October 26, California

What a wonderful life we are leading. We've been to so many great places and have fun everywhere we go. The motor home has given us no serious problems, so we've been able to play and not worry about finding RV shops. We did have the 90,000 mile maintenance done after we reached Watsonville, where we stayed a while to visit Eric and family.

We traveled to California by following the Oregon coast, and it is as dramatic and beautiful as ever. We stayed at beach parks and did a lot of beach walking--beach bums again! :-)

Oregon Coast at Shore Acres State Park

California & Stellars Sea Lions at Simpson Reef Wildlife Viewpoint

We then turned inland just south of Eureka and headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park to meet our friends Dick and Earin Scott. This is a great park, with the beautiful Lassen Peak as its centerpiece, and has many volcanic features such as fumeroles, mud pots and geysers--sort of a mini-Yellowstone. It doesn't seem to be one of the more popular parks either, so we found there were not many other campers. We took several hikes and did lots of bird watching. We saw two new birds: the White-headed Woodpecker and Yellow Wagtails. The woodpecker lives in this area, but the Wagtails were just passing through as they traveled south from Alaska. This was a bird I hoped to see when we were in Alaska last year, but no luck. Then I see it here on a "fly by." There was a whole flock feeding in the tops of the trees. What a bit of luck!

Lassen Peak

Earin & Dick

Devil's Kitchen
We followed Dick and Earin down scenic Hwy. 89 along the North Fork of the Feather River to their home where we visited a couple of days. The drive along the Feather River was quite pleasant and deserves its "scenic" designation--very pretty. Earin and Dick were good hosts as usual, and Earin presented Riley with a bottle of her homemade plum wine for his birthday, which we had celebrated with them while in Lassen. After our visit with the Scotts, we stayed in Yosemite for a couple of days. We would have stayed longer, but it is one of the popular parks, and the campground was full for the weekend. The drive up the east side of the Sierras provided us with fall colors and a look at the beautiful Mono Lake. Sure would like to be there in the Spring when the Western Grebes are there courting by running across the water--another time.

Leaving Yosemite for Watsonville, we discovered a massive landslide had taken out a goodly portion of Hwy. 140. A single-lane bypass on the other side of the river as well as two bridges had been built to circumvent the slide. We couldn't figure out why they didn't go ahead and make it a two-lane permanent bypass. It will be a long time, if ever, before they will be able to clear that stretch of road. It looked like half the mountain had come down. The single lane made for some delay, and vehicles much longer than ours were not allowed on the road as they couldn't make the turns from the single lane onto the bridge. We barely made the length limit and it was a tight turn.

Fall Colors east of Sierras

Yosemite Valley, Merced River

In Watsonville, we stayed two weeks at the Pinto Lake Park run by the city. It had full utilities which was nice and was a quiet and pleasant place to be. The lake was pretty and attracted many birds to rest a while as they passed. I was amazed at how many birds we saw there in the park; every day when I went for a walk around the lake I would discover at least one I hadn't seen the days before. One of the birds we saw a lot of was the Townsend's Warbler, a very cute bird with a mask. I was telling Gaynell about it and she sent me this link, where there is a very cute picture of one. There was also a Great Horned Owl that came every night to hunt, and we heard him and his mate calling back and forth. I actually saw it once; the lights in the parking lot were bright enough that when it flew (I walked too close) I could see it. Actually, bird watching was great wherever we went in the area.

Riley and I took a pelagic birding trip out on Monterey Bay. The bay has deep canyons with upwelling cold water that carries plenty of nutrients to attract the deep water birds. We saw ten new birds that we would probably never have seen from shore. Unfortunately, the seas were rough and I (Margie) had a bad case of sea sickness. I have felt nauseated on board boats before so I had taken dramamine. It didn't help. I spent the trip out to the canyons up-chucking over the side of the boat. When we turned around to come back, the waves didn't beat us up so bad--the sailors called it "the following sea" effect. At any rate, my stomach calmed and I got to spend more time looking at birds and marine mammals. We saw hundreds of dolphins (three different types) as well as hump-backed whales. The whales really put on a show for us, breaching, flipping their tails, and coming close to the boat. The trip report from Monterey Seabirds, the people who took us out, can be found at this link.

We took a couple of day trips on the motorcycle with Eric, and that was a lot of fun. One day, in particular, we drove to Pinnacles National Monument. This was a great motorcycle road that we really enjoyed. The Pinnacles is one of the places where the State has re-introduced California Condors, and of course, I was hoping to see them. No luck on that front, but it was a great place and had camping, so we resolved to come back and stay another time so we could hike around and get another chance at seeing the Condors. We did see a lot of birds and I was amazed at how many we were able to identify while actually riding down the road. Riley saw the first Yellow-billed Magpie, another new bird for us, as it flew by in front of us. Later we saw several in a tree and stopped for a good look. We had a great time with Eric each time we saw him, and got to visit Lindsey and Tyler too. Tyler has just gotten his driver's license and a car, which he supports with part-time work as a busboy--really grown up. We also spent an afternoon hiking with Wendy in the redwoods.

