Shady Dell- It Tried to Kill Me!

The words Shady Dell brings up images in my mind of a seedy motel in Florida. There would even be an alligator farm nearby. I tried but couldn't find that seedy motel but there are a heck of a lot of alligator farms in Florida.

The Shady Dell in Arizona looked interesting if you're looking to experience the 1950's.

Nine lovely, fully restored vintage aluminum travel trailers await you at the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona. Whether it is the 33 foot Royal Mansion built in 1951 and restored with leopard carpet, martini glasses, Diner-style breakfast booth and phonograph with a collection of 78rpm records, or the 1947 Tiki Bus Polynesian Palace, complete with hand-carved outrigger bar and your own Tiki God, the Shady Dell’s individual trailers will surely send you back to a time when freedom was just another word for jumping in your aluminum house on wheels, finding the Rat Pack on the radio and navigating the open road in search of your own slice of the American Dream.

It might be a place to stay if I ever get to Ramsey Canyon, a famous birding area.

Our Shady Dell in Mendocino County is also near a noted birding spot known as Usal Beach Campground.

After a winding 35-mile drive north of Fort Bragg on Northern California’s remote craggy coast, you reach a hidden road. Beyond it, shrouded in fog, beckons a magical redwood forest fit for the set of a fantasy movie. Sword ferns, moss and lichens blanket the forest in green. Delicate orchids and trillium accent the duff. The silence is so profound it’s as if the forest is holding its hands over your ears.

…the plan includes a trail to lead visitors through the best parts of Shady Dell. Louisa Morris, Director of Conservation and Trail Programs at Mendocino Land Trust, is working with the League to lead the project.

Trail construction will begin on June 15, 2015, thanks to support from members like you and the California State Coastal Conservancy, which has contributed $3.4 million toward the forest’s purchase and the planning and building of the path.

“Creating a trail that will take people to the spectacular features of this forest is really exciting,” Morris said. The trail will add 2.3 miles to the Lost Coast Trail, fabled for leading hikers north through neighboring Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and beyond.

Now Shady Dell doesn’t have official trails, and it’s not ready for the public. Morris’s goal is for the trail to lead visitors along the towering cliffs and through the stand of candelabra trees. Construction is tentatively scheduled for completion by summer 2016.

“The candelabra trees are unforgettable,” she said. “You’ve never seen redwood trees like these. My vision for the trail is that you’ll come around and suddenly, there they will be. It will be magical.”

Where you might ask is Shady Dell?

The Shady Dell Creek property is adjacent to the 7,800-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park to the north and the 49,500 acre Redwood Forest Foundation property to the east, which is conserved by a working forest easement. Also to the north is the Sinkyone Intertribal Wilderness Council land, which connects to the 60,000-acre King Range National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. To the south are lands managed by Soper-Wheeler, a private timber company. Elevations across the property range from nine feet to 938feet and slopes from 0-80%.

The 957-acre property contains a variety of highly valuable habitats, including one mile of coastline with sandy beach and steep coastal bluffs, as well as riparian and forested habitat types.The coastal bluff scrub provides habitat for as many as five sensitive plant species, including Mendocino Coast Indian Paintbrush. Records from the California Natural Diversity Database indicate several occurrences of an old forest lichen named “Methuselah’s beard lichen” (Usnea Longissima) on the parcel, suggesting complex forest structure. The property also offers habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl and large fauna such as elk, deer, bear and bobcats. Early to mid-succession redwood and Douglas fir forest surrounds Shady Dell Creek, a tributary of Usal Creek, which supports habitat for Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout.

What is the project?

The planned trail corridor will meander through redwood forest, coastal bluff scrub and coastal prairie habitats. As designed, the trail will largely be constructed along the footprint of an existing legacy logging road, which will minimize any impacts to the plant and animal populations present. The trail route will include a ten foot buffer to avoid impacting a rare moss population (Fissidens pauperculus – poor pocket moss) discovered during the botanical study.

The proposed project involves construction of a 2.3 mile pedestrian trail which will include three wooden boardwalks, retaining walls, interpretive and directional signage, stairs(231), benches, a 25-foot pedestrian bridge, a viewing platform, and a small parking area. Most of the trail will be constructed on a legacy logging road and require minor vegetation removal. The trail has been designed to include a ten foot buffer to avoid any disturbance to a rare moss (Fissidens pauperculus) found to occur in the vicinity.

