Date: 4/20/17 5:50 pm From: Florence Sanchez <sanchezucsb11...> [sbcobirding] <sbcobirding-noreply...> Subject: [sbcobirding] Pt. Sal Trail
Finally hiked the Point Sal Trail this morning after trying to do it for the past three weeks. The last time I was there was 30 years ago when you could still drive the access road all the way to the parking area at the top of the bluffs overlooking the State Beach. Now the road is gated and it's a five mile walk each way if you want to go all the way to the beach. But driving can never reveal how beautiful this hike is in the spring.
I went for the flowers (I had read that Chocolate Lilies were in bloom here), but the birdlife alone was well worth the effort. Near the start of the trail I had multiple singing Lazuli Buntings, a scene that was much like what Joan Lentz and her class found yesterday on Refugio Road. As I continued up the trail, I found many Lark Sparrows, several singing their long, beautiful songs. In addition, I also had singing Western Meadowlarks and I don't know how many Horned Larks. The kept popping up out of the grass and plopping down to feed along the mowed roadside. I did not spend time checking out the small creek at the start of the trail, so didn't have any warblers except for one Common Yellowthroat, but that spot deserves further attention. The views were fantastic and though a wind advisory was forecast for afternoon, in the morning I only had the usual brisk freshening wind from the northwest that is typical for this time of year on the central coast. One bird I thought I might find here and didn't was Grasshopper Sparrow. I think in general, the annual grasses may be too tall and lush for that species this year.
Oh--and the flowers! Even with the dominance of the grasses, there were lots of things in bloom among the grasses and in the chaparral/coastal scrub encountered along the way. Many were things I'd seen before this year, but new blooms included a white Triteleia, pink Checkerbloom, yellow Deerweed in full bloom, and the annual large-flowered lotus. As for the Chocolate Lilies, I found lots of them starting about 1.5 miles along the trail--but they were all in fruit. The delays I ran into trying to do this hike sooner cost me a chance to see them in bloom. However, I will know where to look next year.
For those who are not familiar with this location, the trailhead is at then end of Brown Road (off Highway one west of Santa Maria). The trail is a wide unpaved road and the hiking uphill is via a series of long gradual switchbacks, so it is not strenuous. In about 2.5 miles, you will encounter another gate across the road at the Vandenberg Base Boundary. **Check the Vandenberg website before you go to be sure access is permitted beyond the gate on that date.**
Beyond that gate, the road starts on a gradually steepening downhill descent all the way down to the beach (2.5 miles). I only went about down this part of the road as far as the point where it turns left around the hillside and opens up great views of Point Conception and the Lompoc Valley. Then I turned back. A similar view without this steep walk can be obtained from the access road a couple of hundred yards before the base boundary.