Saturday, February 18, 2017



They seem to enjoy being around people


I noticed a small bird following me as I walked through the knee-high grass at the edge of San Elijo Lagoon.

This dapper little black and white bird seemed quite friendly and interested in my travels. I’d stop and he’d land on a nearby tree or fence post until I started moving again. I then realized he was simply taking advantage of my movement. As I walked, tiny insects were flying up from the disturbed grass, and my hiking companion was reaping the benefits.

Launching from his perch, he would repeatedly swoop down and grab an insect in flight, and then move on to
 his next perch behind me.

On this trip, my little friend was a black phoebe, one of more than 400 tyrant flycatcher species found through the United States.

The black phoebe is more localized, occurring from Southern Oregon, along the
 California coast, through the Southwest into Mexico and South America.

Resident to San Diego, the black phoebe is widely distributed here, found commonly from our coast to the highest mountain eleva­
tions and in concentrated areas of the desert. 

The black phoebe is always associated with water since this is critical to provide a habitat for insect foraging as well as the necessary ingredient for nesting. This phoebe builds a bowl nest using small dabs of mud mixed with grass. It’s similar to the nest of barn swallows. 

The black phoebe nest is plastered to the wall of sheltered places such as natural boulder overhangs, the eaves of a house, under bridges, in culverts or beneath building ledges. The inside of the nest is lined with softer material such as animal fur, or tiny roots and grasses. One to six eggs are laid in the nest, and the birds will produce up to three broods in a good year. 

Nesting is a cooperative event, with the male giving his mate a selection of several nesting sites. The female chooses the location and builds the nest, but both birds protect and defend the nesting site. Once paired, the birds are generally monogamous. 

They have adapted well to urbanization, taking advantage of urban parks and lawns as a source for insects and adopting livestock troughs, garden ponds or birdbaths as their water supply. 

The black phoebe is easy to identify because of its distinctive sooty black and crisp white coloration and the stylish inverted V where his white underbelly meets the dusky black head, chest and wing color. Unlike many of the more nervous flycatchers, the black phoebe actually seems to enjoy hanging around people, maybe landing at the other end of a picnic table as if curious about your presence. 

Local lakes, shoreline lagoons and parks with nearby water are all great places to spot the black phoebe and add him to your life list. 

And, if you are wondering what they call a group of flycatchers, it can be an “outfield,” a “swatting,” a “zapper” or a “zipper.” 

Hummingbird numbers 

Several readers have written with comments and concerns about our hummingbird population because they are not seeing as many visitors to their nectar feeders this winter. 

Bill Pickens wrote, “In Hidden Meadows we have noticed a sudden, dramatic drop in the number of hummingbirds at our feeders. Do you know why?” 

The simple answer, according to Phil Unitt, editor of the San Diego County Bird Atlas and curator of birds at the San Diego Natural History Museum, is there is no apparent reduction in hummingbird population, based on annual bird counts. “There was no dip in the number of Anna’s hummingbirds in Oceanside this past winter; if anything, a spike,” Unitt said. 

There may be fewer birds visiting feeders because early and abundant rains have produced growth and insect hatches that are providing enough natural food for the little birds. 

Oriole season 

Speaking of feeders, it’s about time to put out oriole feeders. Hooded orioles will begin showing up later this month, with big numbers arriving in March. 

The brightly colored orioles enjoy the same sugar water nectar you use for hummingbirds, but because of their larger beaks, they require a slightly different feeder. I’ve found the 32ounce First Nature Oriole Feeder to be economical, easy to clean and popular with the orioles. 