The History of the site can be found here.

The acquisition, completed Oct. 27 (2011) and announced today, is part of a complex transaction designed to preserve 50,635 acres of redwood forest in a remote coastal area north of Fort Bragg where environmental activists and loggers once battled over the fate of California's stands of timber.

You might be asking why I'm writing about this? Short answer is that the Mendocino Land Trust(MLT) contracted with me to do breeding bird surveys along the trail path. The long answer is there are various state agencies involved in the project and permits were needed for parts of it. The granting of these permits required the MLT to do these breeding bird surveys. Because of my volunteer time with the Big River Bird Surveys I was asked if I would like to be involved. I said yes and on April 14, I received the word that the team of Nicolet Houtz, MLT's Trails and Stewardship Coordinator, and myself had been approved by the California Department of Fish & Game to conduct the surveys. It was a historical day. The first time I have ever been paid to bird.

Based on the title of this post, maybe I said yes too fast. First of all I learned that I would have to get up at 2AM to get up to Usal Beach at sunrise. On June 4th, Nicolet, Louisa Morris, MLT's Associate Director (and master trail planner) and myself traveled to the project site to survey the south section of the trail. I remember the quote well. “we will have to do a little bush-whacking”. Bush-whacking in this case means hiking an undeveloped trail on the side of a sloping hill through poison oak and California Blackberries. Your footing starts to slip and you reach out to grab something and you get a handful of thorns or something else. At one point where the non-existing trail overlooks the ocean some 900 feet below I found myself hanging on for dear life looking down on that ocean. I started calling Nicolet and Louisa mountain goats.

After getting over to the interior section of the trail they had me climbing over fallen Redwoods and other types of trees. At one point my foot started slipping into the Shady Dell drainage. I believe it was Nicolet who said, I had better hang onto the tree because she had dropped a water bottle down into that drainage never to be seen again.

When we finished that section of the trail they decided to head back the way we came. The problem with that decision was that it was all uphill. I started falling behind. Legs were hurting, heart was pounding and I was breathing heavily. Had to stop frequently. The conversation between Nicolet and Louisa when they had to wait for me probably went something like this. “It looks like it's going to take a longtime to get back to the trailhead at this rate. Maybe one of us should go on ahead and bring the truck down the road to the trail.” That's what happened. Louisa went on ahead while Nicolet made sure I didn't get lost. I know the conversation didn't mention calling 911 because there's no cellphone coverage at Usal. I had to recuperate for a week and I think I still have thorns in my hand.

I learned my lesson from that survey. Started to pump the exercycle at the Woods where I live. I was going to be ready for the next one.

They started the trail on the 15th of June. Who are they? There are two groups helping to build the trail. One is the California Conservation Corps known as the CCC. I believe their motto is, “hard work, low pay, miserable conditions…and more!” The problem with the CCC is that they can be called away to fight fires at anytime. By a strange stroke of geography the Fortuna CCC crew was doing the work instead of the Mendocino County crew out of Ukiah.

The other group is AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps programs do more than move communities forward; they serve their members by creating jobs and providing pathways to opportunity for young people entering the workforce. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.

I've heard that the hazards of trail building has taken it's toll on several of the workers. Two had to be taken out of the area to get steroid shots for poison oak. There has also been a Mountain Lion sighting that kept one of the cooks in a vehicle for part of a morning. I've also heard that campers in the Usal Campground play loud music and partake in lot's of booze and drugs during holiday weekends. It is also the only local place in the area where you can have lunch with a Roosevelt Elk. He's waiting for you to just stop by.

On July 2nd, Nicolet and I arrived to complete the bird survey on the north end of the trail. I had looked at a topo map of that section and decided that it should be easier on me but…I found out that the first section went straight up the side of a hill. It was going to be the place where most of the 231 stairs were going to be built. I did Ok on the hill because I was the leader and could control the pace. “STOP let's listen here” was my motto for the day. It was my first visit to the “Enchanted” Redwood Forest with it's Candelabra Trees. Being a big Lord of the Rings fan it reminded me of an elven or even an Ent forest.

