Monday, March 31, 2014

La Jolla to Long Beach - S. California

We arrived at the sandstone cliffs in La Jolla at dawn; hundreds of Brandt's & Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and Gulls were courting and building nests on the steep cliffs.
Brandt's Cormorant - Nuptial bowing

California Sea Lions rested on the rocks awaiting the high tide before sliding off into the waves.

We followed the Pacific coastline to the Torrey Pines State Preserve; located just north of the famous golf course.  This is a beautiful high ridge with sand cliffs and the only place in the world where this rare pine tree is found.
Hermit Thrush

Black-necked Stilt

We spent a week at Oceanside, the park was a short walk along a tidal stream to the beach that stretched for miles in each direction.
Whimbrel feeds in the surf

Brown Pelican rides the waves

Oceanside Pier

Walks to a nearby cemetery gave us a new life bird - the Red-lored Parrot.
California Gull sounding off

We drove along the Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and walked the Big Canyon Trail seeing the rare Spotted Dove and this Allen's Hummingbird.

Next stop was the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve - an important reclamation area for nesting terns: Least, Royal, Caspian, Elegant and the pictured Forester's.

We arrived at Golden Shores RV Park in Long Beach for our week's stay.  Our site overlooked the Golden Shores Ecological Preserve and the Los Angeles River.  We walked paved trails along the river and harbors.  We found a new bird for the year - the Black Oystercatcher feeding on Blue Mussels at low tide.

Across the river, the Queen Mary is docked; this is the troop ship that Ty's dad sailed to Europe on to fight in WWII.
Western Gull waiting for fishermen's handouts

Fighting crabs

While watching March Madness Basketball on March 28th the RV started rocking and rolling at 9:09 to a 5.1 earthquake centered about 20 miles northeast of us.  This was a new experience for Ty, when we were here years ago I felt one while Ty slept through it.  

We spent a few hours at El Dorado Regional Park with a small nature center and miles of trails with good bird diversity plus Red-eared slider Turtles lined up on a log.
Western Bluebird

Our son Travis drove down from LA for a nice walk along the shore and lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp.  We had to answer Forrest Gump Movie trivia from the waiter.  We will see Travis & Tina again later when we move to Malibu Beach RV park.

On Sunday we enjoyed the worship service at Cottonwood Church and were blessed hearing our friend (pastor in Green Bay) Joel Holm preach the message. We reconnected with Joel and Marie for supper at Famous Dave's BBQ - a touch of Wisconsin.

Tomorrow it's into the LA traffic, our least favorite experience.

Love & Prayers,  Ty & Ida

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Imperial Beach to Point Loma - S. California

As the skies cleared we traveled into Imperial Beach for a week.  Our RV site overlooked the south end of San Diego Bay, a National Wildlife Refuge Estuary area where high tides make great mud flats for shorebirds, egrets and ducks.

We walked to the ocean and the IB pier, where we found this Pelagic Cormorant, new for the year.  Note the beautiful iridescent colors on the neck and head.  We spent several days birding along the Tijuana Slough from the berm along the beach finding: Elegant Tern, Snowy Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Brandt Cormorants, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwits, Western & Clark's Grebes, and a distant look at a Brown Booby.

We saw on the bird list that a Thick-billed Kingbird was near-by and they put GPS coordinates to the exact tree it was seen in.  Something new to learn, but we did it - the bird was not there but very near - within 50 yards.  A fun addition to the trip list.

A day trip to the Mexican border - and Border Field State Park gave us some other new birds including this Mexican migrant; the Black-throated Magpie-Jay that we found on the way at the community gardens helping themselves to everyone's fruit and vegetables.  We found about 12 in the area along the Tijuana River.

We also found the California Gnatcatcher, Wrentit, Yellow-headed Parrots, California Thrasher and a few warblers.  We then drove over to the Dairy Mart Ponds and found this Box Turtle that crossed our path.

We moved up to Chula Vista RV Resort and one of our day trips took us northwest of San Diego to the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma.  We had beautiful vistas of the wave washed cliffs and tide pools.  We spotted Red-throated Loons in the surf along with California Sea Lions, and spouts from Gray Whales, and Black-vented Shearwaters.

As we were reading graphic panels on Gray Whale migration we had this three-foot, South Pacific Rattlesnake slither by within 6 inches of our feet.  I stepped back while Ty got down on his knees with the camera.

