New Year’s Eve dawn found us back at the harbor. Natalie was feeling better so we managed some more time with the Black Turnstones, godwits and the others. Lets face it – Michigan birders don’t get to see these guys very often. The pelican show continued as Natalie and I chuckled at all of the local Venturians (if that is what they are called) huddled for warmth because it was…”cold.”
Okay. I guess the fisherman was the exception. It was chilly and he was wearing shorts. I'm not sure how he did it.
With the sun warming things up a tad, it was time to move along to the next birding stop. Canada Largo Road, just outside of town, is noted as a decent place for winter birding. Lewis’ Woodpecker and White-tailed Kite were known to frequent the road historically. Historically is the key word here. We found a few local birders who mentioned that the kites no longer frequent the area and woodies are very hit and miss winter to winter.
Our next destination based on the other crew’s suggestion was scheduled to be our next stop anyhow. Forster Park is totally worth it. Just up the bend from Canada Largo Road, this place is largely a campground but hiking trails are scattered through-out. Within 45 minutes, we secured both the Oak Titmouse (LIFE BIRD #668) and Nuttall’s Woodpecker (new for Nat). With rumbling tummies, we eventually had to make our way back to Ventura for lunch.
Before too long, we decided Natalie needed to see a Yellow-billedMagpie. It is, after all, the cover bird for the ABA Guide to Southern California. It makes sense to go find one. I had already seen one in 1995 so this was a target bird for her. Using eBird postings, we headed off to Happy Canyon Road. The reports were 10 days old, but it was certainly worth a shot. Passing ranch and after ranch, we missed the Magpies. However, we confirmed that the Band-tailed Pigeon population was alive and well. Our estimates put them in the order of 100 million plus or minus a gugaplex.
With no lodging lined up and New Year’s Eve festivities only hours a way, we opted to head off to a secondary magpie location south of the town of Solvang. Within seconds, we were transported to Bavaria. Okay, it was actually a Dutch town, but to us it felt a lot like Frankenmuth (very German). We immediately recognized it as the place to stay for the New Year’s fun.
After securing lodging (a very smart move on our part as the town’s hotels filled up), we left for the second Magpie site. Not 10 minutes out of town, Natalie spied the first one on a wire. Their silhouette is simply unmistakable. Within minutes, there were four bopping around the ranch. Neat birds, for sure. The motorcyclist on the crotch rocket didn’t pay any attention to the birds. Obviously he had a place to be.
Well, maybe he should have stopped and checked the magpies. When we pressed on the NojoquiFalls Park, we happened upon the motorcyclist just after he dumped his bike. Apparently, he was winding through roads a bit fast (my opinion) and he found himself with a decision – plow into the back of the slow moving truck or dump the bike. He dumped it. When we happened upon him, he was still sitting on the ground trying to figure out exactly what happened.
It turns out he was heading to the falls, as well. If he knew the falls were as lame as we saw, he would not have been in a rush. The short hike up the canyon was pleasant, but the falls were really quite pathetic. Perhaps later in the spring would have been more appealing. Niagara Falls, it is not…at least on New Year’s Eve during a drought year. I suspect senior citizens have bigger bladder leaks than what this offered….
More birding turned up more Varied Thrushes, AcornWoodpeckers (with their amazing acorn-stashing protocols),another Red-breasted Sapsucker (for Nat only), and a big nothing as we called Western Screech Owl. Now dark, we opted to head back to Solvang for dinner.
In the event you have recently been released from a Turkish prison, understand that a number of factors pull together for the ultimate dining experience. The SolvangBrewing Company was almost there.
The food was extraordinary. My blue-cheese burger with sweet potato fries was one for the ages. Nat enjoyed her French Onion soup, as well. The zucchini appetizer was dynamite.
Certainly the beer is nothing to complain about….as I recall anyway. Apparently, some time between that night and the evening where I was writing this blog entry, my spreadsheet crapped out on me. All Solvang notes are gone. It’s a good thing I don’t get paid for this sillyness! I can tell you this though – the beers were quite good. I had maybe 5 samples? All were yummy. No, they don’t officially count.
I could argue that the spreadsheet gaff and our service both had something in common – they both disappeared.
The. service. sucked.
When you are the first ones in the dining area, and then the room slowly fills, there is no way you still be waiting for your appetizer while half the room is already eating their entrée. When you express concern and the waitress investigates the problem only to blame the cook and the other waitstaff, you have a problem. When your second round of drinks is late and they blame the bartender, you have a problem. When you look around and you start to realize that other folks are also experiencing poor service, you realize pretty quickly that they have the same problem you do.
Don’t let me rant bother you too much. The place is simply excellent. Just don’t get the same server we had.
After dinner, we opted to walk the town and head to the next bar. ITS NEW YEAR’S EVE! Except it was more like a zombie apocalypse. The streets were completely deserted places you expected to be open were not. With that, we returned to the Solvang Brewery. Did you know you can be an accomplished DJ by just playing 80’s music? Yup, that’s all he did. I knew each song as I lived them. I am officially a fossil.
It is also worth noting that accomplished bartenders make the bar go round. Tip them nicely - especially if they make you an AMF. Eerily similar to Romulan Ale with a cherry, this drink will kill you if they make it wrong. I didn’t have one, but I watched one being made. What a nuclear drink. How that patron later managed to do an Irish Carbomb is beyond me.