At the top of the hill it mostly leveled off and the old logging road took us to the north side of the Shady Dell drainage. Handled the way back well with no one having to wait for me to catch up. That exercycle may have paid-off.
Nicolet did find something interesting at the top of the trail. There was a trail and game camera attached to a tree. We waved and smiled as we went by.
The plan is for the trail to be finished in August with finishing touches added in September but that may depend on the fire season. Word of advice. If you are out of shape and want to walk the entire trail start at the south end. More of your walk will be downhill. Have a vehicle waiting at the other end.
My work on the trail is done and I should be ending this post here but during my research I came upon some documentation of a contradictory nature concerning trails. Another title of this post could have been, Care to Join the Debate–Trails or no Trails. Those of you who read my blog know that I've used that theme for several of my posts.
It seems that all trails are not created equal.

More and more studies over the last 15 years have found that when we visit the great outdoors, we have much more of an effect than we realize. Even seemingly low-impact activities like hiking, cross-country skiing and bird-watching often affect wildlife, from bighorn sheep to wolves, birds, amphibians and tiny invertebrates, and in subtle ways.

Impacts from outdoor recreation and tourism are the fourth-leading reason that species are listed by the federal government as threatened or endangered, behind threats from nonnative species, urban growth and agriculture.

You'd be surprised by the ripples left by a day-hiker's ramble through the woods. In 2008 Sarah Reed, an associate conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and her colleagues found fivefold declines in detections of bobcats, coyotes and other midsize carnivores in protected areas in California that allowed quiet recreation activities like hiking, compared with protected areas that prohibited those activities.

“That is the kind of difference that you don't see often in ecological studies,” Dr. Reed said. Dogs, a frequent villain, weren't the issue for these carnivores; people were, according to her research.

Birds get ruffled, too. Researchers who studied trails around Boulder, Colo., found that populations of several species of songbirds, including pygmy nuthatches and Western meadowlarks, were lowest near trails. “There's something about the presence of humans and their pets when they go on hikes that causes a bit of a 'death zone' of 100 meters on either side of a trail,” said Prof. Rick Knight of Colorado State University.

You can read the article here. It would appear that trail builders are starting to take notice of these impacts.

Typically, the impacts to wildlife from trails aren’t as great as those from intensive development. More and more, however, we realize that— no matter how carefully we tread and no matter how much we desire to “leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures”— building trails can effect wildlife. By entering an area, we may change the ecology of a system that is complex and frequently hard to understand.

Sometimes the effects of building and using a trail are minor and fleeting. Other times they may be more substantial and long-lasting.

The state of Colorado has developed a handbook on the subject. Closer to home is this, Public Access and Wildlife Compatibility Report, developed by the San Francisco Conservation and Development Commission.

There is evidence that public access may have adverse effects on wildlife. Adverse effects on wildlife from human activities may be both direct (such as harassment or harvest) and indirect (such as habitat modification), and effects can be both immediate and long term. Immediate effects may include: nest abandonment (which may increase risk of predation of eggs or young), flushing, increased stress, which can lead to reduced feeding or site abandonment. Long-term effects may include decreased reproductive success, decreased population within species, or decreased number of total species. If improperly sited, public access may fragment habitats and serve as predator access routes to wildlife areas.

Potential adverse effects from public access can be addressed through the employment of siting, design and management strategies to avoid or minimize adverse effects, including such strategies as use restrictions, buffers, periodic closures or the prohibition of public access in specific areas. Siting, design and management strategies can be effective in avoiding or reducing adverse effects on wildlife.

As you read above, the Shady Dell Trail will “largely be constructed along the footprint of an existing legacy logging road, which will minimize any impacts to the plant and animal populations present.” The path to the Candelabra Trees is already known and being used by the public. A well planned access trail will prevent damage to the surrounding habitat. The crews have already remove an abandoned vehicle from the location and cleaned up a dump site but there will be a trail in parts where no trail existed before. In this day and age nothing is black and white. I do know that in working with the Mendocino Land Trust I have developed a new appreciation for the capabilities of their staff and their goals.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir













The Big River Bird Surveys–Laguna Marsh


Thursday morning was my second of three legs of Big River Surveys. This time it was Laguna Marsh. Laguna Marsh is a beautiful place to bird but very few birders get a chance to bird there because it’s a hard place to get to. I haven’t been there in over three years.

