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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coast Starlight: Northbound

Time always flies when you're having fun, and our California trip was no exception. On the morning of Friday, February 24th it was already time to check out of our hotel, but before we left we took another walk along the bluffs and the beach. There were lots of surfers out, and lots of birds too! I saw a northern mockingbird (151), which I thought might be a "big miss" on the trip. On the rocky part of the beach was a single northern tattler (152), and perched on a wire near a residential neighborhood was a Say's phoebe (153).

Right after our walk, the fog moved in really quickly, and the temperature dropped accordingly. Goodbye, warm California weather! It felt like it was happening to make it easier to leave. Because of the chill, we decided not to walk on the beach near the butterfly grove again, instead exploring part of the town of Pismo Beach which we hadn't done yet. The highlight was walking out the Pismo Beach Pier. In addition to getting a different perspective by looking almost straight down on the surfers, there was a lot of wildlife activity just beyond them. Bird-wise, there were brown pelicans, common murres, lots of gulls, and a couple of loons - one of which was close enough to differentiate as a red-throated loon (154). There were also some great mammals to be seen - sea otters, a pair of sea lions, and best of all - a small pod of dolphins!! I first spotted their dorsal fins just beyond the surfers, and they seemed to be surfing themselves. Then two of them jumped in synchrony, completely clearing the water! It was awesome. The volunteer in the information booth on the pier said he'd seen gray whales and porpoises from the pier before but not dolphins. I'm guessing they were probably bottlenose dolphins, but it was hard to tell through the fog.

After lunch, we headed inland to drop off the rental car and wait at the train station for our ride back north. Away from the coast, the sun was still shining, and it was warm enough to sit outside on a bench in a T-shirt and read for an hour before the train came. You can be sure I soaked up every ounce of California sunshine I could! Here was the view from my bench:

In that hour I also saw/heard an impressive 15 species of birds. Most entertaining were the three kestrels - one female and two males seemingly competing for her. One of them definitely had the upper hand - I actually saw him mating with her twice, but the other male was making quite a racket trying to get in there, too. There was also a very vocal pair of red-shouldered hawks that flew by twice. Spring was most definitely in the air!

Our train came, and I enjoyed the last couple of hours of daylight as we started our trek north. As the sun was setting over the hills to our west, this was the scene from the train just before it got dark:

That was the last we'd see of the warmth on our trip! When we awoke, it was near Klamath Falls, Oregon, where the temperatures were below freezing, the breeze was blowing, and we saw occasional snow showers. It was still pretty, though.

After pulling out of the Klamath Falls train station we passed right along Upper Klamath Lake, where there were eagles, ravens, and lots of scaup, bufflehead, and common mergansers.

I also saw a couple of black-billed magpies (155), which I figured would be my last species for the trip. We then headed up into the Siskiyou Mountains where more snowy scenes awaited us.

We descended back into the Willamette Valley and just before pulling into Portland, I added one more year bird - a wood duck (156) near Gladstone! We spent the night at my parents' house, and before heading back north to Washington the next day, I also got to see the evening grosbeaks (157) that had returned to their feeders while we were on the trip. Amazingly, from when we left Friday Harbor until we returned, I added an impressive 49 year birds to my total for 2012, including 3 life birds. That was way beyond my expectations!

While driving north through Washington we experienced every type of weather - sun, rain, snow, hail, and back again - and when we got on the ferry the sun came out again to welcome us home, even though the temperature was now about 45 degrees colder than in California!

1 comment:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Sea otters, dolphins and other mammals..Some great sightings there Monika...only 35 behind :-(