Friday, August 3, 2018

Site Guide: Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, Poway

Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is a 700 acre oak-lined canyon surrounded by coastal sage scrub and chaparral near Lake Poway. Oaks and sycamores predominate along the usually-dry creek bed. The understory is thick with many plants, including wild rose, but may primarily be poison oak. So stay on the trail!

Typical birds of oak woodlands are here: Acorn Woodpeckers, Nuttall's Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, California Towhees, Oak Titmouses, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Anna's Hummingbirds, Phainopeplas, Mourning Doves, Cooper's Hawks, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Wrentits, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinches, Western Bluebirds, House Wrens, Bushtits, California Scrub-Jays, Hutton's Vireos, Black Phoebes. These are all common southern California birds. Really, nothing unusual is seen very often (Long-eared Owl and American Redstart in 2004). eBird Hotspot overview here. On average, this trail gets birded less than twice a month by birders reporting to eBird.

Here are a couple of web site references for you:

Friends of Blue Sky Canyon

City of Poway Hiking Trail maps

Getting there: Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is on the north side of Poway. About 17 miles north of the I-8 interchange on the I-15 freeway take Exit 24 for Rancho Bernardo Rd. Take this east 1.5 miles, where it becomes Espola Rd. Continue another 1.6 miles. In the big right-hand curve, use the turn lane to turn left into the well-marked parking lot. Parking: Free. Hours: Daylight. Map Navigation: 16275 Espola Rd, Poway, CA 92064

Where to bird: Blue Sky Ecological Reserve features an easy, relatively flat, dirt trail (gravel road) of about 1.25 miles (one way) along an oak and sycamore creek. From the end of the trail you may return on the same route, or continue on a more strenuous hike. The immediate return trip is about 2.5 miles round trip.

If you want to double your trip to 5-6 miles, you may choose another 1.25 miles (one-way) either south to Lake Poway or north to Lake Ramona. These trails leave the trees and travel through coastal sage scrub and chaparral and have a 950 foot elevation gain. Actually, unless you just want a good workout, these trails away from the oak ravine are not very productive, bird-wise. I hiked to Lake Ramona on July 15, 2018. There was more bird activity around the dam, including a couple of Rock Wrens. And I turned around when I reached the top of the dam and didn't explore the lake. No ducks were present that I could see, but in winter there would be some.

Blue Sky Ecological Reserve area map
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve trail map
From Parking lot (P) to end of oak ravine is 1.25 miles (trail in red).
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve scenic view
Overview trail near parking lot above the creek. Early morning overcast.
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve typical trail through the oaks
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve typical trail through the oaks
Thick patches of poison oak
Poison oak is a thick understory plant.
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve typical trail through the oaks
Easy trail/road
Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
View climbibg trail to Lake Ramona looking back toward Lake Poway
View climbing trail to Lake Ramona looking back toward Lake Poway dam.
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Dam at Lake Ramona
Lake Ramona

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