Friday, May 17, 2013

A Most Excellent Wildlife Viewing Evening...

Last night Debbie and I went up to one of our favorite local wildlife viewing spots: the Stonewall Mine Road in Cuyamaca Park, just before dark.  We're still delighting in the return of a substantial deer herd (gone since the 2007 fires), and last night didn't disappoint on that score – we saw at least 50 deer in two different main groups and in several singles and pairs.  We hoped for a bobcat or mountain lion, but alas didn't see one.  We did get a extended great view of a male meadowlark singing his heart out.  What glorious colors on them!

But the highlight of the evening wasn't at Stonewall – it was on the way home.  Debbie, sharp-eyed as always, spotted a hawk silhouetted on a nest with chicks – just 15 feet or so from the road!  I never saw a thing, as I was concentrating on getting the truck safely around the tight corners (this is on the stretch of State 79 between Oakzanita and Descanso town, where the road is very curvy).  I found a place to turn around, and we drove back up to find that nest.  We parked the truck on the road, half on the (narrow) shoulder and turned on the 4-way flashers – and then settled in for a delightful 10 minutes or so watching one hawk parent (we think a red tail, but we couldn't positively ID it) and its two chicks.  The chicks were still mostly white, with a mottled appearance as their first flight feathers were emerging.  There wasn't much action; they seemed sleepy (this was right at dusk) and maybe a little cold.  The parent just stared at us the whole time :)

I've never been this close to a raptor nest with chicks before.  We both had our binoculars with us, so we had a real treat – with the binoculars, were were count-the-feather-barbs close.  Awesome!

One fellow drove by the other way while we were stopped.  He asked if we were ok, and I told him we were watching a hawk's nest.  He said “Nice!” and drove on.  Shortly after we packed up our binoculars and left, though, several cars passed us the other way, and a sheriff's SUV came up behind us.  Our timing was very good :)

We drove home with big silly smiles plastered all over our faces...

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