Saturday, February 27, 2010

A tale of two cities - Monday

We decided we needed to change plans. Originally we had 2 nights booked at our hotel in Oxnard, near Ventura, just North of LA, then our last night booked at Huntington Beach, however our experience of Sunday night traffic and LA in general put us off going into LA other than when we had to on our last day. That then meant we had a free day in as much as we wouldn't be able to visit the spots we had first planned to do, so instead we headed for the biggest lump of green on the map. Los Padres National Forest. It's huge. It's also surprisingly close to the city. We should probably have realised the implications of that before we set off, however we were both very enthusiastic and enjoying the sunshine. T-shirts in February!

It took us only an hour to be quite deep into the National Forest:

Not many trees as you can see. Most of the sites were shut. We followed the signs to a recreation area, which surprisingly accommodated a prisoners' work camp, though this was still being made ready for use.
The one thing that really stayed with us though was just how quiet the whole area was for wildlife. When we did encounter anything it flew away with extreme terror such that we literally only saw five species of bird in the three hours we spent looking, including at isolated lakes, etc.
I took this at Middle Lion Campground:
It looks idyllic. You'd expect loads of life here. In an hour we saw a pair of Bushtits, tiny birds, probably too small to shoot. Nothing else.
We decided to head down to the coast (our original plan) and to see if we could find a different spot to brighten the day, stopping for the occasional snap on the way out:

We found ourselves on Ventura State Beach, the recommended McGrath State Beach was closed due to risk of flooding, apparently. Maybe the forecast rainfall was what had them worried...
It became apparent about this time the impact of the budget cuts going on in the State of California, with roughly half of all parks and facilities shut-down. Let's hope they get themselves out of the financial mess they're in.
Not much to report from the beach, some Willets, some Yellow-rumped Warblers in the bushes, Song Sparrows, etc., and a few relaxed Western Gulls:

We decided to cut our losses and find a mall, for me to top up on T-shirts (I'd brought too few) and for some tea and coffee.

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