Horned Larks were being seen at the Ukiah Waste Treatment Plant. I haven’t had much luck finding them on the coast so I made a last minute decision to travel over the hill to see if I could find them there. I had been thinking of doing a totally carless trip to Ukiah just so I could say I did it. It would mean either walking down the road (almost 2 miles) to the Little River Store or riding my bike down the road on a chilly morning. I would also have to do it before the time changes or I would be walking or biking up that 2 miles in the dark. Not something I wanted to do. I chose to take my bike. The ride down wasn’t too bad.
When my favorite bus driver, Cheryl (I hope that’s how she spells it), picked me up she laughed and said they never knew where they would find me. The transfer to the Ukiah bus (route 75) happens at Navarro Beach Road. The bus ride over the hill is actually a pretty ride. You have the Navarro River watershed, the Redwoods, wine country, and oak hillsides with great views. Fall colors were in view most of the way as a view from the bus window shows.
My bike and I got off at Plant Rd. and I biked down to the UWTP. I was immediately greeted by Steve Stump who is a new birder and works at the plant. He walked me out to the north pond and helped me find the Horned Larks that had been there for several days. The picture below isn’t great but gets the job done.
Funny story. While I was still birding Steve came out and said that there was a company lunch and all the employees were leaving and would have to lock the gate. He said that all I would have to do to get out was push the “red” button on the concrete wall by the gate and it would open. He also said that he would leave the lunch early and get back by 12:30 to get some birding in. So I continued to bird. When I went to push the “red” button nothing happened. The plant is surrounded by a fence with barbed-wire on top. I kept pushing that button and still nothing. There was another “red” button down by the gate so I pushed it, nothing. After trying all “red” buttons I had the feeling that I would be inside the plant until Steve got back. I ate my apple and birded around the buildings a little. Noticed that my only company was an old orange “tabby” cat. A truck went into the dog shelter next to the plant and saw me locked up. I wondered if someone would call the police. Then I saw the etchings in the asphalt at the gate that meant there was a pressure plate under it. I wondered if the weight of my bike and I could open the gate. Even jumped up and down a couple of times, nothing. A few seconds later an alarm went off and I felt I was now in trouble but it was the gate opening. I hustled out as fast as I could. Caught the 12:30 bus just up the road and no signs of Steve returning. In any case I got the Horned Larks and a Wilson’s Snipe for a year total of 239 birds with over 2456 truck miles saved.
I was intending to bird Riverside Park at the end of East Gobbi Street. Because of the narrow streets and the big buses in Ukiah the driver had to let me off at South State Street and Gobbi to bike down (1.5 miles) to the park. Nothing was happening there so I biked over to the Pear Tree Center and had a chocolate malt and waited for my bus ride back to the coast.
Cheryl picked me up at Navarro Beach Road and when she dropped me off in Little River she laughed and said that the 2 mile bike ride up Little River Airport Dr. wasn’t looking so inviting after a long hot day in Ukiah. She was right. I must be getting some leg muscle because I beat my best time biking up the road by 6 minutes.
I’ve decided that if I do it again I would just park my truck at the Van Damme Beach parking lot and would save about 6 miles over parking in Mendocino.