Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back on the Trails

Jeanette took this photo of me on the trail early this morning. I’m back to working on the trails here at Buckskin Mountain State Park. I’ve now spent four days working on them, and finding it very enjoyable and fulfilling. It’s great to see that the work I did last year for erosion control held up and functioned. I need a couple of more days yet to finish cleaning out the water-bars, ditches and culverts and then they will be in tiptop shape again.

Yesterday we got our schedules for next month. I’m quite pleased to be leading bird walks two days a week this year, Mondays and Thursdays. Fridays I will lead a nature hike, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays I will work in the Information Center. Jeanette is currently working on a special Ranger assigned project to clean and organize the shop. Then on January she will start her regular schedule of working in the Registration Office and the Gift Shop. Saturdays and Sundays will be our days off.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Olive Harvest

We have a number of olive trees here at Buckskin Mountain State Park. This seems to be an unusually good year for olives, the trees are loaded with ripe olives.  I’ve seen a large number of small birds, in the trees, and I assumed they were feeding on bugs.  Yesterday after watching a House Finch closely I realized they were actually feeding on the olives. They don’t have to be large enough to eat the olive whole; they simply peck a hole through the skin to get at the pulp. Shown here is a Verdin, a tiny bird of some four inches, eating away on an olive. Not only are the House Finches and Verdins busy feeding in the trees, I’ve seen Gambel’s Quail dashing about to snag olives on the ground.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Squirrel

Arriving back at Buckskin Mountain State Park this afternoon after our drive from Surprise, we were in need of a little bit of leg stretching.  So, we took off on a hike and while climbing up the Lightning Bolt Trail we spotted what looked like a chipmunk on the canyon wall. After returning to camp, down loading the photos, and pouring over identification books, I came up with the identification of a Harris's Antelope Squirrel.  They look and act like chipmunks, holding their tails straight up when they flee.  This one is feeding on a mesquite tree bean. The strange thing is this is the first squirrel we have ever seen here.  We didn’t see any in the four months we were here last year.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Surprise - - we are in Surprise, Arizona!  Jeanette’s sister Patty and her husband Kordel invited us to their home in Surprise for Christmas Dinner.  Here is Jeanette, Patty, and Kordel in their pool this evening.  Notice the orange tree in their neighbor’s back yard in the background.  Lots of sunshine here today with the temperatures up to seventy degrees. Surprise is a suburb of Phoenix, and about 160 miles from where we are staying at Buckskin Mountain State Park.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Site Number 33


We are all tucked-in now in campsite #33 here at Buckskin Mountain State Park where we will spend the next two months in our volunteer positions.  We arrived yesterday afternoon before the BIG rainstorm just in time to get set up and visit with a few of our co-workers.  Today we finished our set up by completing the two giant tasks of setting up our new water softener system and connecting the satellite TV system. I took this birds-eye view this afternoon with my zoom lens from the viewpoint over looking the campground on the Lightning Bolt Trail.     

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Camping at Wal-mart

We fled the fierce rainstorms of San Diego this morning and drove over the mountains to El Centro hoping for some drier weather.  It’s wet here too, but less wet. The best we could do for a campsite in an RV park was 25 dollars with no hook-ups, which didn’t make a lot of sense to us, as we knew we could park at Wal-Mart for free.  So we drove on to Wal-Mart and are parked in their parking lot for the night.  So far we have made three or four trips into the store and have spend about 50 bucks.  I’m not sure you can camp at Wal-Mart for free.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rain, Rain, Rain

This is the view out our window this morning and it looks like it will be the story all day. We are having quite a bit of rain here in the San Diego area but I realize I’m probably not going to get much sympathy from anyone judging from what’s going on in the rest of the country. Although it’s wet here, it’s warm with the temps in the low 60s. We are about to run out of indoor activities, we have already been shopping at REI, which resulted in new shoes for us both, and a super-sized bird-watching bag for me. Tomorrow our time is up here and we will be heading over the hill to the desert expecting dryer conditions. We will be at Buckskin Mountain State Park by the 23rd and be ready to start our volunteer assignments.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black-crowned Night-Heron

This Black-crowned Night-Heron is one of four species of herons we have seen here at Santee Lakes. The others being; Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Snowy Egret.  We see numerous Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets daily, but we have only seen a total of two Black-crowned Night Herons. They are good sized at 25 inches and are rather stocky looking birds compared to the gangly looking other three.

