Sunday, August 12, 2012

The long and winding road(s)

John had a few days before his San Diego pelagic and a few birds he could get in our local mountains. I was antsy to join him in adventure so we headed out Friday, August 10th.

Our first stop was Forest Falls along Highway 38. Its canyon was created by the San Andreas Fault and is the headwaters of the Santa Ana River. But where was Monkey Face Falls where the Black Swift was reported? We pulled into a parking area to check our maps. Two ladies with binoculars were parked next to us. John asked them how their birding was going. Big smiles of recognition, and one of the ladies said, "You are going for the Cook's Petrel, aren't you!" Turns out they were Pat and Marian from the boat trip to Attu. They were in the area to go on the pelagic too. But we all were in the canyon looking for the Black Swift, NOT the Cook's Petrel. We conferred and decided to head back to the mouth of the canyon. A narrow crack in the cliff turned out to be Monkey Face Falls. Looking up, we could see clouds of swifts like pepper against the sky. We clambered up a narrow wash and settled down to prise the Black Swifts from the more numerous White-Throated Swifts. Trying to share our sightings was like getting someone else to see a lighting strike. Eventually, John was satisfied that he had gotten a sufficient look at several Blacks. The birds would soon be migrating south so John really needed to see them. 613

Now we would be searching for the Red-Breasted Sapsucker, William's Sapsucker, White-Headed Woodpecker, Pinon Jay and Mountain Quail. There were two promising Birdseye location pins and both were way off the main roads. Here's where 'the long and winding roads' come in. About 3 PM we found where Wild Horse Meadow Road, 2N03, intersected the 38 and started up a really rocky, really rutted road. It was only about 7 miles to the pin but our average speed was probably 4 miles an hour. Wild Horse Meadow is a lovely spot even though none of our target birds showed up. About 7 PM, we spotted a bobcat stalking prey across the meadow. The click of John's camera got its attention and it continued to stare at us until we left.  As we drove into Big Bear City for the night, a Lesser Nighthawk darted across the road. 614

The next morning, we searched in the neighborhoods of Big Bear City for the Mountain Quail, no dice. The other Birdseye pin was on Arrastre Creek where it crossed Burns Valley Road, 2N02. This road was worse than Wild Horse, especially right around the creek crossing and again, we saw none of the target birds. We sure have seen some remote, beautiful country really close to a huge metropolis. Somewhere along this road, we saw a Gray Fox. There were extensive stands of big, healthy Joshua Trees as we turned south on Round Valley Road, 2N01back to the 38. I am particularly proud of my Rav4. It is just a 4 cylinder with no 4 wheel drive and it managed the fierce conditions. It has now earned the license plate RUFRD it inherited from our old 4 by 4 Blazer.

But wait! It is not yet noon! Let's try Wild Horse Meadow again! This time we started from Big Bear City. The road up to the meadow from the north side was mostly in pretty good shape. We still didn't see any target birds so we skittered down the rough half of the road back to Highway 38 and home.

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