Four of us left the main Big River parking lot at 6:00AM and traveled up Comptche-Ukiah Rd. for about 9 miles to a locked logging gate (far right red arrow). Beyond the gate was Conservation Fund property. Down a logging road we went to a second locked gate (left red arrow) behind which was California State Parks property and Laguna Marsh. Another way of getting there is a trail (green arrow) about 7 miles up Comptche-Ukiah Rd. I hear that it’s very steep and you have to cross over an old falling down bridge at the bottom. You can also walk or ride your bike 8.3 miles up the Big River Haul Rd. and ford the river (yellow arrow). There are other logging trails into the marsh but you would need an ATV and a good sense of direction. The blue arrow is the last survey point on the Big River East Haul Rd. survey. It’s 1.83 miles by straight line, 2.2 miles by trail to the marsh from that point. The actual survey points at Laguna Marsh are shown below.

The Mendocino Land Trust has this to say about Laguna Marsh. “60-acre Laguna Marsh, an unusual inland and extensive fresh-emergent wetland representing one of the most productive habitats on earth.” I could not find much else in the literature and study’s available on the Big River area. 

Some of the attractions for birders visiting Laguna Marsh are the Wood Ducks and Purple Martins, a California Bird Species of Special Concern. Wood ducks during the survey route were abundant but unfortunately we could find only two Purple Martins (a pair going in and out of a hole) towards the end of the route. Normally we would find 6 to 8. One of the main snags that we’ve alway found Purple Martin in was quiet. In fact there was almost no swallow action during the whole survey with just a few Violet-green Swallows and one Barn Swallow seen. It seemed strange because the mosquito population was huge. Another California Bird Species of Special Concern is the Olive-sided Flycatcher. They have always been present at the marsh with 3 or 4 present during our surveys. They were very active during our visit. Another California Bird Species of Special Concern that has been found at the marsh is the Vaux’s Swift. None were found during this survey. A review of Ebird records for them shows that they are very rare in Mendocino County this year, especially along the coast.

We made it out alive without too much blood loss and next up will be the Big River–East Haul Rd. survey.

The Return of the Big River Bird Survey.


A week ago Tuesday I was on the west end of the Big River Haul Rd. leading a Spring bird survey. I had been approached by Nicolet Houtz, Trails and Stewardship Coordinator, for Mendocino Land Trust, to see if I would be willing to lead some surveys, something I’ve done in the past. “Since 2003, working in collaboration with Mendocino Coast Audubon Society and Mendocino High School’s SONAR program, as well as trainers from Mad River Biologists, Big River Stewards have pursued a long-term study of bird populations at Big River.” These surveys will establish a baseline from which to monitor changes to the property. I first started doing these surveys probably in 2007 and continued through 2011. Since the death of Matt Coleman in 2011 the surveys have have been infrequent, if not on “hold”. Nicolet’s job is getting them restarted. I’ve written about Big River and Matt Coleman before. You can find that post here. You can find a report on the Big River Bird Surveys on the Mendocino Land Trust’s website.

The surveys are taken on 3 different parts of the Big River watershed, the West Haul Rd., the East Haul Rd., and Laguna Marsh. Each survey route consists of about 10 or 11 fixed survey points about 1/3 of a mile apart. This mostly allows for not recounting birds and since they are fixed you can get a feel for any changes at that point. Below is a map of the points for the West and East Haul Rds.

The surveys at each point is for a 10 minute period. During that time we count every bird seen or heard, trying not to count any birds more that once. This year’s surveys were accompanied by lots of Mosquitos. That not always the case. These surveys remind me just how many Wilson’s Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Swainson’s Thrushes, and Song Sparrows there are along Big River. This year we had 2 Hermit Warblers (more on them later) and a softly singing White-throated Sparrow which is rare here at this time. During these surveys we have the rare privilege of driving the Haul Rd. behind the locked gate.

Near survey point 5 we stopped to check out the Double-crested Cormorant Rookery. This is the only “known” DCCO rookery in Mendocino County and with binoculars we could see 5 or 6 active nests. Will have to take my scope next time to observe them better. This rookery was discovered after a Spring Big River Bird Survey in 2011. We had noticed cormorants carrying what we thought was nesting material. I went back later and found the rookery.


On the way back we stopped to check out the Great Blue Heron Rookery which can be seen directly south from Matt’s Memorial Bench. We could only find 2 active nests. That’s Nicolet in back and Linda Perkins of the Sierra Club in front.