Condor Crags

Red rock cliff at Pinnacles Natl. Monument

As usual, we picked Hwy. 1 as our route of choice to San Diego to visit Lara & her kids. As we came around a corner in the Big Sur area, I saw several giant birds circling overhead. I told Riley he had to stop immediately. Luckily, there was a wide shoulder where he could pull over safely. We grabbed our binoculars and sure enough it was California Condors--four of them circling in the thermals above the ridge line along with two Turkey Vultures. The Condors with their 9 foot wing span dwarfed the vultures with their span of less than 6 feet. They were just awesome to watch. Condors are definitely the rarest bird we have seen--so exciting!

Right now we are staying at the Jalama County Park on the beach. What a great place it is. We have not been here before, but will definitely want to come back. It's quite far off the beaten track (no cell phone signals, no Internet) but is not unknown--the park is full. The weather is typical California sunshine, low 80s, and the surf is up. Lots of surfers show up every day to ride the waves. So do the dolphins. When I was walking this morning, two dolphins jumped completely out of the water right in front of me. What a sight! The Monarch Butterflies are in migration mode and we see lots of them everywhere we stop--lovely.

Our view at Jalama Beach
While we were in Watsonville, we had e-mail contact with my granddaughter Ashley, whom we have not seen for many years. She will be having her 18th birthday in November. She is still in the San Diego area and we hope to see her while we are there. Her younger sister, Chandra, is now living in Colorado with an aunt. If we are lucky, we may be able to re-contact her also. Jerilyn, their adoptive mother/paternal grandmother, died recently, and this is not an easy time for the girls, so we shall see.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Diary (* indicates new bird for us)
September 22, 2006 Cape Arago, Oregon
* Black Turnstones
Black Oystercatchers
Western Gulls
Glaucous-winged Gulls
Double-crested Cormorants
Pelagic Cormorants
September 27, 2006 Lassen Volcanic N. P., California Manzanita Lake
* White-headed Woodpecker: f
Stellar's Jay
American Crows
Brown-headed Cowbirds
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-rumped Warblers, Audobon
White-crowned Sparrows
Hermit Thrush
Mountain Chickadees
Song Sparrows
American Robin
Dark-eyed Junco, Oregon
Northern Flicker, red-shafted
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Coots
* Yellow Wagtails
Northern Harrier
October 6, 2006 Pinto Lake Park, Watsonville, CA
Mallards & hybrids
Muscovy hybrid
Canada Geese
Greater White-fronted Goose: j
Ring-billed Gulls
Brewer's Blackbirds: m & f
Red-winged Blackbirds, bicolored: m & f
American Coots
Western Scrub Jays
House Sparrows
Great Horned Owl

October 7
European Starlings
Black Phoebes
House Finch
Mourning Dove
Pied-bill Grebes
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night Herons: a & j
Double-crested Cormorant

October 12
Belted Kingfisher: m
Anna's Hummingbird: m & f
Common Yellowthroat: f
Great Egret
Yellow-rumped Warblers
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Red-tail Hawk
Townsend's Warbler

October 18
* California Towhees
Ruby-crowned Warblers
American Robin
Downy Woodpeckers
Song Sparrow
* California Thrasher
October 8, 2006 Monterey Bay Pelagic Boat Tour
* Ancient Murrelet
* Black-footed Albatross
* Pink-footed Shearwater
* Buller's Shearwater
* Flesh-footed Shearwater
* Sooty Shearwater
* Ashy Storm-Petrel
* Pomerine Jaeger
* South Polar Skua
* Sabine's Gulls
* Red-necked Phalarope
Great Egret
Brown Pelicans
Brandt's Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Heermann's Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Common Murre
Rhinoceros Auklet
October 15, 2006 Elkhorn Slough, Watsonville, CA
* Elegant Tern
Brown Pelicans
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-necked Stilts
Long-billed Curlews
Marbled Godwits
Red Knot
Ring-billed Gulls
White-crowned Sparrows
Western Meadowlarks
Black Phoebes
Say's Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crows
Ruby-crowned Kinglets
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Red-shouldered Hawk

October 16
* Whimbrel
Eared Grebes
Pelagic Cormorants
Double-crested Cormorants
Red-tailed Hawks
Wilson's Snipe
Western Gull
Forster's Terns
October 17, 2006 Motorcycle day trip with Eric to Pinnacles
Red-shouldered Hawks
Western Meadowlarks
Turkey Vulture
Acorn Woodpeckers
Black Phoebes
Yellow-crowned Sparrows
California Quail
Northern Flicker
Western Scrub Jay
Northern Mockingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
* Yellow-billed Magpies
Red-tailed Hawks
American Kestrels
American Crows
Brewer's Blackbirds
American Coots
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk: J
Double-crested Cormorant
Greater Roadrunner
October 20, 2006 Hwy. 1 south of Pffeifer Big Sur S. P., CA
* California Condors
Turkey Vultures
October 23, 2006 Montana de Oro S. P., Morro Bay, CA
* Nuttall's Woodpecker: f

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