Photo by Heather O’Connor
The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch is still alive and kicking, although we’ve had some slow days. So we took off on a one day road trip to check on some of the old peregrine nest sites around Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. We started off north on US 101 toward the Army Base at Fort Hunter Liggett just outside Bradley, CA. Going west past the old Mission San Antonio towards what is called “the Indians”… beautiful oak meadows and giant bedrock formations along the San Antonio River drainage. This is the headwaters of the river, oak trees full of acorns, but no dove or Band-tailed pigeons. However, we did see many birds, quail, Steller’s jays, songbirds, hawks, kites and a coyote.
Continuing on to the east slope of the Pacific Range, we kicked up a Prairie Falcon with prey. It flew along side us as we drove, then veered off. We are now headed up the range on Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. Nearing the top, we pulled off to look for Band-tails and their favorite food, the Madrone berries. No birds yet, but more berries than I have ever seen in many years. When we reached the top, we took the ridge road south. Within a quarter mile we saw a flock of ten, then another twenty five, then seventy five! In the next two miles we saw over 500 birds. I can’t wait ‘til December when they really come in. We are now driving down the west slope, with the Pacific Ocean in front of us, 3000 feet below. Now on Pacific Coast Highway 1 going south, we spot our first falcon, a juvenile at Willow Creek, then another at Villa Creek. Years ago, they nested under the highway bridge. I wonder if they still do. This adult female was perched on a rock pinnacle near the bridge over the creek to the ocean. In all we saw four falcons.
Just south of San Carpoforo, a large meadow on the northern edge of the Hearst Ranch, we saw 80 Tule elk, some bulls fighting while we and the cows watched. The grass lands along the Pacific Coast will make you dizzy with raptors, harriers, kites, kestrels, red tails, Ferruginous hawks. Ten hours, 214 miles and too many birds.
Happy trails, Bob