Last Thursday I hitched a ride with Chuck Vaughn to bird Usal Beach Campground. Also with us was Steve Stump who works at the Ukiah Waste Treatment Plant. Usal Beach is at the southern end of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Also known as the Lost Coast” because of the lack of main roads in the area. It is approximately one hour north of Fort Bragg. A six mile one lane dirt road make it hard to get into.
Usal Beach Campground has become known as a vagrant trap to local birders. Vagrants are birds that are not normally seen here. They are generally young birds that have lost their way and are a little off their normal migration paths. Some great birds have been found there. It is a place that serious birders have to go in the Fall. We were the sixth known group of Fall birders to make the trip. Everyone agrees that this Fall vagrant migration has been poor. Two conditions are required for a good year, fog and a south wind. We are having a fog less year and the winds have been from the north. Since most birds migrate at night they need clear nights to navigate, fog will force them down. A south wind slows them up and forces them down. The birds this year are just flying over us birders on their way south.
From all accounts our group had the best day of birding. We found several groups of birds in the trees with numerous warblers and flycatchers but even we didn’t find anything new. We did have some excitement. Steve spotted a male Roosevelt Elk.
Wikipedia states, “The Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti), also known as Olympic elk, is the largest of the four surviving subspecies of elk in North America. They live in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest and were introduced to Alaska’s Afognak and Raspberry Islands in 1928. The desire to protect the elk was one of the primary forces behind the establishment of the Mount Olympus National Monument (later Olympic National Park) in 1909”. We spotted at least 3 of them during our trip.
The wind picked up in the afternoon making birding difficult along the coast. I was able to refind the Lapland Longspur for them on the Mendocino Headlands.