Date: 10/17/18 8:21 am
From: chrisoco via Groups.Io <chrisoco=<>
Subject: [pen-bird] 10/14 Big Green Day 2018 Recap (long post)
Chris Hayward and Chris O’Connell led the 4th Annual Big Sit on October 14th on behalf of the Sequoia Audubon Society. They were joined by Naomi Goodman and Genna DeVries. Rob Furrow, who established the event, recently relocated to Davis but we carried on in his stead. There is definitely a lot more birding than biking on this ride. I call it the little Big Ride because we only cover 11 or so miles in 9 to 10 hours. But it grew out of our sister event – the Big Sit™ – which takes place on the same day. Regardless of the name, it is always big fun. It is also a fundraiser for Sequoia and more information can be found here:


We started at daybreak at Gazos Creek Beach. There were quite a few birds moving about on the water: cormorants, loons, murres. A Ring-billed Gull (rare for the coast) was at the edge of the large gull flock on the beach. The least expected bird was a Dunlin poking around near the creek mouth. A Red-shouldered Hawk made its presence known. Among the humans, a couple of men who apparently slept on the beach argued. The local tracking club was meeting here at 8am and there was a good turnout. It was good to see varied humanity likewise appreciating the natural world. But as the trackers gathered, it was time for us roll over to Gazos Creek Road.


We slowly cruised up the lush riparian habitat, stopping for stretches as we looked through flocks of insectivores. We had great looks at Townsend’s Warblers, and there were dozens of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any uncommon warblers, and couldn’t even find a Yellow Warbler. Nor were there any Orange-crowned Warblers on the day. But given the great bird activity, it was hardly disappointing.


At one of our stops, after a while Naomi noticed a bird that had some red on its breast. The rest of us were able to get on it although never with great views. It was wet and must have flown up from the creek after bathing. Rose-breasted Grosbeak! That was probably our bird of the day as far as the rarities. While spending a lot of time here among the plethora of birds, we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl. A Red-breasted Sapsucker flew across the road and a couple of Black-throated Gray Warblers were active.


(Did I mention that some people are saying the bicycle may turn out to be the greatest invention ever? And not just any old people. Get Rich With Bikes ( ). Binoculars ain't bad either. Bikes, birds, binoculars: the trifecta!)


As we continued up Gazos Creek, we split off onto Cloverdale Road and moved into the grassland habitat. We also had to move up our biggest hill of the day. It is steep in parts but it must be only about 1/3 of a mile so no one cracked. Here we saw American Kestrel, bluebirds, blackbirds, sparrows and a few Wild Turkeys got chased by the hounds when trespassing near the domesticated birds’ pen.


We carried on into the quaint town of Pescadero, enjoying a break and a snack at the old country store. Then it was onto Water Lane and the backside of Pescadero Marsh. We poked around and headed west on Pescadero Creek Rd. to the well-known and oft-flooded field next to Butano Creek that has featured many great birds over the years. This hotspot will dry up soon due to the dredging project underway. But on this day, 20 Greater White Fronted Geese were in the creek near the road when we spotted them, and they saw us see them, so they flew up in a flock and into the famous field, foraging for the next couple of hours (They were still there on my way back to the camp much later.)


We birded the marsh and scoped the coast. We heard Virginia Rails calling to each other. We saw Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Common Merganser in a marsh pond visible from Pescadero Creek Road. The coast offered us obligate birds such as Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, and Surfbird.


The final tally came to 102 species, which includes Western Screech Owl which I heard at my campsite the morning of the ride.


For me this was more than just a (little) big ride. It was epic, if only for Olmo Fire Road. I took pumpkin weekend and the Big Ride as an opportunity to ride my bike from home and camp out at Butano State Park. I would camp both the night before and the night of the ride. I loaded up the bike and headed for the hills, and there is no shortage of hills to climb to get to Pescadero.


It wasn’t enough to merely camp. I stayed at the trail camp over 5 miles in, and up. Bicycles are not allowed on any hiking trails but they are legit on the fire roads and there are two of them: Jekyll and Hyde! Butano Fire Road is an often smooth, generally consistent gradient that goes for about 5.7 miles to the camp (the last half mile is flat or a little downhill – the first 5.2 are uphill). Olmo Fire Road, on the other hand, is a nightmare with many steep ups, too many downs and some super-challenging terrain. It took me over ninety minutes to get to the camp on Olmo and less than an hour via Butano Fire Road.


I made the mistake of ascending Olmo with all my gear. There is some harsh gradient on gravel and pushing a bike up there with 35 pounds of cargo… When forced to stop from exhaustion, I kept hearing a symphony of distant drums. I realized that was just maximum heart rate. But it didn’t kill me, and it definitely made me stronger. It made my trek up the long, sublime Tunitas Creek Road climb on the way home feel like a walk in the park.


We have great biking and birding in the county and I took full advantage of it this past weekend. Here's looking forward to the 5th Annual Big Ride next year. We'll try to make sure it's not on a pumpkin-crazed weekend.

I revived my long dormant blog which seemed appropriate for this post and you can see photos of my bike setup there, if interested. Big Green Day blog recap ( )

Chris O'Connell
Redwood City

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