • MiriamEagl@aol.com
    30 OCT 02 Actually got to sleep in a little, as I was just initially going to head down the Coast Highway a little in hopes of finding a condor roosting tree.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2002
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      30 OCT 02

      Actually got to sleep in a little, as I was just initially going to head down
      the Coast Highway a little in hopes of finding a condor roosting tree. No
      such luck, so I headed on to Andrew Molera SP, where all the trails begin at
      the big parking lot. The trail I initially wanted to take was impassable due
      to the river being so high, so I took the trail through the walk-in
      campground down to the river mouth and then up to the bluff. I'm not sure
      how long this is exactly, but it took me about three and a half hours to do,
      and it was worth every minute! You start out hiking through a lovely little
      riparian area before hitting the open campground, then you go through more
      eucalyptus groves and willow riparian woodland before you can actually see
      the river mouth. The place was alive with sparrows, and at times the Goldies
      outnumbered the Whiteys! The day's only Acorn Woodpecker was near the
      trailhead, and a Nuttall's was way back there, too, but surprisingly the
      dominant woodpeckers appeared to be Hairies and Downies! Every once in
      awhile a "chink" would announce the presence of a Townsend's Warbler, and an
      occasional Orangecrown would show, but Butterbutts were the dominant warbler
      of course, with the ratio between Audubon's and Myrtles appearing to be about
      half and half. At the potty I made a wrong turn and ended up at what was
      probably the "Willow Patch" marked on the map, but that proved productive
      with a small flock of waxwings overhead and a couple of female Purple Finches
      giving good looks.

      When it finally opened up to the river I sat for awhile and enjoyed a Great
      Egret sillhouetted against the misty river. A ton of gulls was feeding at
      the mouth, so I hitailed it to the end of the trail, where no less than five
      species were having a feast (plus a token Western Grebe), and several
      turnstones of both types were feeding against the rock face and jumping up
      with each wave that came in.

      After that decided to brave the Highlands Trail and am very glad I did: the
      stairs were intimidating, but the view was spectacular as you overlooked the
      river mouth and the collasal sea stacks on the ocean side. Here were the
      obligatory pelicans and cormorants, and on one rock a bird I was hoping to
      see here: the Peregrine Falcon! A pair of Black Oystercatcher came screaming
      in as well, doing their little bowing thing. In the meantime a couple of
      Coots, a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and a female Red-breasted Merganser had
      moved into the river!

      Heading back I flushed a Red-shouldered Hawk (which made me feel good about
      counting it after hearing several but not trusting the Steller's Jays), and
      ran into several foreign kids who had spotted a Monarch cluster in the euc
      grove! Chestnut-backed Chickadees were all over but frustratingly skulky,
      unlike the kinglets and Hutton's Vireos who insisted on getting in my face
      instead. A Hermit Thrush came out in the open, too, flipping his wings
      irritatedly, and a Brown Creeper did a very kinglet-like "dee-dee-dee" which
      left me with a feeling of, "Oh great; NOW how am I supposed to tell them
      apart?!".

      That walk pretty much wore me out (plus there was a creepy guy "camping out"
      at one of the picnic areas where the other trail was, so I really didn't
      wanna go there), so I decided to head on up to Pt. Lobos. And what a place!!
      In many ways it kinda reminded me of Torrey Pines State Reserve in San
      Diego, with the coastal bluffs and local wind-blown conifers, but this was
      MUCH more spectacular! I stopped first at Whaler's Cove and just took a
      quick look around; best bird was a point blank Oystercatcher on the rocks!

      Headed up to the Information Station after that, where I took the Old Veteran
      Trail by mistake, but it was a great one, as it dead ends at a tremendous
      Brandt's Cormorant rookery! (Another birder I ran into poured salt in the
      wound by telling me about these Alaskan birders who just happened to pull
      over on Highway One, looked up, and had two condors sailing overhead...)
      Went back and hiked the loop I meant to hike, the Cypress Grove Trail, which
      was a wonderful walk through these beautiful Monterey Cypress trees, covered
      with red lichen on the ocean-facing sides! Sea Lions (for which the park is
      named) barked constantly, although I couldn't actually spot any (the sun was
      at a bad angle by that time).

