August 27, San Diego

Our trip from Idaho to San Diego was uneventful and mainly spent stopping at wildlife refuges to look for birds, so much of the trip will be in the "Bird Report." The one place we stopped that did not have to do with birds was the Devil's Postpile National Monument up by Mammoth Mountain in California. Neither of us had been here before so since we were passing by on Hwy. 395, we decided to spend a couple of days there. The Monument is within the Inyo National Forest and the Forest Service controls access, which is strictly by their shuttle buses. Unless, that is, you are going to camp as we were, and even then you pay the shuttle bus fee to use the road. The road is winding and narrow, and it was definitely exciting when one of the buses was coming in the opposite direction. The area was beautiful and at high enough elevation that it wasn't too hot, so we were happy. From the campground, we took the hike to the Postpile--looks sort of like a spread out Devil's Tower, obviously same sort of geology--then took a shuttle back to the campground. We also took a hike to Rainbow Falls, possibly the dirtiest hike we've ever taken. The trail was dry and dusty and by the time we got back to our RV, we were saturated with dust. We immediately showered and changed clothes--felt good to be clean again. Dirty or not, the hike to the falls was well worth it and, sure enough, there was a faint rainbow in the falls.

Devil's Postpile

Rainbow Falls
It was interesting to see the huge wind farm east of San Bernardino and the geo-thermal energy plants in the Salton Sea area. Yea! for non-polluting alternative energy sources!

We arrived in San Diego on August 21 and on August 22 at 2 AM, Ashley delivered a baby boy, 7 lb. 11 oz. and 20 inches in length. She and Andrew have named him Cleric Castellanos (Andrew's last name), and he is indeed a beautiful baby. We have visited with them twice now. New babies are such fun to watch and coo over, and Cleric is no exception. Both baby and mother are doing fine--father too. :-) Andrew has a Web business selling t-shirts and tank tops with his own designs on them. The URL is, and only works with Internet Explorer at the moment. Check it out.

Ashley, Cleric & Andrew


Ashley & Cleric


Lara and family are doing well. She and I took Justin and Alyssa along with two cousins, Sarah and Breannah, to an aquarium in La Jolla. It's a small but very good aquarium and we had a good time. The kids were interested in looking at the fish and were quite well-behaved. No one got grumpy until on the way home. Today we're planning to go shopping for school supplies.

Sarah, Justin, Breannah, Alyssa, & Lara
We will be in the San Diego area for six weeks! I think it will be nice to be settled for awhile. The weather is great--much cooler than inland, but still a little on the warm side. I'd like it to get a few degrees cooler at night but, oh well, can't have everything.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Report

The first place we stopped on leaving Idaho was the Bear River Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Brigham City, Utah. This is a great place for water fowl. We saw thousands of White-faced Ibis, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, American White Pelicans, Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers and others. We also saw Western Grebes carrying their chicks on their backs--so cute! We also saw thousands of swallows--Bank and Barn. No new birds, but the most unusual bird (for us) that we saw was the Black Tern. As we headed toward Nevada, we saw Golden Eagles nesting on top of poles on the eastern side of the Great Salt Lake.

American Avocets

Black-necked Stilts & Avocets

In NE Nevada, we camped in the Ruby Mountains. Since we figured we might never again be in Nevada in August, we took a 2 mile hike up to a glacial cirque complete with tarn, Island Lake, and a hang-out of the Himalayan Snowcock. Snowcocks were introduced here in the 1960s as game birds and have prospered--enough that people are still allowed to hunt them. Unfortunately for us, none was hanging out in the area while we were there. I'm sure the climb was good for me but it was steeper than I can tolerate comfortably, so by the time we got to the top, I was fairly exhausted. Younger people were passing us on the trail like we were standing still. :-) The birds are there year round; the reason for August being the time to go: the trails are clear of snow and ice by late July.

Ruby Mountain trail (Lamoille Canyon Road in valley)

Island Lake

Next up was Mono Lake. Mono Lake is supposed to be a great place for grebes--I want to see them running across the water. We were here in the Spring and now Summer and didn't see Western or Clark's Grebes either time. There's a Grebe Festival in mid-July, so I thought sure this would be the time (water was calm too). We saw a few Eared Grebes both times, but that was all. What we did see in abundance were Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes--males and juveniles. Females have already headed for South America.

Leaving Mono Lake, we made the trip to Devil's Postpile, where birds were plentiful. The ranger said they had been seeing Williamson's Sapsucker every day, but no luck for us.

Last birding stop was the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR to look for Wood Storks. We talked to a ranger to see where they might be hanging out, and he said he had been seeing them in an area that was not accessible to the public (lots of help!), but pointed to a couple of other places we could check. No luck on the stork front, but this is still one of the best places we have been to for birds. We saw three new species for us: the Burrowing Owl, the Yellow-footed Gull, and the Lesser Nighthawk. We've looked for these owls at every prairie dog town we come to and here they were sitting on a small dike beside an irrigation ditch--not a prairie dog anywhere to be seen. I don't know if this means they found some other animal's burrow to live in or had made their own where the dirt is so soft, as it was here. We saw five to eight owls--hard to know if we were seeing the same individuals since we went past the area twice. Very cute birds.

Burrowing Owl (note unusually long legs for an owl)
Happy Birding!

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