Cuyamaca: Trip 5
June 23, 2011

Trip 5. I would have written about the previous four trips this month to Cuyamaca, but as it so happens, this blog didn't exist before then, and now I can't remember all the details.

I suppose I should describe the park to those of you who have not yet seen it. Wildlife is bountiful, especially in terms of birds, mainly due to the combination of environments: alpine, lake, freshwater wetland, forest, and meadows and fields. This time of year, the sun rises at about 5 AM and sets at about 8 PM.

I'm continually drawn back to this park for a number of reasons. It's the closest truly outdoor location, there exists a diverse population of wildlife, and unlike the nearby desert, it isn't too hot in summer (I unsuccessfully tried the desert once already). Also, at 5000 feet, the moderated summer temperatures between 60 and 70 paired with low humidity made it perfect for spending the day out. I suppose the only real downside are the ticks and mosquitoes, but that's to be found everywhere to some degree.

I tried something new this time: an early morning trip. It became apparent, in previous trips, that with the lack of clouds in the sky, the midday sun would produce harsh lighting, and thus, sharp, dark shadows under the eyes of the birds. Additionally, as noon approaches, the sun starts baking the landscape sharply raising the temperature of everything unshaded. It didn't take long for me to find the small birds, which soon became the highlight of the trip. After setting up near a small creek for an hour or so, I managed to identify and photograph four types of finches: lesser goldfinch, house finch, Lawrence's goldfinch and American goldfinch. I had seen a few of these finches on the other side of the hill a few days earlier, but the sun at noon combined with the birds' choice to perch on a metal wire didn't yield favorable images. As I moved further up the trail, I came across a song sparrow, a few western bluebirds, a family of California quails, a spotted towhee, and a pair of violet-green swallows. At the end of the hike, the birds of prey finally came out, and I managed to see a few turkey vultures and a red-tailed hawk on a low flight path overhead.

In the next trip to Cuyamaca, I intend on searching for something different... maybe owls? I may have to do some research on that beforehand.

Thanks for reading!