“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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 298 - Santa Barbara to Figueroa Mountain

I departed around 7AM for my journey to Figueroa Mountain.  Without detours the journey would be about 63 miles so I wanted to get an early start.  The first portion of the journey went smoothly, and I arrived at the Gaviota rest stop a little after 9AM.  By milage this is halfway.  Based on reports that would come in later I rode by 2 birds that I would like to see: American White Pelican at Refugio State Park, and Cattle Egret at Gaviota State Park.  Luckily at the time I was blissfully unaware of this.

I climbed up and over the Nojoqui Grade (about 1000 foot climb) and turned towards Solvang passing by Nojoqui Park.  I passed the park and noticed something in the large pasture that abuts the park.  I could not make out what it was, but I had seen a Coyote in that field before so I was thinking that was it when I got closer and noticed it had a long skinny neck.  I got out my binoculars and was quite astonished to be looking at a young Sandhill Crane.  Very rare for our county and certainly out of place in this location.  I took some photos and sent out an email detailing this crazy bird.  Although folks arrived within 45 minutes, the bird had disappeared by then.  If I did not have photos I might not even believe it myself.

Sandhill Crane (Juvenile)

Sandhill Crane (Juvenile)

I continued on towards Solvang and was rewarded with the first new bird of the trip near the entrance to the Alisal Guest Ranch - Yellow-billed Magpie.  This California endemic species is not difficult to find within its range.  This trip was my first foray into their normal range for the year.  I was happy to catch up with this sporty-looking species.  Yellow-billed Magpie for #262!

Yellow-billed Magpie

I took a little detour on the way to visit Armour Ranch Road.  This is generally a good spot to find Horned Larks, although it can be helpful to have a spotting scope as sometimes they are quite a distance from the road.  I did not have a scope and it took about 45 minutes to finally locate a few Horned Larks.  It was fun to watch them methodically turning over bits of bark and cow dung looking for lunch.  Horned Lark for #263!

The ride out Figueroa Mountain Road to the base of the climb was pleasant.  I kept my eyes out for Lewis' Woodpecker, Golden Eagle, and Prairie Falcon but did not see any.  What I did see was far stranger.  As I passed the gates of "Neverland", the ranch that used to be owned by the late Michael Jackson, there was a group of people dressed as zombies dancing to Michael's "Thriller".  Now there's something you don't see every day!

The last seven miles to Figueroa Camp was not so pleasant.  After riding 65 miles with my gear, that 2500 foot climb was quite a grind.  I am not afraid to admit there was some walking along the way. 

My wife joined me for a pleasant dinner and a campout under the nearly full moon.

After the addition of these 2 species, the year's total stands at 263

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 263

Today I rode a total of 72.7 miles

More later,

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