Date: November 22, 2018
Place: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca, California
Coordinates: 32.985120, -116.581852
Length: 3.6 miles
Thanksgiving Day of 2018 dawned on us in Descanso, CA, a tiny farming community nestled in the hills between San Diego and the Anza Borrego Desert. We arrived there the night before after a very nice birding day at the Tijuana River Estuary and the Border Field State Park. Throughout that day I have checked n the weather and was glad t see that the rains have finally arrived the California shores and were making their way south, one by one snuffing out the deadly fires that raged throughout our drought weary State. On Thanksgiving morning we found that the long awaited for winter had caught up with us - certainly a big one to give thanks for. It was heavily overcast, the wind was whipping the trees, and light rain drizzled off and on. We saw deer through the window, and the small community had their Christmas lights on already. Every establishment within a reasonable driving distance was closed for Thanksgiving and the only choices we had were to stay all day in the warm yet very small cabin we had rented without much to do, or to stick with our original plan, brave the weather, and go hiking.
Given these choices, we had a good, hearty breakfast, and left for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park where we had planned to hike that day.
"You came at the wrong time of year," said the attendant. It was the first rain they've had in 11 months and they were very grateful for it, she told me. But it really wasn't the best weather to hike in, the vegetation was mostly dry and nothing was booming, and the lake has been the lowest it's ever been. She advised us to just walk the trail along the lake shore and to the island. "There might be some birds there," she said.
Having no plan B and not fearing the weather we decided to follow the attendant's advice and walk along the lake.
|Our hike as captured by Pappa Quail's GPS|
The actual waterline was far away, telling of the long drought years that have drained much of the lake.
The dark, exposed mud appeared to be moving - there were many waterfowl and shorebirds moving n the mud in a slow and listless search for something to eat. A great but heron, all huddled in its feathers, gazed silently upon the mud flats.
|Buckwheat, Eriogonum sp.|
|Buckwheat, Eriogonum sp.|
As I admired the fall colors I thought about what the store attendant had said. Perhaps we weren't there at the best time of year but this time of year was really beautiful there.
As far as birds were considered, we were there at a very good time of the year. They were everywhere. Unlike the lethargic waterfowl on the lake, the forest and bush birds were very active and were chirping all around us.
We crossed the bridge over dry land and started walking around the island clockwise.
Far away in the distance a couple of harriers patrolled the field, to far to get a decent photo, even with Pappa Quail's powerful zoom.
The kestrel however, was closer and circled near us several times, giving Pappa Quail ample opportunity to take good photos.
Our choice brought us to a very nice view point to the southeast where we looked at a pretty valley and a double-peaked butted. The map had these within the park's boundaries but not one of us suggested going there. Perhaps on a different visit.
Woodpeckers became very active now that the sun was out. They use the brief respite in the rain to get about maintaining their larders.
We hurried down the trail, once again wrapped in our ponchos, the plastic whipping at our bodies.
the newly arrived clouds were higher in the sky so on our way back we got to see that butte to the south that was completely obscured by the earlier clouds.
The sun struggled for a little bit, illuminating he dry grass and tule with soft golden color, but the heavy cloud was already siting over the small community by the lake and the wind was driving the rain drops to our faces even as we were walking in the sunlit field.
The right wasn't yet strong but the cameras were tucked under the plastic ponchos and taken out for only a few, worthy shots.
|Greater White-fronted Goose|