Union Tribune -Outdoors


Some people fish like they are playing the lottery. Jed Dickerson fishes like a big game hunter. He stalks his game, only looking for the trophy fish.
Over the years, Dickerson has made headlines for some of the monster fish he has caught, including a potential world-record bass at Escondido’s Dixon Lake.
He has earned his reputation as a master, trophy bass hunter. This week, Dickerson has done it again, but this time he targeted and landed a spectacular rainbow trout at Dixon Lake.
While not quite a lake record, his 14-pound, 4ounce trophy still attracted a lot of interest for the Carlsbad fisherman, along with a good story about his adventure.
Dickerson’s decision to visit Dixon Lake, one of his favorites, was a last-minute choice.
"I dropped Jed Jr. off at school and decided to go to the lake. Someone said they saw a huge trout there the other day, so I decided to go look for it," he said.
He rented a boat and began looking for the phantom fish. Suddenly it became reality when he spotted it in Bass Cove.
"First I used a crappie jig and she was definitely interested, but swam off. I used the crappie jig for a while, then decided to switch to PowerBait," Dickerson said.
On one of his first casts with bait, the big submarine hit and swallowed the split shot weight instead of the PowerBait. He finally made what he called "the perfect cast" and saw his bait vanish as the fish swallowed it.
The big! fish began to run, nearly spoolin! g his reel. "I had to chase her in the boat and she was headed straight for the pier. I knew if she went under the pier I would lose her," Dickerson said.
He was able to getup enough speed to get ahead of the running trout, causing the fish to turn back to open water. The fish began pulling the other way when it suddenly jumped completely out of the water.
"It was like someone jumped into the water. There were a couple of Marines watching the whole episode from the pier, so I told them I had Troutzilla on the line," Dickerson said.
Using only 4-pound fishing line, his battle lasted about 15 minutes before the fish had tired enough to be netted.
Trout fishing at Dixon Lake has been epic the past few months. Dan Stephensen caught a new lake record trout of 16.82 pounds in January, and Luis Loya from Escondido hauled in an 11.75-pound rainbow from Whisker Bay this week.
Rangers said trout have been hitting on crappie and trout minnow jigs. Garlic flavored PowerBait and nightcrawlers are also working well.
Another useful technique has been to use mealworms to get the bigger trout to bite. Light line in the 2- to 4-pound range is also a secret for success.
Turkey season
Turkey hunting season in California begins March 25 and extends through April 30. The archery-only season will follow immediately afterward, running May 1-14. Hunters who have a current junior hunting license may also hunt the weekend before t! he opener, March 18 and 19, and the two weeks after the general season,! May 1-14, using shotguns or any other legal method of take.
Shooting hours for spring turkeys are from one-half hour before sunrise to 5 p.m. Both a hunting license and upland game bird stamp are required to hunt turkeys, although an upland stamp is not required for hunters with junior licenses. The bag limit is one bearded turkey per day and a possession limit of no more than three turkeys during all spring seasons.
Early reports from hunters who have been scouting indicate there are good numbers of birds being spotted.
Recent rains have no doubt improved habitat conditions and could also contribute to an excellent crop of new birds this spring. This could mean even better hunting conditions next season.
The best areas for turkey hunting in San ! Diego are public lands around Palomar Mountain, Julian, Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs, Ramona and Mount Laguna.
The statewide population of wild turkeys is estimated at 240,000 birds.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates about 36,000 hunters bag about 28,000 turkeys in the spring season each year statewide.
Wild turkeys are found in most counties in California, with the top 10 for spring harvest being Shasta, Butte, Placer, El Dorado, Tehama, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada and Lake counties. For places to hunt turkeys and additional tips and information, hunters should refer to the "Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California" on the CDFW website (

Saturday, February 4, 2017

ERNIE COWAN - Union Tribune Outdoors


The true trout hunter will understand when I say you never hang up your rod.

For most anglers, a few glorious summer days in the Eastern Sierra, watching your fly dance on the sparkling waters of pristine mountain lakes, or a few Saturday trips to local lakes for planted trout, satisfies their cravings to fish.

But the real trout hunter is always on the water, adjusting to seasons, conditions and what nature has
 to offer. Just about anyone who has fished for trout will tell you that California’s Eastern Sierra is a world-class destination for these freshwater fish. Rainbow, German brown, brook and native golden trout offer anglers experiences that range from armchair angling from the tailgate of your car to the thrill of catching a magnificent native golden, found only in the pure waters of wild lakes in the rare air above 10,000 feet.

The beauties and challenges of the High Country seem to validate the words of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without
 knowing that it is not fish they are after.” The solitude, the beauty, and the bonus of connecting with a wild creature at the end of your line seem to satisfy some kind of primal need.

For the real trout hunter, even winter offers a different kind of fishing experience in the High Sierra. Traditionally the winter season allows anglers to plumb the waters of the Owens River, Hot Creek, Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the East Walker River.

Sure, winter fishing can
 be cold and miserable. I’ve had wet boots, cold feet and a chill from a winter day hiking into Hot Creek through snow when temperatures were in the 20s. But 2017 is a winter that trout hunters will never forget.

The storm door has been open, dropping epic amounts of snow that has accumulated to more than 25 feet deep in some places.

Access to many winter fishing grounds has simply vanished. Even snowmobiles are having a hard time navigating through deep snow holes, but the
 worst has been the bonechilling cold.

Read this carefully, because it’s not a misprint. Morning temperatures earlier this month were recorded at 22 degrees below zero in Bridgeport and 30 below on the Upper Owens east of Mammoth Lakes. Those were real temperatures, not wind chill. That will wilt your petunia any day.

To make matters even worse, normally strong flowing water like the Upper Owens River has been covered in ice, making fishing
 impossible. Fishing guide Tom Loe runs Sierra Drifters Guide Service and is an eternal optimist when it comes to trout fishing anytime. This winter, he had to call it for real.

“The(Owens) river has frozen solid above Hot Creek and is unfishable until the ice thaws,” Loe said.

Often winter access is challenging, but can be done in four-wheel drive.

“It’s buried under 3 to 4 feet of snow now. No vehicles are driving in here and snow shoes are mandatory if you walk in,” Loe said.

For now, the true trout hunter will have to look elsewhere, but there is light at the mouth of the ice cave.

The heavy blanket of Sierra snow means water, lots of water, once the spring thaw arrives.

Popular fishing holes like
 the vast expanse of Bridgeport Reservoir, gasping from four years of drought, are now looking like they will be filled to the brim.

Since November, Bridgeport Reservoir has risen nearly 12 feet, and the heavy flow of spring has yet to arrive. Jeffrey Wenger at Bridgeport Marina is hopeful that he will have enough water in the marina to last all summer, allowing him to keep rental boats on the water.

Some may think we are witness to a miracle. Just in the nick of time, nature has arrived with abundance. In reality, the eternal cycles have simply made another orbit.

For the real trout hunter, it just means never having to hang up your rod.