It was time to hit the road. I needed to get away from the South Coast, as there are more birds lurking in the mountains that I am unlikely to see closer to home. So I hatched a plan to ride to Upper Oso Campground in the Santa Ynez River Valley, spend the night, and return the next day. Although only about 25 miles each way, this ride would involve going over San Marcos Pass (2200 feet) hauling gear. Coming back would not be as bad as I would be starting from about 750 foot elevation instead of sea level.
Elevation Plot of Ride to Upper Oso Campground
The ride up San Marcos Pass went off without incident. I would not call it enjoyable, but it was not as bad as I thought it may be. My first stop was at Kinevan Road (elevation 1900 feet) to try and find a Warbling Vireo, and perhaps a Cassin's Vireo. Before I even got to the area where I typically look for birds here I heard a Warbling Vireo. It even posed for a decent photo. Bird #1 for the day! As I was leaving this area I heard the song of a Cassin's Vireo. After a couple of minutes I found it too. Bird #2 for the day! This was a great start, bird-wise.
I went over the summit and coasted down to the Paradise Store where I paused for a snack. I then continued along Paradise Road to the Live Oak Campground. This is my go-to 100% guaranteed place to go to see a Rock Wren. Except for today. When I arrived and looked around, no sight and no sound of a Rock Wren. I did quickly find an Ash-throated Flycatcher (I would see many more of these) for bird #3 of the day.
It being midday, hot and bright, I holed up in the shade for a couple of hours to let the heat of the day pass by. After emerging from this break, I decided to give the Rock Wren one more try. If I did not find it today I could always check on the way by tomorrow. Typically I find them down close to the campground, but I thought I heard one far up the slope. I worked my way up to the bottom of the slope and after a bit of looking found not one but two Rock Wrens. Bird #4 for the day!
I headed up towards the day's destination of Upper Oso Campground. There was a detour I could take to the spot where I found Rufous-crowned Sparrows back in December. I opted against this as it was up a pretty good hill and I'd had enough of those for the day. The turnoff to Upper Oso was about a mile from this spot. When I reached the turnoff I heard an interesting sparrow song. I checked my bird call app and sure enough it was a Rufous-crowned Sparrow! I followed the bird around the area a bit, and eventually another one joined it. Bird #5!
On the way to Upper Oso.
I continued on to Upper Oso without further distraction. The draw for me here was recent reports of Western Screech Owl and Common Poorwill. These are both nocturnal species that are more often heard than seen. I have seen a Screech Owl once in a tree outside my house. The only Poorwill I have seen was, sadly, dead beside the side of the road. Luckily the calls of these birds are quite distinctive so they are easy to identify by sound alone.
After arriving I took a stroll around the campground. The most amusing birds were the Bullock's Orioles which were making quite a racket in the Oak Trees. Unfortunately they stayed near the top of the trees and were not too photo-friendly.
As dusk settled in I heard the call of a Western Screech Owl. Bird #6! About 15 minutes later I heard not one but two Common Poorwills calling. Bird #7! Throughout the night the Screech Owls could be heard calling from various directions. At one point there was one in the tree directly over my sleeping bag. On the other hand I heard the Poorwill only twice - once at dusk and once at dawn.
I awoke early and got rolling for home about 6AM. It was rather chilly at that hour. There was only one target bird I had yet to find on this jaunt, and that was the Wild Turkey. There is typically a flock somewhere in Paradise Road, which runs near the Santa Ynez River. I took my time on the way back hoping to encounter a Turkey or two. I had nearly ridden through the zone I had seen them in the past, when I spied 8 Turkeys in the Fremont Campground. Two of the males were strutting their stuff for the ladies. Bird #8 for the trip!
I made it back over San Marcos Pass without incident. I coasted down to Goleta and made my way back to Santa Barbara. I was enjoying a celebration breakfast at the Cajun Kitchen when I received a text from Peter Gaede: "Wood Duck at Laguna Blanca." I finished my breakfast and backtracked the 3 miles to the drying lake in the middle of La Cumbre Country Club.
As was the case during my last visit here, the birds were far away from any legal vantage point, and I was not about to walk out on this swanky golf course in my biking gear. I could see a number of Mallard Ducks and some Cinnamon Teal, but no Wood Duck. However, there was one duck asleep on a rock that looked different than the other ducks. I checked with Peter, he confirmed this was likely it. I waited for about 10 minutes for the bird to raise her head so I could get a positive ID. Bird #9 for the trip! A great bonus bird, as Wood Ducks can be hard to come by in these parts. I was not sure I would catch up with one this year. Thanks Peter!
A highly successful couple of days. I will be taking a few days off now.
Some photos from the last couple of days. The birds were not particularly cooperative.
Bullock's Oriole (Male)
After the addition of yesterday and today's 9 species, the year's total stands at 216!
Yesterday and today I rode a total of 60.6 miles