“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 167 - Summertime

Summer vacation is here, so it is time for me to trade the June Gloom of Santa Barbara for the Red Rocks of Southeastern Utah.  This means a hiatus for the Green Big Year.  Overall I am pleased with my progress thus far, and I am looking forward to heading farther afield later this year to chase down some more birds!

Note to rare birds: please stay away from Santa Barbara County for the next few weeks!

Happy Summer,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 166 - Lake Los Carneros

This morning I took a spin around Goleta, spending the most time at Lake Los Carneros.  I must say it was really nice to be riding on the road without a load of gear!  It was a typical plumbeous June morning in Santa Barbara, which did not help with the photos.

There was a good level of bird activity at Lake Los Carneros, with lots of young birds of many types.  The first interesting thing I saw was a young White-tailed Kite.  I had heard that a couple had fledged here recently but could not find any on my last visit.  This one did not stick around for long and I did not see any adults.  Hopefully they will find enough rodents to keep it (and hopefully its sibling) growing.

White-tailed Kite (Immature)

The next fun thing I came across was a Red-shouldered Hawk.  It was about to eat breakfast.  I have been looking forward to getting a photo of this bird all year.

Red-shouldered Hawk with breakfast

The last interesting sighting of the day was the Horned Grebe that has been hanging around here for awhile.  It is really into full breeding plumage now, I believe that is rather unusual for these parts.

Horned Grebe - breeding plumage!

And lastly, a photo of a Great-tailed Grackle, because - well, just because.

Great-tailed Grackle

No new birds today but as usual a pleasant outing.

After today the year's total still stands at 231. 

Today I rode a total of 29.0 miles

More later,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 164 - Big Pine Mountain Adventure

Sometimes things do not go as planned.

I have just returned from an epic journey to Bluff Camp, which is close to Big Pine Mountain but not quite there.

I departed from home as planned on Thursday AM, and made an uneventful ride up over San Marcos Pass arriving near Upper Oso Campground around noon.  After resting during the heat of the afternoon I set out towards Big Pine Mountain hoping to make some headway so that the entire ride would not need to be made in a single day.  I made a difficult 4 miles of progress, climbing 2000' in the process.

On Friday morning I hit the road early hoping to make some distance before the heat of the day arrived.  This was a good move as the first 4-5 miles were still quite uphill.  There were some birds around here and there, about 10 miles into the ride I found a pair of Lawrence's Goldfinches feeding by the side of the road.  This is a new species for the year, so that helped to raise my spirits.  The scenery was pretty nice too:

View looking West, Santa Ynez Valley in the distance.

The last weather report I had before departure was 20% chance of rain.  At the last point of phone reception, I got a text stating a flash flood watch was in effect for the area I was heading to.  Hmmm.  Late in the morning a few clouds began building over the mountains and I was glad for the shade.  At this point I was running low on water and food so made a decision to stop and wait for the rest of the team (who were driving) when I was down to 1/2 bottle of water.

Right about this time the team was being informed by the Forest Service that they would not be permitted to make the trip due to the threatening weather.  Peter called and left a message on my phone, but of course there was no reception to be found so I did not get it until the next day.

I arrived at Bluff Camp around noon with my 1/2 bottle of water and 1 remaining energy bar.  This seemed like an ideal place to wait since it actually had the one and only building along the entire road to Big Pine Mountain.  As the clouds and thunder built overhead I wandered the property checking out the birds and flowers.  I found a large water tank with the label "Non-Potable Water" but the water actually seemed clear and clean.  There were also some very nice flowers around, which I believe to be a type of Mariposa Lily:

Shortly thereafter it began to rain.  Then it began to hail.  Then it began to REALLY rain, the likes of which I have not seen in quite some time.  The hail covered the ground, except in those areas where it was being swept away by moving water.  And lucky me was standing high and dry in the porch of the only building for many miles in any direction.  Running out of water turned out to be the best thing that happened to me that day.  I took advantage of the rain and collected some rainwater from the roof to drink.  It tasted a little leafy but otherwise good.  I thought I'd save the "Non-Potable" water for when I really need it.

Forest Service building at Bluff Camp - Shelter From The Storm

When the rest of the group failed to arrive late in the afternoon I figured the road may not be passable.  I decided to spend the night and head back the next morning, holding onto my energy bar for the next day.  After the storm passed a beautiful evening ensued.  The local birds came out to play, including a very chatty Phainopepla with quite a vocabulary.

I arose early the next morning and hit the road after filling my water containers with the "Non-Potable" water.  At the first switchback above the camp I had a close encounter with 6 Mountain Quail, a bird that had to this point managed to avoid me in Santa Barbra County.  Another bird for the year and a good start! 

For the next 2.5 hours I made steady progress towards civilization, nibbling on my energy bar along the way.  I was not really paying much attention to the birds, just trying to keep focus and make steady progress.  When I reached a point with cellphone reception I called home and requested a pickup near the Upper Oso Campground (and bring food!).  Having spent 24 hours with little food and limited water I thought it would not be prudent to attempt to ride the rest of the way home.  I also checked in with Peter to let him know I was on the way and all was well.  The rest of the ride was pleasantly downhill!  Overall this was probably the most difficult ride I have ever done.

So the two birds I saw do not technically meet the requirements of my Green Big Year since I got a ride part of the way home.  But for now anyway, I am counting them.  I EARNED those birds!

After the addition of these 2 species, the year's total stands at 231.

On this excursion I rode a total of 66.2 miles

More later,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 160 - Preparing for Big Pine Mountain

I have spent the last few days preparing for my upcoming journey to Big Pine Mountain, where I have been invited by Peter Gaede to participate in the annual field trip there.  He has kindly taken an interest in my little adventure, and this should be a big boost for the year's species total.