I have not been birding as much this year as I did last year. Still catching up with things around the house and my reading. I have continued my weekly Saturday birding at the Little River Airport and have moved to Thursdays for my “off” season SOS Shorebird Surveys at Virgin Creek Beach. Still using the MTA and my bike to get there. In fact I had a 88 day period between gas fill ups for my truck which is a new record. Some of that was caused by rain but it seems the less birding I do the more gas I save. How sad!

At the airport I have found that most of the migrating birds have arrived early this year, some as much as much as 12 days early (Allen’s Hummingbird). Only Wilson’s Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher were on time. I found my first “Spring” Hermit Warbler “airport” record this morning during a bike ride around the airport. With the two we found on Big River (in a place where I’ve never seen them) and the two I heard singing Monday while walking around the “Wood’s” where I live, Hermit Warblers seem plentiful this year.

At Virgin Creek Beach the shorebird surveys during late Winter and early Spring have been the worst I’ve ever seen since I been surveying. Surfbirds, Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers were all in short supply. It picked up a little this last month and last Thursday (during some rain) I found 3 Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks.

Looking forward to the start of the regular SOS Shorebird Surveys in July.


Friday’s Birding/Dante’s Prayer

I had tried to schedule an early MTA pickup in Mendocino for Friday. I received a call from Jeff Beard, the north coast supervisor, that because it was the day after Thanksgiving it would be 6:30AM instead of 7:00AM. He explained that many years ago the employees had given up Veteran’s Day Holiday in exchange for the day after Thanksgiving. The CC Rider (bus to Santa Rosa) was the only bus operating for the day. That would mean that I wouldn’t get back to Mendocino until somewhere around 7:00PM. I decided to cancel that trip and do something local. Navarro Point was something local and I could continue my sea watch for alcids. Thanks to the Mendocino Land Trust, Navarro Point exists. 

View from one of the many lookouts at Navarro Point.

I set up my scope from what I thought would be a lonely lookout point. While scoping for sea birds I would lookup to find out that I had company. At least three groups of people at different times came all the way out to my point to check on what I was watching. This is an interesting phenomenon that happens to birders all the time. Find a place, get out the binoculars or scope, and the people will come. Another interesting thing was that two of the groups were from Washington D.C. and were not connected. All were “after” Thanksgiving family outtings. After they left I was finally able to get my scope on a sea bird. I tried really hard to turn it into an alcid but it just wasn’t acting like one. It wasn’t diving and was picking at food on the surface. I soon realized that it was a Red Phalarope. Red Phalarope is a “year” bird so I wasn’t too disappointed. Normally we find them on our pelagic trips but since the Fall trip had been canceled I wasn’t expecting to get one this year. Seeing one from the shore is rare. 

I walked a little south along the bluff to a bench that I knew was there.

The Mendocino Land Trust website explains that this is, “The Deborah Bove Memorial Bench is located near the southern portion of Navarro Point along the trail. This is a unique wormwood bench and memorial stone honoring the life of Deborah Bove, who was a former California Coastal Commission employee who dedicated much of her life to coastal access and preservation. This bench is a favorite spot for whale watching, bird watching and enjoying sunsets.”

I guess I’m a curious kind of guy. I googled the words on the stone and found out that they are part of the lyrics to Dante’s Prayer by Loreena Mckennitt. If you are interested in the rest of the lyrics and a video of Loreena Mckennitt singing them read to the end of the post.

I decided to move up the coast to the Mendocino Headlands again for a brief look from the bluffs. As you know from reading about Thursday’s birding I didn’t find anything new except for my Black Oystercatcher rock. I found 5 Red Phalaropes. There must be some sort of Red Phalarope invasion going on. They were close enough to shore to get a usable picture.

I have finally moved on to 247 birds seen with over 2810 carbon producing truck miles saved.


The lyrics to Dante’s Prayer are:

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We’ll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me

 Enjoy the video. 

Edited 6/7/14: Sorry about the video. 


