While I was off on Spring Break last week, if you follow me on twitter or are a Facebook friend, you saw my posts about a boring little hike I went on with my older son 😉
I had spotted Gonzales Canyon a few weeks ago while going for a quick walk near the freshman baseball field at the high school. Turns out there’s a whole series of really nicely plotted trails just north of the school. Nice, wide, utility access roads doubling as trails. Very hilly and also descending into what looked like some pretty thick brush and a tree lined canyon going along a creek bed. It also did not look very populated so I didn’t want to explore it alone. (Torrey Pines Reserve for instance, has folks hiking on it constantly so is completely fine to hike alone). It just figured that the day that I was able to have time, and a hiking companion, also happened to be the first really sunny, dry, warm day in months. In other words – hello Spring – and? Hello previously slumbering reptiles 🙂
Mini Daffodils in bloom
Thanks to a very wet December, and then a fairly busy January, I’ve been unable to do any birding or hiking. The highlight of my backyard has the daffodils above which I posted on my main blog a couple of weeks ago. Bird activity has been slower than last year at this time. Same cast of characters so far with House Finches & Sparrows, White Crowned & the very occasional Song Sparrow too. There have not been as many of the latter two and they have not been as vocal with their beautiful songs as they were last year. At least, not so far. Mourning Doves have been abundant and are still the biggest teasers of the cats 🙂 They’ve grown so accustomed a dozen or so finches & sparrows on the feeder that they simply ignore them, or maybe watch with a bored expression (is that ALL?) But as soon as a dove lands in the yard, I know because I hear the chittering begin. We’ve also had flocks of Bushtits flitter through, a quick flash of yellow from an Orange Crowned Warbler or two.I’ve heard some Butterbutts (Yellow Rumped Warblers) and the Anna’s Hummingbirds still hang out in the bottlebrush tree behind my yard.A Black Phoebe hangs out at the top of the peach tree branches now & then. However, no woodpeckers or orioles or wrens yet.
Also must admit to being disappointed that my yard has not seen much hawk activity! Given the preponderance of doves (a favorite meal for a Sharp Shinned or Red Shouldered Hawk), and that I did see them twice alight on the back fence – still no evidence that they’ve enjoyed a meal here. Bummer!
As far as hiking – well, with The Boy playing freshman baseball since football ended, Saturday mornings have been blocked off for his games. My workout group has been having Sunday sessions since the new year so I’ve not been able to find a good time slot for heading back out on the trails.
The sun was out when I woke up at 7:30 so I knew the weather had finally turned and it would be clear and possibly warm on the trails. Thankfully it was not that warm, but yes it was gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky. Impossibly blue water and just a gentle breeze. I’ve noticed the larger yellow flowers (daisy & sunflower families) are waning, but the small concentrations of whites, yellows, pinks, reds & purples are still going strong. We had a very high rainfall season this year so I expect the color to remain longer than usual. I know I’m seeing a lot more floral coverage across all the trails than normal. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.
I arrive at 9:30 and this time kind of reversed what we did last weekend. I ran down the hill all the way to the beach and that was my work out portion (no way I am in shape enough to run UP yet!). That’s 1.5 miles which for me is unheard of while jogging. So, woohoo! I cooled down on the sand and took out the camera. I immediately heard the cries of a peregrine falcon. Right there over the parking lot and life guard tower a pair were chasing each other, but quite high up in the very bright sky and into the sunlight. So, no pictures but a lively 3 minutes of aerial acrobatics until they settled in separate perches very high up the cliff face.
The tide was high so there was less sand to walk on as I headed north to flat rock along the beach and then back up the trails from there. I veered back south heading up and then branched out to the new and improved Razor Point lookout. It’s been so long since I took that trail off of the beach trail that I forgot how long it was! I did spend a little time sitting on the new stone bench and helping some tourists take photos together, but then I picked up the pace heading back out to the bathrooms and then fast walked up to the car. It was easily a 5 mile day at the end with that detour and 2 hours long.