This is very exciting for several reasons:  First, it is an area of Santa Barbara County I have never been to.  Second, it is far from the coast and at high elevation (above 6000 feet), an environment I have yet to visit during the Green Big Year.  I am hoping there will be loads of birds there I have not yet seen this year - and possibly a few I have not yet seen ever.  Lastly, this will be by far the most challenging ride I have undertaken this year.

Since it is a huge climb to get to Big Pine Mountain, I am planning a two-stage effort to get there.  The first day I will ride from home over San Marcos Pass to Upper Oso Campground near the Santa Ynez River.  You may recall I did this back in April - but this time I will be on my mountain bike as the road from Upper Oso to Big Pine Mountain is dirt.  After spending the night at Upper Oso I will depart early and ride to Big Pine Mountain where I will meet the rest of the group.

The ride from Upper Oso to Big Pine is only about 25 miles, but it is a climb of over 5,000 feet so I expect it will take awhile to get there!  Since this section will be downhill on the way home, I plan on making the entire return trip in one day.

A couple of days ago it was 100 degrees back along the Santa Ynez River, but amazingly it has been raining here most of the day today, with Big Pine Mountain receiving over 1" of rain.  This is remarkable for this time of year.  Thankfully the forecast looks good for the next few days.

Wish me luck.

Route From Upper Oso To Big Pine Mountain

Elevation Profile From Upper Oso To Big Pine Mountain

Stay Tuned,

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day 157 - Carpinteria Bluffs

This morning I headed down to the Carpinteria Bluffs.  There was another report of a Black Oystercatcher there this week.  This would be a really nice bird to find.  There are enough reports from this spot that I am sure if I visit there enough times I will finally see one.

This did not happen today - no Oystercatchers around.  It was actually very quiet bird-wise.  My consolation was an up close and personal visit with the resident Roadrunner.  It was cooing softly, perhaps looking for a mate?  I believe it was a little confused, as it appeared to be answering the barks of the seals out in the ocean.

Some Greater Roadrunner photos from today:

After today the year's total still stands at 229. 

Today I rode a total of 34.4 miles

More later,

Friday, June 5, 2015

Day 156 - A New Bird!

It was been 3 weeks since the last new bird was added to the year's list.  Last night a report came in from ace bird finder Nick Lethaby - a Semipalmated Sandpiper was at Devereux Slough.  This would be a great bird to see, as it seems only a few pass through our area every year.  It was too late for me to get out there before darkness arrived, so I loaded my spotting scope and left early this morning hoping the bird would still be present.

I arrived at the lookout shortly before 7AM and peered across the slough with my binocs - sure enough there was a lone peep on the far shore.  I assembled the scope and tripod to get a better look - it can be difficult to tell the Semipalmated Sandpiper from a Western Sandpiper.  After getting the bird in the scope I could confirm the field marks that discern the Semipalmated Sandpiper - shortish, straight bill, gray coloring with little or no rufous, white flanks, dark legs, and partially webbed feet.  This was by far my best ever view of this species.  Unfortunately the bird was too far away for the camera, and I was not equipped to take photos through the scope.

A few minutes later Nick himself arrived to see if the bird was still present and added further confirmation to the ID.  Big thanks to Nick for reporting and confirming ID on the Semipalmated Sandpiper!

A couple of photos from today:

Black-crowned Night Heron

White-faced Ibis

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 229.

Today I rode a total of 24.4 miles

More later,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 153 - A Little Owling

Last evening I headed out to More Mesa in hopes of finding a Barn Owl.  In the past I have found this to be a good location for this species.

I arrived about an hour before sunset.  This gave me some time to make a circuit of the open space and observe the daytime birds as they wound down their day.  I enjoyed watching a White-tailed Kite successfully hunting for dinner.

As night began to fall, at least a couple hundred noisy crows arrived to spend the night in a large communal roost.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge yellow moon rising over the horizon.

There were no owls to be seen tonight.  Perhaps it was the strong light from the moon - in past outings here the owls would not come out until it was quite dark.

I rode home in the dark, something I rarely do.  It was quite enjoyable and there was very little traffic - but  I did get delayed a bit waiting for a skunk to get off the bike path.

A few photos from this evening

White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite - hovering

White-tailed Kite

After today the year's total still stands at 228. 

Today I rode a total of 17.8 miles

More later,

Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 152 - Lake Los Carneros

Although it is just June 1, it seems we are in the summer doldrums with regard to finding some new birds for the Green Big Year.  It has been more than 2 weeks since the last new species was found.  There are certainly new species to find if I can range farther from home, but scheduling conflicts have prevented an overnight trip.  I was thinking today of riding round trip to Buellton to see some Purple Martins and Yellow-billed Magpies (about 90 miles), but the weather forecast called for winds up to 25mph so that did not seem like a good choice.

I am planning on heading up to the mountains in about 10 days, so no doubt some new birds will be heading my way sooner or later.  In preparation for this I have recently been doing more biking and less birding.

Today I felt the urge to do some actual birding so I headed out to Lake Los Carneros.  As expected I did not add any new species, but it was a very enjoyable outing and there were plenty of interesting birds around.  I easily tallied more than 50 species and saw many fledgelings of all shapes and sizes.  I saw the continuing Horned Grebe, Mew Gull, Ring-necked Duck and Peregrine Falcon.  In addition there was a White-faced Ibis and most curiously a Forster's Tern.  I was quite surprised by the Tern, which cruised in over the lake, landed on the dam for a couple of minutes, then flew off.

A few photos from today:

Red-tailed Hawk - fledgelings

Peregrine Falcon - immature

Forster's Tern

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - fledgeling

Bushtit - fledgeling

After today the year's total still stands at 228. 

Today I rode a total of 28.4 miles

More later,