Looking for Horned Larks

Thursday I decided to look for Horned Larks at the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. I’ve seen them there during this time period. It was probably the shortest bus ride I’ve taken. Only about 4 miles. I joked with the bus driver that I wasn’t getting my money’s worth.

I did not find any Horned Larks but did come up with a Clay-colored Sparrow. It was only the second one I’ve seen in the county.  I was surprised to find it. So surprised that I didn’t get a picture of it. I was expecting it to be one of the many Savannah Sparrows in the area. Clay-colored Sparrows are listed as rare here in Mendocino County. One or two are found every year. The range map below is from my Sibley Bird App. You can see that they are mostly seen in the middle of the country.

It is bird number 235 with over 2302 truck miles saved.




Osprey Watch

Thursday I decided to do my Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Caspar Upland Trail, and Point Cabrillo Lighthouse hike. I’ve described this hike in an earlier post. It’s a long but beautiful walk using the MTA to get around. The birding has really slowed along the coast so I was really just looking for lost vagrants. I didn’t find any but added a new Osprey nest to my list.

There is a website called OspreyWatch that is sponsored by the Center for Conservation Biology. They are asking people to observe and report on Osprey nest.

“The mission of OspreyWatch is to collect information on a large enough spatial scale to be useful in addressing three of the most pressing issues facing aquatic ecosystems including global climate change, depletion of fish stocks, and environmental contaminants.”

Osprey are one of very few truly global sentinels for aquatic health. They feed almost exclusively on live fish throughout their entire life cycle.  They are a top consumer within aquatic ecosystems and are very sensitive to both overfishing and environmental contaminants.”

I have entered several nests to the website but fail miserably at keeping tabs on them. One of the first nests I added was at the Caspar Cemetery. This nest was destroyed early in the year by high winds. I have before and after pictures.

On the same day I observed the destroyed nest I observed an Osprey flying with nest material near the same location. This Thursday I found the new nest while hiking the Caspar Upland Trail.  It was almost at eye level and could observe at least one chick’s head popping up. I’ve entered the new nest into the data base at OspreyWatch and will try to keep tabs on it.

I almost forgot to mention that while waiting for the bus in Mendocino I saw Red Crossbills fly over. That is a new location for me.

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.