Making progress for sure! When I started these Sat am jog/hikes I would be VERY sore the next couple of days due to the running. Hips, knees, shins would all be barking. No longer!
After the Peregrine sighting, it was actually a pretty decent day for taking photos of birds. I am really not equipped for that in general and have to get very lucky and have the birds pose out in the open for me. A few of them actually did!
Last thought – I really should mention the scents out there. I have a pretty heightened sense of smell for some reason and one of the things that always strikes me there is how it smells. At certain points the dominant smell is the ocean/salt water. At other points in the pine scent from the Torrey Pines. But underneath at all times is the sweet smell of sage. On the main cement covered path that ends up going past the golf course, the sage is *intense*. The formal name for the terrain is Coastal Sage Scrub. A not quite desert blend of plants which can thrive on low water & sand/clay soil. It is quite fragrant!
Western Scrub Jay
I didn’t get started quite as early today as last week thanks to my sleepy headed hiking companion, BUT, I am glad because he suggested a completely different route and even though I was not happy about the sun being out to make the fitness part harder, I was happy it was out when it came time for pictures 🙂 There’s a lot and I brought the good camera with me today. I’ll ID the few flowers I took, but this week is heavy on the beach and cliffs. SportsBoy decided we should run from the car (parked at my office) down to the top of the flat rock trail, then walk down to the beach and along the water back to the main entrance of the reserve parking area so that we then had to walk back UP the rather steep road leading up to the lodge. It was probably a 4 mile loop given where my car was parked. So, good heart rate raising run at the start, a cool down at the beach, then more heart rate uphill on the way back with race walking pace at the end. No real birding was done though I did hear tons of Towhees again and we saw some crows chasing a raven near the car. OK, on to the pictures:
This was a monster hike today. Spent the first hour jogging from work to the southern entrance to the Flat Rock trail, stopping just a couple of times because of one unusual flower, then jogged back up the northern trail to the bathrooms. Well, jogged/walked I should say as my heart rate got pretty high about half way back up! At the top of that trail I made my first extended stop to listen to the bird song & try and spot some of them. The quails got my attention vocally but never made an appearance. Next I jogged down to the Guy Fleming trail. Total higher heart rate fitness was probably 45-60 mins. On Guy Fleming I purposefully slowed down to record & listen. There is a water spot there & I finally caught a nice glimpse of a wrentit. The trail was just too populated with non birding humans though 🙂 Lots of strollers and even a couple who carried a damn radio with them! WTF? I don’t wanna hear music fools – the trails provide their own!! I realized if I really wanted to hear and see anything I would have to go on Parry Grove since that trail is pretty daunting physically and the more casual hikers would avoid it. I was right – Parry Grove was heavenly. It did mean some more high heart rate fitness time coming back up – but that was 50% of my goal so no problemo. Slide show is below along with a list of birds seen/heard.
Birds positively identified by sight & sound:
Orange Crowned Warbler
California Towhee (They were all over the place. VERY active today)
Wrentit – very vocal. Saw one bathing in the water spout at Guy Fleming.
Anna’s Hummingbird – not as many as I anticipated though!
Brown Pelican – saw these from above of course, diving into the sea, but oddly did hear them too! Their voices carried up the cliff walls.
Birds identified by sound only:
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Eastern (formerly Rufous Sided) Towhee
There was probably more, but it really was hard to pick them out as it was pretty darn noisy out there today – not just the humans! I was out between 9:45-12:15 and it was in the low 60s and cloudy (though not foggy) which I think brought them out. Plus it is nesting season so there are most likely babies to feed. Good time for foraging parents I guess. It is really hard to use those trails primarily for fitness. Even with just my iphone I cannot help stopping to take pictures or to listen more intently at the bird calls. OTOH having started off at work and pretty much hitting every step of possible trail – I did job/run/walk over at least 5 miles. Not a bad start to a Saturday 🙂