Thursday, March 29, 2007

Road Trip!

Just got back from California. Troy and I had originally planned to make a short trip to Costa Rica at the end of March, with the objective of seeing the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, a rare cotinga that I had searched for and missed on previous trips. This would be my last chance to look for the umbrellabird before the onset of babies and parental responsibility. Alas, because of Michelle's accident we had to scuttle our Costa Rica plans. Instead of flying to San Jose, Costa Rica, I ended up flying to San Jose, California. the purpose of the trip was to get my father's car (a white Mercury Sable that he no longer uses) and drive it back to Texas so Michelle would have a vehicle (the accident totaled her car).

I arrived in San Jose on Sunday morning. Troy was gonna join me for the drive back to Texas, but he wouldn't get in until the next day, so I had time for a little birding. My friend Jolene was off work so we went to Moss Landing on Sunday afternoon. I took these pictures of a Common Murre from the jetty at the mouth of the harbor.Monday morning I got up early and visited some sites around the Almaden Valley. Took this pretty picture on a hilltop along the Fortini Trail In Santa Teresa County Park. Rufous-crowned and Grasshopper Sparrows were singing, but try as I might I never did see either. A Horned Lark was singing as it hovered high overhead, and a White-tailed Kite flew by carrying nesting material.At Calero County Park I found a large flock of Wild Turkeys, with several males strutting and fanning their tail feathers to impress the females, I assume.New Almaden, Almaden Reservoir, and Almaden Lake Park were my final stops. Early returning migrants included Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Wilson's Warbler, and Bullock's Oriole.

Met Troy in Morgan Hill on Monday afternoon, and we drove as far as Needles that first night. Normally I would have taken I-10, but Troy wanted to make a detour to check out the new Grand Canyon Skywalk. Unfortunately when we arrived at Grand Canyon National Park we found out that the skywalk was outside the park on the west rim of the canyon. We were in the wrong place, and it was a case of "you can't get there from here." We still did some sightseeing along the south rim of the canyon, with only a few minor mishaps.The canyon was beautiful, but the beauty would have been more enyoyable were it not for the biting cold and 50mph winds. And then it actually started snowing. Only birds seen there were Common Ravens and Western Bluebirds, so even the birding was wintry crap. And no glass skywalk, dammit. Here's Troy taking a brief obligatory look at the natural splendor. From the Grand Canyon we drove south, fighting hurricane-force headwinds that blew tumbleweeds and anything else that wasn't nailed down across the highway. Late that night we rolled into El Paso.

We left El Paso before dawn on Wednesday. Then we made another major detour, this time to explore the Davis Mountains. I wouldn't call it birding, but we did stop occasionally for birds and other wildlife - Rock Wren, Javelina, etc. No Montezuma Quail, in case you were wondering. We did the longer-than-expected loop around the mountains, and even went up to McDonald Observatory and tagged along with an unsuspecting tour group to see one of the big telescopes...this consumed the whole morning and part of the afternoon. It takes a full day to drive from El Paso to Houston, so we didn't expect to make it back that night. But we reached San Antonio before dark and just kept going. Had to stop at Buc-ee's of course.Somehow, despite our big detour, we made it to Troy's house north of Houston by 11pm. No speeding tickets either. I crashed there for the night, and finally got home this morning, after three days on the road and a lot - and I mean a LOT - of fast food, fast driving, and fast punk and rockabilly (Troy brought his ipod with him). Got back just in time - tomorrow Michelle and I leave for Louisiana...


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