This Chula Vista park is one we visited on our first trip to California back in 1988 with our sons.  It is located on the San Diego Bay and I remember Travis saying that he would one day live out here in California.  He made it happen and has enjoyed the LA area for 22 years.

Daily walks along the bay produce many shorebirds, waterfowl, herons, grebes, coot and nesting osprey.  New for our year list were Black Brant geese and many Surf Scoters in nuptial plumage.

As much as we disdain San Diego traffic, exotic birds beckoned us to venture forth.  We walked the Fomosa Slough trails, a small urban wetland that produced, Tropical and Cassin's Kingbirds and Bullock's Orioles.  Large flocks of Lilac-crowned and Red-Crowned Parrots and Blue-crowned Parakeets announced their presence before they came into view.  We also had Costa's and Allen's Hummingbirds joining the already nesting Anna's.

Our next stop was the San Diego River across from Sea World where we scoped hundreds of American Wigeons to successfully find the one reported Eurasian Wigeon.  Also of note were the large concentration of American Avocets.

After receiving poor directions and a couple stops for clarification we found the Tecolote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center.  The naturalist on duty led us to the locations where Nutmeg Mannikins could be observed.  Five minutes later, 7 of the mannikins came in to the shallow water to bathe and preen.

This large, fuzzy, golden bee (one of the bumble bees - but couldn't find it in the insect book) was active around the flower beds.  He was not camera shy, hovering in front of the lens.  
Heermann's Gull

We sometimes don't have to walk very far to see birds, this Great Egret was hunting for lizards around the RV.

Enjoying the winter with the "Snow Birds"
Ty & Ida Baumann

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Southern California Desert

After crossing the Colorado River, we drove across miles of the barren, rock-strewn Colorado Desert into the Mojave Desert.  We spent three days at Joshua Tree National Park staying at Cottonwood Campground.  This area is known for it's unique geology and very unusual plants such as the Joshua Tree.
Some large Joshua Trees are over 300 years old

Eroded Monso-granite - 30 ft. Skull

Joshua Tree blooms that form a new branch

Huge granite hills are scattered throughout the park

We stayed two days at Yucca Valley and walked the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve's boardwalks and marsh trails. We added new birds here such as the California Towhee (pictured), California Thrasher, and Bushtits building their large basket-like nests.

We drove through the beautiful Jacinto Mountains up to 6,500 feet passing through 5 life zones.  We observed Oak Titmice, Band-tailed Pigeon and this fantastic White-headed Woodpecker.

Our next stop was the Salton Sea where 10's of thousands of birds gather for the winter: Am. White & Brown Pelicans; 4 species of grebes' 5 species of gulls including Mew and Yellow-footed; Snowy & Black-bellied Plovers; White-tailed Kites; Sprague's & American Pipits; Burrowing Owls; Black & Yuma Clapper Rails; White-faced Ibis; a few lingering Snow & Ross's geese; Am. Avocets; Black-necked Stilts; Long-billed Curlew; and the newly divided Sage Sparrow - the Bell's Sparrow; and Marbled Godwits (pictured).
The agricultural lands surrounding the Salton Sea are also dotted with geothermal electric generating plants.  Near one were these "Mud Volcanoes" - a local tourist attraction.  After 5 days and nights of trains and smelly cattle yards we were ready to move on to the desert wilderness.

The Anza Borrego Desert State Park encompasses 32,000 acres.  We got the last electric campsite.  At sunrise we started our hike into the Palm Canyon Oasis hidden in the jagged rocks.

Birds included the California Quail, Canyon & Rock Wrens, Anna's & Costa's Hummingbirds and Black-throated & White-crowned Sparrows.

A herd of 13 Bighorn Sheep work their way down the jagged canyon walls to the flowing stream each afternoon.
Hidden Oasis of Palms in the desert

With severe weather predicted we crossed the Curamaca Mountains and hunkered down for the much-needed rain near Jamul at Pio Pico Park.  Drought stricken California was eager to get the rain, but fire-barren hills lay waiting for mud slides, coastal surge and wind caused flooding, downed trees and multiple traffic accidents.

In between rains, we added some interesting birds such as Golden-crowned Sparrow (pictured), Lawrence's Goldfinch, Allen's Hummingbird and 34 other species of birds.  We also had a coyote digging out and catching one of the numerous ground squirrels in the hillsides.

Storms gave way to sun and we are now on the Pacific Coast for the  next several weeks.

Over 1,000 days on the road.
Love & Prayers,  Ty & Ida