I had been planning another trip to Ukiah to seek a Ring-billed Gull that I missed earlier in the year. With Swamp Sparrows being reported at the Ukiah Waste Treatment Plant I decided to go over there Thursday to find them both. For the Ring-billed Gull the best place to find them would be the Lake Mendocino Dam. My last trip to the dam can be found here. On that trip I wrote about the troubles of using the MTA with a bike. Because of some narrow turns and the bigger buses used in Ukiah you can’t use their bike racks between certain points. An important point, only in Ukiah, at some of their bus stops, is this fact known.
With this in mind I had the bright idea of using MTA’s Route 75 (Highways 128 & 253) to take me and my bike to the Ukiah Library where, I was told by a Ukiah bus driver, I would have to be to continue on the local Ukiah bus going north. Remember that bright idea. The last trip to Ukiah I did a totally truckless trip. With the recent time change that wasn’t possible since I take my safety very seriously:-) No low light bike riding on a narrow steep road for me.
As to the title of this post the first thing I learned was that the bus drivers take their safety seriously too. I parked my truck at the Van Damme Beach parking lot. There is a wide pullout just above the parking lot which I thought would be perfect to flag the bus down. So the bus is coming and I’m flagging but it keeps going with the driver signaling me to go up to the Little River Store a short distance further up the road. She explained that they can’t see traffic coming around the curve at the pullout where I was standing. After that the trip to Ukiah was normal. I got off at the library and waited for the local Ukiah bus going north. When it came the driver waved me off putting my bike on the rack. She said that I would have to go up to the courthouse which was a right turn and two blocks up where she would wait for me. So I hurried up to the next bus stop and caught the bus. I explained that another bus driver said the library was OK but she said that I must have miss understood what he said. In any case that was the second thing I learned.
Downtown Ukiah is full of old buildings. I thought this picture interesting.
I got off at Twin Palms (a mobile home park with two palms?) and biked to the Lake Mendocino Dam. I would like to tell you that I made it all the way to the top but I can’t. Just like the last trip to the dam I almost made it. Since this isn’t an “extreme” bike blog I don’t feel too bad about it. At least on my last trip to Lake Mendocino the dam was useful. This is the vast amount of water it is holding back now.
Pretty impressive isn’t it? Did I find my Ring-billed Gull? At first I was worried because I could only find California Gulls. Then I saw three guys eating their lunch and I found this Ring-billed Gull begging.
So the secret to finding them at Lake Mendocino is to go around lunch time. Going down from the dam to my bus stop was easy. I followed the rules. Got off at the library, biked down Main Street to Safeway and got back on there for the trip to the UWTP. Located the Swamp Sparrows with the help of Ryan Keiffer, another local birder, and Steve Stump. Lighting and distance prevented a good picture but take my word for it, this is a Swamp Sparrow.
During the trip back I asked the Route 75 bus driver where she went after the stop at the library since the schedule shows it to be the last stop on the route and she still had passengers on the bus when I got off. She said wherever they wanted to go within reason since she has a layover. She had taken a passenger to the Mendocino College which went pass the Twin Palms Mobile Home Park where I had begun my bike ride. She could have dropped me off. This is the third thing I learned. REMEMBER I’m making these mistakes so others reading this have it easy:-)
One thing that the recent time change has done is allowed me my first sunset from a bus.
Totals are 243 birds seen and over 2660 carbon producing truck miles saved.