Joan and I made another foray to the high country on Tuesday, Aug.2, this time to the Pine Mountain-Reyes Peak Area. This is in Ventura County, but thought I'd make a brief post since this is a good place to drive to higher mountain vegetation than any place in SB County, and it's much closer than Mt. Pinos.
The Pine Mountain Road off Highway 33 starts at about 4000' elevation and proceeds through high chaparral and Pinyon Pines before reaching the Pine forest above 5000'. We stopped to check on some small birds foraging in chaparral at roadside and found juvenile Black-chinned Sparrows there. We than made several stops along the road to the Reyes Peak Trailhead (6950'), where we hiked along the trail around the north side of the Peak for about 3/4 mile.
Our most birdy area was the first campground (Pine Mountain campground), where we had lots of young birds of various species, including a family of White-headed Woodpeckers and a Juvenile Red-Breasted Sapsucker. On the road to the trailhead, we had great views of a male Mountain Quail crossing the road in front of the car and back again to rejoin a small family group. The mixed pine-fir forest along the flank of the peak yielded several Olive-sided Flycatchers and all three Nuthatches. Our only disappointment was Raspberry Spring, a short steep hike down from the Reyes Peak Campground. The spring has dried up to few drops coming out of two pipes and all the vegetation I remembered from years ago (including the wild raspberries for which the spring is named) is gone. The area is pretty barren and not pulling in birds at this time.
Our best sighting however was mammalian. We were treated to good views of a large Black Bear on Highway 150 about 3 miles northeast of the intersection with Highway 192. The bear was at least 2 years old, maybe older, and in excellent condition. It crossed the road twice in front of us before heading down into the canyon ranches on the east side. Perhaps it has a fondness for avocados--its coat was very thick and healthy. We were so surprised that neither of us grabbed our cameras and go a photo.
Some wildflowers are still in bloom up there including Penstemon bridgesii, Scarlet Bugler, different kinds of Buckwheat, and Paintbrush. Sadly, we found few Hummers enjoying the red flowers.
Joan has published a full list on e-bird.