Thursday, April 28, 2005

28th April - Yellow-billed Magpies

With an ambitious schedule we decided to leave the Mount Pinos area earlier than originally planned, which was probably a wise decision. Travelling along the Cerro Norroeste Road there was a big change in scenery, but it was no less impressive. Birds here included lots of Horned Larks beside the road, as well as Lark Sparrows, Lazuli Buntings and my first definite Tricolored Blackbirds.

We stopped off at Cottonwood Canyon Road, primarily to see Yellow-billed Magpie, not found anywhere outside California and northern Mexico. As it turned out we saw several more along the journey so we needn’t have stopped, but it was a nice spot anyway. The road up Bates Canyon looked a bit difficult, if not impossible for our car so any thoughts of looking for Condors from the top were dismissed – we didn’t have time anyway (but it didn’t matter as we saw one next day).

Vitty had wanted to visit one of the historic missions, a chain of which are spread up the west coast. We went to San Antonio Mission as it was on the way to the Big Sur where we were heading. It was an interesting place (and held more Yellow-billed Magpies) set in the middle of Fort Hunter Liggett, a large military site but rich with wildlife.

We arrived at the Big Sur where the scenery was amazing. Vitty had been here before but only in the fog so was keen to see it again. Apart from the scenery the most exciting sighting was a Gray Whale, close inshore and giving great views. Other sea-mammals included California Sea Lion and Sea Otters. The birds were good too including 150 Brandt’s Cormorants and Black Oystercatchers.



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