Bullock's and Hooded Orioles at McClellan Ranch. Several Warbling Vireos. At Steven's Creek Reservoir Cricket and I found a Spotted Sandpiper.
efore the board meeting at SCVAS McClellan Ranch this morning, we walked along the Stevens Creek Trail at the ranch. Highlights were a male Merlin, perched in a tall tree by the headquarters, three singing Warbling Vireos and possibly two male Hooded Orioles. Lincoln's Sparrows were still hanging out in the community garden and several Wood Ducks were seen moving up and down the creek.
The annual SCVAS trip to Honey Lake (Lassen County), led by Bob Hirt was a huge success this past weekend.
Greater Sage Grouse were present and displaying on the lek as hoped. Other highlights of the trip included
Rough-legged Hawks (light and dark phase), several Bald Eagle, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis's Woodpeckers, Townend's Solitaire, Mountain Chickadee, Juniper Titmouse, 2 Northern Shrike (an adult and an immature), and Mountain Bluebirds.
Bob sent me a quick list of the full trip which includes a few more birds than I mentioned above. I'm attaching it below:
Red Rock Road: Juniper Titmouse, Townsend's Solitaire
Highway 395 marshes on right before Honey Lake: Eurasian Wigeon
Dakin Unit: Imm. Northern Shrike at entrance road and Mapes corner Fleming Unit area seen by Matthew and Kelly Dodder:
Ad. Northern Shrike on Mapes between 395 (more precisely the Five Point Pheasant club Sign) and Fish
and Game road)
Huge Snow Goose Flock right behind first house on Mapes at S curve. Huge Northern Pintail flock on west side of Mapes just beyond.
Golden Eagle: On right hand cliffs on 395 going north just beyond the mustang corrals.
Janesville Main Street: Slate-colored Junco at Robinson's feeder (also Mountain Chickadees) at entrance to cemetery.
Lewis's Woodpecker five at Vermillion's house tree south of the church (very bad weather)
Saturday Hi-lites: Greater Sage Grouse: 16 males and 8 females and a small Pronghorn herd (20).
Fleming unit area: Ad. Northern Shrike (likely same bird as Friday) 8 AM on Fish and Game road near where ponds are on both sides before the unit. We had 6 Redheads on the ponds to the North of the road.
Rough-legged Hawk: at unit there were 3 (one dark phase). A few Sandhill Cranes left.
Susanville after breakfast: Mink: In Susan River near Weatherlow bridge and Mill St. Eurasian Collared Dove: along Carroll St. Evening Grosbeak: from pedestrian trail over Lassen St and bridge (ole railroad grade) also a Slate-colored Junco at a feeder seen from the elevated trail on the east side of the pedestrian bridge.
No White-headeds or decent birds along Wingfoot Road except many Townsend's Solitaires
Red-naped Sapsucker: Across from Veterinarian in Janesville before the cemetery road
Lewis's Woodpecker: With Red-naped (2) and back at the church were about 12.
Mountain Bluebird: Mapes Road between Standish-Buntingville Road and the Dakin Unit.
Rough-legged Hawk: 3 more at Dakin and one Adult Bald Eagle far out near lake in tree.
Golden Eagle: Overhead at Dakin. A few Swans were there but not much else.
Ad.Northern Shrike: Mapes road same spot as Friday late in day again 5PM. This is same bird moving around
Sunday Hi-lites from Eagle Lake (which was completely frozen over):
Townsend's Solitaire and Rough-legged Hawk along route. Due to time change we were at Jack's Valley too early.
Much snow on roads. Some turned back. Lake was totally frozen over. No ducks no eagles no Osprey.
Pinyon Jays in two locations: Stones Landing first road entrance (50) and Rock Point (?) Lakeshore drive
(125) along with large flocks of Evening Grosbeaks and Robins
Northern Pygmy Owl: Where the telephone wires parallel the road for two to three mile. It was 200 yards (back
toward Spaulding) from base of steep uphill grade that has the old hawk / osprey nest in it. It was in a tree
at base of thirty foot rock cliff on north (west?) non-lake, side of road. Found by Bruce Mast and Bob Power. An amazing spotting while driving.
Returned home via Hwy 36. Stopping at Lake Almanor causeway (Common Mergansers and Ring-necked Ducks) and at Lassen Nat'l Park which was beautiful but had zero birds and an entrance fee. In the past I've had
White-headed (missed for trip this time), Black-backed and Blue Grouse. no such luck this time.
There are lots of reasons to visit this area, as the report I posted suggests. For me, the main reason was a chance to see Greater Sage Grouse performing their courtship display. It was truly magnificent, and unforgettable! They've been performing here for hundreds of years, I expect. Maybe longer...
As you undoubtedly know, Greater Sage Grouse is threatened in California and very few leks remain in the state. The Honey Lake population is very sensitive to disturbance, as all leks are, and it is crucial that birders be on their absolute best behavior. I can't emphasize this enough. Please do not stray from the road while observing the birds as we wouldn't want to discourage their courtship. If you see anyone violating this important rule, please remind them of the importance of it. I hope you share my concern for the birds safety and will do your best to give them the space they need.
You will want to be in position before dawn for the best chance at seeing the birds gather and display. We were there by 6:00 am. Apparently, they leave the lek shortly after sunrise. It will likely be very cold, so dress very warmly. You should be able to hear them in the dark, which was perhaps even more exciting for me than actually seeing the birds! Be sure to listen for their strange calls.
John Kemper's directions are these:
"To get there, from the junction of CA 36 and US 395 south of Susanville, go 20.6 miles east and north on US 395 to a railroad crossing (see detail map in the book). Exactly 1 mile past the railroad crossing there is an obscure dirt road on the left. You can tell you are approaching the dirt road because there is a small white building nearby, next to the railroad track. The dirt road can be badly rutted, with many holes and rough places, and is best traversed by a high-clearance vehicle. In wet weather it is impassable! After turning on this road, go 0.2 miles to cross the railroad again, pass an obscure dirt road on the left, and, after 0.7 mile from the highway, turn left on a fairly prominent dirt road. Go 0.75 mile on this road and stop next to an obscure fire ring on the left. Since rocks are easily removed, there is no assurance this ring will stay there, so watch your odometer, and stop after 0.75 mile. Look to your right (north) about 150 yards to an open area, fairly free of brush, but littered with many boulders. This is the lek. The birds here seem to be fairly oblivious to the presence of cars on the road, and even to the sight of people getting out of their cars. However, you should stay next to the road and not attempt to approach the birds because they will surely leave if you do. If disturbed often, they could desert the lek. This exact sequence of events has happened to some other leks, so the continued existence of this one depends upon how careful people are. The birds are close enough to be seen easily with binoculars, but a spotting scope helps."