      The nice thing about this park is that it has many trails that criss-cross
      each other, so you can make your own loop trails! That's exactly what I did:
      I went to the Piney Woods picnic area after that, and hiked a loop through
      the woods that used parts of the Pine Ridge, Mound Meadow, and Lace Lichen
      Trails. I was surprised at how crowded the park was for a weekday, but I had
      THIS trail all to myself, and enjoyed a curious little Winter Wren and picked
      up several flocks of Pygmy Nuthatches for the trip. Sparrows were all over,
      including several "Sooty" Fox Sparrows. I'm amazed by the number of what I
      consider "high altitude" birds showing up in comparable habitat along the
      coast, so I guess the habitat is really the deciding factor here! Speaking
      of which, Hairy Woodpecker was definitely the dominant woodpecker in here.

      After that headed down to the Bird Island parking area, but not before
      squealing into a parking area along the road when I noticed HUGE waves
      breaking over the shoreline boulders! Of course, the minute I got out the
      car and got the camera out I had to wait several minutes for another huge
      wave to come by... :-P

      Anyway, did another loop taking the Bird Island Trail, then connecting with
      the Mound Meadows Trail again, the Pine Ridge again over to the South Plateau
      Trail, then down to Bird Island and back to the parking lot. This was nice
      in that you had a variety of habitat, but it was pretty strenuous in spots,
      so I'm not sure I'd do it again. They had benches strategically placed along
      that whole loop, and at one rest a Sharp-shinned Hawk came tearing in,
      causing some Townsend's-type warblers to chink excitedly (but they wouldn't
      subsequently come out, naturally). Also heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet doing
      it's rapid "dee-dee-dee", then immediately heard a lower, slower version, and
      wondered if that could have been the creeper? Then again, at this point, I'm
      accepting the possibility that they could all be chickadees... :-P Most of
      the birds on this trail were similar to the last one, except that a chickadee
      actually decided to come out where I could SEE it, and a Hutton's Vireo with
      very pale lores literally came within touching distance; I almost thought it
      was a Cassin's at first, but I couldn't discern much (if any) contrast in the
      throat.

      Decided that I'm definitely gonna hafta come back tomorrow and check out
      China Cove, though, cuz you could see HUNDREDS of birds crammed on the rocks
      down there, and the trail takes you right up to them (or at least it appears
      to)! But as it was, my time was up, and I had to get to Carmel, which is
      just a DELIGHTFUL little place! Checked into the Tradewinds Inn and had
      dinner at Le Coq Dor down the street, a cozy little place with scrumptious
      food, and where the owner and I had quite the conversation about the end of
      the world! Bird List:

      Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
      Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
      Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
      Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
      Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus
      Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus
      Great Egret Ardea alba
      RED-BREASTED MERGANSER Mergus serrator
      Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
      Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus
      Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
      American Kestrel Falco sparverius
      PEREGRINE FALCON Falco peregrinus
      California Quail Callipepla californica
      American Coot Fulica americana
      Black Oystercatcher Haematopus bachmani
      Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
      Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
      Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala
      Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni
      Mew Gull Larus canus
      California Gull Larus californicus
      Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
      Western Gull Larus occidentalis
      Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata
      Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
      White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis
      Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna
      Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
      Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
      Nuttall's Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii
      Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
      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
      Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
      Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
      Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
      House Wren Troglodytes aedon
      California Thrasher Toxostoma redivivum
      Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
      American Robin Turdus migratorius
      Wrentit Chamaea fasciata
      Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
      Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens
      Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus
      PYGMY NUTHATCH Sitta pygmaea
      Brown Creeper Certhia americana
      Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
      Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
      American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
      European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
      Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
      Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus
      Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
      Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
      American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
      Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata
      Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
      Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi
      Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
      Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
      California Towhee Pipilo crissalis
      Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
      Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
      White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
      Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
      Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
      Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus

      72 SPECIES
      So Far: 189 SPECIES

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