With the summer doldrums upon us in South Florida I thought I would recount a trip I took a couple of years ago to Northern California, as it was such a spectacular trip I thought maybe others would like to both enjoy it vicariously and maybe it might help someone planning a trip in that part of the country.
I’ve taken a few trips in the last 5 years including a trip to the Big Bend area of Texas and then back into the lower Rio Grande valley. I visited Southeast Arizona with my birding buddy Cheryl and that was also a fabulous trip which I will probably blog about at a later date. I’ve visited Northeastern Ohio 3-4 times during migration and each of those trips were memorable and the one thing all these trips had in common was that I drove the entire trip!! I figured I could bird everywhere I drove and did find quite a few life birds at various rest areas on my journeys.
Fortunately for me I had a few wise advisors who noted that to drive to Northern Cal would require at least 2-3 days each way and it wouldn’t give me much time to explore California so I got brave (I HATE to fly) and flew to San Jose where I rented a wonderful Ford Explorer which would be my main source of sleeping/living for the next two weeks. I did stay in hotels 4 nights but mostly car camped which worked out wonderfully well as many of the areas I was visiting did not have any hotels within the local vicinity of where I wanted to bird.
After landing and procuring my rental I stopped at a Wal-Mart to get supplies. Now I knew I would be eating out of the truck for a while so I just had to make a quick pit-stop at a Jack-in the-Box. This is a fast food joint I really would love to have in Florida but since we don’t I thought I’d take advantage of one when I found one!
It was already near 4pm when I finally got out of San Jose and made my way West on California Rte 130. I stopped on the side of the road once I started out of the foothills and saw my first lifer of the trip the Pacific-coast Flycatcher. A couple of the other birds I saw at this stop were Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco and American Robin.
Like all of my trips I had done quite a bit of studying and pre-planning so I had an idea of where I was going to stop for the night but was a little concerned once I started climbing the very winding mountain roads that I wouldn’t make it before it got dark. After finally figuring I certainly wasn’t going to make it I decided to just take my time and bird my way up and over and if was going to be dark it didn’t matter if it was a little or a lot dark!
My first planned stop was at Joseph D. Grant County Park which turned out to be fantastic as I added a number of new birds. Many of the species I saw on this trip were lifers so I’ll stop mentioning them and just put an (L) next to their names when I list the birds seen. Some of the species seen here were Golden Eagle (L), California Quail (L), Black Phoebe, Western Bluebird (L), California Towhee (L), Oak Titmouse (L), Western Scrub Jay (L), Spotted Towhee, Peregrine Falcon and Red-shouldered Hawk.
I continued driving till close to 11 PM before finally arriving at Frank Raines Park where there was a campground for me to spend the night at. Believe me, it was quite the experience driving on the twisting mountain roads in the near pitch darkness with nearly no other traffic and always expecting an animal to jump out in front of me at any second. I did finally make it and I don’t think it took 5 minutes before I was sound asleep and dreaming of all the new birds I was to see in the morning!!