Our stay here at Santee Lakes has mainly centered on birding. I had not expected this before hand, but it has turned out to be one of the better bird locations. In fact I have been able to add photos for 20 species to the Critters section since arriving here on the 11th. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Google Maps

Yesterday while at Mission Trails Regional Park we spotted a car with this strange device on top come whipping up the drive way and through the parking lot.  It took a few minutes to realize it was the camera car filming the Street Views for Google Maps. I took a couple of photos and the driver gave us a thumps up. So if you happen to be looking at Street View of San Diego and see a couple of old farts with binoculars, a camera, and a little dog, it might be us. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Buster and the Mountain Lion

Today we drove to the Mission Trails Regional Park to hike a couple of trails and see the Visitor Center.  It’s a huge park of some 5,800 acres. It seems like every park we have visited this year as posted signs warning of Mountain Lions, also called Cougars.  However, in this photo Buster seems quiet unaware of any danger, in fact seems a little proud to be hanging out with the big cat.  Of course he might have been coerced to pose with a peanut-butter pretzel treat.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thee Days of Birding

This photo of a Red-tailed Hawk tearing apart an American Coot kind of caps off the last three days of intense birding here at Santee Lakes.  I already posted our Monday birding experience.  Tuesday’s effort was in getting good photographs.  I returned to the coach with 65 great photos of a variety of birds, but in attempting to download the photos into the computer I mistakenly deleted all the photos in the camera. Very bad!  Today my goal was to recapture as many photos of birds as I could. But the sun never really made it out, with the result being very poor light conditions.  I took 42 photos in the morning, but nothing was really new or exciting.  I made another try this afternoon and was lucky to have some people point out this feeding hawk to me. I’ve now added a dozen new photos to the Critters section of Cascade Ramblings since we have been here at Santee Lakes.  And, one other milestone, it has now been a month since we left home.   

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Pair of Wood Ducks

We knew from the past two days here at Santee Lakes that the birding was going to be good when we got around to it.  This morning we made it our priority, and spent the morning circling several of the ponds identifying and photographing.  In the end, we positively I.D.’d 28 different species.  At this point it looks like I’ll be adding at least 8 new photos to the Critters section of Cascade Ramblings.  Birds are so numerous here it is almost like birding at a zoo.    

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santee Lakes

This is the view from my recliner at our campsite in the Sycamore Loop at Santee Lakes.  You can see Buster’s nose in the corner from his position of sitting on my lap.  Soon after taking this photo we moved inside to the comforts of air conditioning. Our thermometer read 89 in the shade; too hot. It is expected to cool in the next few days and we will be more comfortable.  We are not complaining, as we feel very fortunate to be here in this amazing park, particularly after yesterday’s experience of driving through LA.  I referred to it as driving through the belly-of-the-beast. We arrived here pretty frazzled yesterday afternoon, but we have settled in today and are looking forward to our stay of a week or so.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

McGrath Beach State Park

This Great Blue Heron seems to think this campground is his.  Actually, most of the campground is closed because of high water.  We learned after talking with a Volunteer that the high water is caused by the ocean sand damning up the Santa Clara River. Actually the whole place is pretty much deserted, in fact it’s only open on the weekends.  Lucky for us we got here Friday afternoon.  We are staying here to give us a strategic launch site to blast through Los Angeles early tomorrow morning with the plan to land at Santee Lakes in San Diego tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So Long San Luis Obispo

Jeanette bid fair well to San Luis Obispo and its bright fall colors today during our hike of the Felsman Loop Trail on Bishop Peak.  Tomorrow we will be leaving and heading on south on Highway 101 towards San Diego. We have enjoyed San Luis Obispo immensely.  The climate is pleasant, the downtown is compact and vital.  Its citizens are friendly, happy and active.  Walking, running and cycling are all around. We will be back.   

