Tag Archives: mendocino county

Road Blog: Mendocino Vineyard

toulouse120411.jpg

Back home in Berkeley tonight. But at noontime today, we stopped on our way south at Toulouse, a vineyard and winery along Highway 128 in Mendocino County. We went into the tasting room and bought some wine, then walked up through the vineyards briefly. One bird note: We see robins down here, of course. They’re everywhere, right? But up at Toulouse today, their presence was a little more than we see around the city. hundreds if not thousands of robins filled trees around the harvested vineyards. Checking one Mendocino birding site, the county seems to be a major wintering locale for American robins (Turdus migratorius; yes, “Turdus”; it’s Latin for “thrush”; you know there’s a whole story about why it’s called “robin,” but some of us can’t stay up all night to tell it).

A general explanation for the robin swarm around the vineyards comes from Cornell’s Birds of North America: “The diet of the robin is … highly variable, changing from primarily soft invertebrates, especially earthworms, in spring and summer, to primarily fruit in autumn and winter. During the nonbreeding season, large flocks of hundreds or thousands of immature and adult birds migrate to lower elevations and latitudes, where they form roosting aggregations from which they track sources of berries.” Cornell also notes that the robin is a relatively recent arrival in much of California west of the Sierra foothills, not pushing into other parts of the state until irrigation and well-watered lawns (and thus a richer supply of earthworms near the surface) made it possible for the bird to extend its range. And one more note from that Mendocino County site: robins (and some other abundant songbirds) are favored prey of some raptors (peregrine falcons and sharp-shinned hawks, among others).

The sound of the birds near the vineyard was remarkable enough I recorded some audio and will try to post that later.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Science, Travel

Road Blog: Mendocino Vineyard

toulouse120411.jpg

Back home in Berkeley tonight. But at noontime today, we stopped on our way south at Toulouse, a vineyard and winery along Highway 128 in Mendocino County. We went into the tasting room and bought some wine, then walked up through the vineyards briefly. One bird note: We see robins down here, of course. They’re everywhere, right? But up at Toulouse today, their presence was a little more than we see around the city. hundreds if not thousands of robins filled trees around the harvested vineyards. Checking one Mendocino birding site, the county seems to be a major wintering locale for American robins (Turdus migratorius; yes, “Turdus”; it’s Latin for “thrush”; you know there’s a whole story about why it’s called “robin,” but some of us can’t stay up all night to tell it).

A general explanation for the robin swarm around the vineyards comes from Cornell’s Birds of North America: “The diet of the robin is … highly variable, changing from primarily soft invertebrates, especially earthworms, in spring and summer, to primarily fruit in autumn and winter. During the nonbreeding season, large flocks of hundreds or thousands of immature and adult birds migrate to lower elevations and latitudes, where they form roosting aggregations from which they track sources of berries.” Cornell also notes that the robin is a relatively recent arrival in much of California west of the Sierra foothills, not pushing into other parts of the state until irrigation and well-watered lawns (and thus a richer supply of earthworms near the surface) made it possible for the bird to extend its range. And one more note from that Mendocino County site: robins (and some other abundant songbirds) are favored prey of some raptors (peregrine falcons and sharp-shinned hawks, among others).

The sound of the birds near the vineyard was remarkable enough I recorded some audio and will try to post that later.

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Road Blog: Mendocino Slideshow

A selection of shots, mostly from the Mendocino coast, of our trip last week. Captions and map locations to come.

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Road Blog: The Great Whale

Well, I could recount a day spent mostly outside at some of the parks along the Mendocino Coast — Russian Gulch, Point Cabrillo, and Mackerricher. Or I could cut to the chase: the whale we saw just as we were getting to leave the last in the series of parks.

Mackerricher stretches for nearly 10 miles north of Fort Bragg. About three miles north of town there’s Laguna Point, with campgrounds, parking lots, and a long boardwalk out to an area where you can view seals during pupping season (that’s right now).

We got there late in the afternoon and walked out to the western end of the point, where we saw maybe eight seas–a half-dozen dozing on some rocks, a couple more that seemed to be playing. I had my audio recorder with me and and was getting some really vivid shore sounds from these thick-bodied dull-black birds that I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I can’t identify. Got a long piece from a little wren going nuts in some underbrush.

We were ready to find something to eat and were walking back to the car when we both saw a whale spout no more than a couple hundred yards off the north side of the point. We watched, and there were a couple more spouts, and the whale (a gray? a humpback?) seemed to arch its back and go under. We watched some more, and it came back up and repeated the performance, except for a finale it raised its tail — which I’d guess was at least six feet across — and go down again. It repeated the pattern about half a dozen times over half an hour or so.

At one point, we decided to go back out to the boardwalk to see if we could get a better look. On the way out, we passed a family coming in. You naturally assume that they’ve seen what you’ve seen, but I asked as we passed, “Did you see the whale goofing off out there?” No, they hadn’t; in fact, they’d never seen a whale, period. So the mom, dad, and two daughters followed us. It’s also natural to think that once you’ve alerted someone to some wonder of nature, it won’t recur. But within a couple minutes, the whale appeared again, did the tail trick, and dove. We saw it once or twice more before heading back to the car just as a squall blew in across the point.

Conclusion of whale reminiscence.

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