Big River

Another of my favorite places to bird is Big River located just South of Mendocino. I’ve spent many hours surveying birds here during the Spring and Fall seasons and during the new Fort Bragg Christmas Bird Count. A bike ride along it’s over 8 miles of mostly level Haul Rd. is a very enjoyable ride. Big River was “saved” in 2002, a few years before I arrived in Mendocino County. I’m glad they saved it. Once again the Mendocino Land Trust was involved. Read about it on their site

“The property’s unique natural resources include:

  • 1,500 acres of wetlands, including brackish, freshwater, saltwater, and fresh emergent marshes, the 8.3-mile long estuary, and associated riparian habitats.
  • 27 endangered, threatened, or species of concern.
  • 60,000 acres of connected wildlife habitat between this and adjacent public land, and over 100 miles of joined trails.
  • 50 miles of Big River and its tributaries, home to Dungeness and shore crab, freshwater mussels, ghost shrimp, river otter, beaver, harbor seals, and over 22 fish species including coho and steelhead salmon, bocaccio, starry flounder, Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, eulachon, buffalo and prickly sculpin, and 7 species of surfperch.”
    I ripped that last section from their website because they can say it better then me. They have over 130 bird species on their bird list and I believe that I just added a new one.

Last Thursday I took the bike ride. Only rode 4 miles in but enjoyed every moment. Basically mirrored my CBC route. Bird wise not much new was happening until I started back. I spotted a couple of dots down the river. They turned out to be a Pied-billed Grebe and an American Wigeon well over 2 miles up river. Not a great picture. While riding back I realized that I had never seen an AMWI on big River. Returning home I checked the Big River Bird list and did not find it listed. I checked Ebird and all of the records for Big River that I had, no AMWI’s. Will continue checking but it appears to be the first “reported” record for Big River and a year bird for me.

I can’t write about Big River without mentioning a certain amount of sadness that I feel when I’m there. I first started doing Big River Bird Surveys shortly after I moved here. At first I was just an observer but was convinced that I could lead these surveys by one person. That person was Matt Coleman. Matt was an employee of the Mendocino Land Trust who did about everything for them. He coordinated the surveys, provided transportation, had tons of keys to get us through locked gates, he did the recording. All we had to do was show up. He also coordinated beach clean ups, monitored salmon, removed invasive plants, etc. When you’re out in the early morning surveying birds you get to know a person very well. Matt Coleman was my friend. On August 11, 2011, Matt was murdered by a mentally ill young man while he was working on another Mendocino Land Trust property. The Land Trust’s, Autumn 2011, Newletter was published in Matt’s memory. It can be downloaded here. Matt would have been thrilled to learn about the American Wigeon. Matt has a memorial bench over looking Big River. 

Birding the Gardens and Lighthouse

I’m still learning to get around to my birding spots by bus. Checking the schedule I found that I can get in over two hours of birding at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, which is enough, and then move on to the Point Cabrillo Light Station (fancy for lighthouse) & Preserve. I tried it this last Thursday. The MTA dropped me off right in front of the Gardens. The link to the Garden’s website is here. Audubon has bird walks here on the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month. There are over 150 birds on the Garden’s list. With it’s coastal setting you get a mix of birds and you also get some fantastic views. I’ve had some luck birding here in the past but I find that it getting too much of a “landscaped” look and feel. I try to stay on the fringes. After getting my two hours in I hustled out to the main entrance to be picked up by the MTA heading south.

I decided to get off at Caspar Beach and check out the creek and walk the newly created Caspar Uplands Trail. The Mendocino Land Trust is responsible for many find trails here. Their website lists them all.  The trail starts down near the beach and then proceeds uphill above the north side of the campground. It then skirts the cemetery with it’s Osprey nest, travels south along Highway 1 for a short time, veers west and comes out in a meadow where the trail takes you back to Point Cabrillo Dr. I’ve been successful in finding Hermit Warbler, Western Wood-pewee, and Red Crossbills on the trail during season. This time it was pretty quiet. 

The next part of the walk takes me north to South Caspar Drive And west to Vega Drive Which takes me to the north entrance of the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. Check it out here. The light house is still on the job and most of it’s associated buildings like the captain’s house have been restored. The lighthouse has a gift shop and information center inside it. There is also a small marine science building nearby. It’s all done with volunteers. The park is a great place to observe the passing of Gray Whales during their migration. Most of the park is grasslands with some trees and bushes around the edges. Have found Horned Larks (rare) here a few time. Also have found Rock Sandpiper amongst the Surfbirds and Black Turnstones. Instead of hiking up to the parking lot, I have been exiting the park by taking the bluff trail south and then east where the trail takes you to the Highlands Mobile Home Park. Picked up the bus there which took me back to my truck in Mendocino. While I didn’t see anything new I certainly had a pleasant day on the Mendocino coast.