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Near Starvation

Midway through our hike today on the Lemon Grove Loop Trail I was really getting hungry, so hungry in fact that I almost took a bite out of a Prickly Pear Cactus fruit.  Guess I should have eaten a bigger breakfast!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bishop Peak

I’m finding out that if you spend the morning birding, you don’t get in much of a hike, or if you spend the morning hiking, you don’t get in much birding.  So, we’re trying to mix them up a bit. After having a great birding day yesterday we tapped today as a hike day, and set our sights on the Bishop Peak Trail. This photo is taken from the saddle between two of the spires. For more details check out the Trip Journal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Morro Bay

Today we took a trip to Morro Bay, a special place to us, filled with many good memories.  We first “discovered” Morro Bay in 1999 during our bicycle trip from Canada to Mexico.  We returned in 2003 in October on a combination trip that involved an AMTRAK trip to San Luis Obispo, and then a bicycle trip that looped through the area and included Morro Bay.  We last visited Morro Bay in January 2009 staying in Morro Bay State Park in our Rexhall motor home. Today’s trip was different in that it was just a day trip there, mainly to bird watch.  We spent the morning walking the path along the bay in Morro Bay State Park. It was a wonderful sunny morning and we were able to identify 30 different species of birds, and for the second time in the last few days our path crossed with fellow birder Dave Keeling.  Our morning was concluded with lunch at Jeanette’s favorite place for fish tacos, Giovanni’s.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

SLO Saturday

Staying close in today.  Had a little early morning rain, which was done by the time we got up.  Spent the first part of the morning working on the Trip Journal, and late morning took a short walk through the botanical gardens.  This afternoon we’re watching the game---GO DUCKS!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Exploring the Area

We did a good bit of exploring today and have a much better idea of where we are here at El Chorro Regional Park.  In the morning we did a four-mile hike on the Eagle Rock Nature Trail, which is how we got this birds-eye view of our campsite. If you look closely at the photo you can see our coach in the center between the trees and the golf course in the upper right. Our site is at the back of the campground and we are literally a stones throw from the 11th tee. It's a quiet location without any close by campers. In the afternoon we went into San Luis Obispo and did some shopping, a bird book for me, a long-sleeved shirt for Jeanette, and groceries. It was fun to travel through the town and remember great memories of past trips. Tomorrow we will probably stick close by to be able to watch the DUCKS beat the Beavers!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Park New Friends

We left San Lorenzo Park this morning where we had grown fond of an immature Red-Shouldered Hawk that we saw most days.  You can see a photo of it in the Critter section with a morning catch. But now we have moved a little south and are now camped in El Chorro Regional Park close to San Luis Obispo. After getting set up and having lunch, we heard the now familiar cry of a Red-Shouldered Hawk!  Looking out the window we could see this immature sitting on a perch in the Dairy Creek Golf Course next door. We got our birding stuff and stepped out side to take a walk through the park, but before we got out of our campsite we had identified 7 different species, and by the time we had walked through a couple of loops of the campground we had scored 19 birds! There is no way we are only staying here one night. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wildlife Sightings

I took this photo the first day we were here after coming back on this trail.  Tomorrow we will have been here a week, and no Mountain Lion sighting.  This morning however, we did spot a Bobcat!  I first got a glimpse of what my best guess would be of a feral cat fleeing across the road, next came a Bobcat.  Jeanette got to see it too, and we are both confident in our sighting.  Poor bird morning, only 7 confirmed species, but then, we did see a Bobcat.