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2019-07-29 Piedras Blancas Oystercatchers

Black Oystercatcher - Haematopus bachmani
These Oystercatchers had plenty of feeding opportunities at Piedras Blancas beach.

I had a lovely visit with my cousin Bill and his wife Carolynn. I’ve been keeping in touch with Bill through email and Facebook, but we hadn’t met up for many years. I’ve come through Cambria several times since our last connection, but they have a place in Southern Baja where they spend winters, and the timing has not worked out for a meeting since 2005 I believe. I was lucky this time through town, as they only arrived back in Cambria yesterday.

After my visit, I left Cambria and headed north for Piedras Blancas, a destination I’ve often enjoyed since my introduction in 2001. I’ve met baby Elephant Seals there only a few hours old. I once met a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher there. In 2003, it was one of only two or three confirmed records for California. I sent images to Cal Poly, and I’m pleased that my photographs helped to document the bird’s presence.

When first I started spending time at Piedras Blancas very little attention was being paid to the location. Now it’s a big deal, and unlike the first few years I visited here, when there were no barriers to the beach, free access to the beach is now denied. Given the newfound popularity and the potential to disrupt life for these seals, closing the beach was inevitable.

The target I’d hoped for today was the Black Oystercatcher. I’d met these birds here on my visit two years ago. I walked the cliff trails north and watched the inshore rocks for these shy birds, but only found a small gang of Black Turnstones far enough away as to *not* tempt me to get my camera gear out. After circling back to the Samurai and taking a break, I walked in the other direction (south) and found a pair of birds foraging on the rocks below about 200 feet away. I stayed on them with my camera as best I could and fortunately one bird approached a little closer while foraging. Hunting was productive for man and bird. I could see morsel after morsel being gathered and swallowed. I captured a couple of flight sequences.

When I finished spending time with the oystercatchers, I climbed into the Samurai and drove north. Two years ago there were several landslides and bridge outages on the road through Big Sur that prevented me from going more than a few miles past Ragged Point. Last year the roads were repaired and this day I was able to drive to my destination; the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road.

This road crosses the Santa Lucia Range of mountains, and where they meet the sea coast, we know as Big Sur. Climbing the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road delivers some of the most spectacular vistas on the planet. This road is neither for the timid or acrophobic. I drove to the eastern side of the mountains and found a campsite for the night. This gave me the chance to test out my tent-cot sleeping quarters, and it was ideal. I only wish I’d of had one when the Samurai was my main travelling chariot.

The following morning I continued on the Jolon Road across Fort Hunter-Liggett Army base and into King City on US-101.

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