WINTER 2008


Hayward Shoreline 01-12-08 POSTED
Gray Lodge and Sacramento NWR 01-19+20-08 POSTED
Alviso Salt Ponds and SWPCP 01-27-08 POSTED
Panoche Valley 02-02-08 POSTED
Charleston Marsh and Shoreline Lake 02-09-08 POSTED
Venice Beach and Princeton Harbor 02-16-08 POSTED
Natural Bridges and other SMC coast stops 02-23-08 POSTED
Point Reyes 03-01-08 POSTED
Point Piños and other Monterey coast stops 03-08-08  

Note: The trip reports below are organized in reverse chronological order (more recent report first).





Venice Beach and Princeton Harbor 02-16-08


The full trip report and species list appear after the images of the highlight of our trip, a Slaty-backed Gull, which was first located by Dan Singer and Ron Thorn.




Image 1:
When we first observed the Slaty-backed Gull, it was resting among the other Gulls. Its icy eye was shockingly pale, and surrounded by smudges or "eye shadow" giving it a fierce expression.




Image 2:
Occasionally it preened and we started to notice the different mantle color, more brownish than the Westerns and certainly darker than Glaucous-winged.



Image 3:
The bill now visible showed a more parallel-edged structure.




Image 4:
I had high hopes for this digiscoped image, but unfortunately the primary tips are not fully visible. It was difficult to tell what my camera was capturing in the bright light at the beach.




Image 5:
This image shows the general build of the bird: thick necked, and pot bellied. When relaxed, the bird did not stand as tall as the nearby Westerns and the shorter legs were more obvious. As with one of the previous shots, the different hue of the mantle is apparent here.



Obviously, after spending class time on Gull identification, we had to go to Venice Beach! Each winter, thousands of Gulls gather here providing ample opportunity to study size, shape, coloration and patterning of the birds in all their various cycles. We did our best to work through the 8 or so thousand birds, keeping an eye out for possible rarities like the Glaucous, or now famous Slaty-backed Gull. We were prevented entering the park as the gate remained locked until roughly 8:15, but were on the bluff shortly after that, enjoying the bright, clear morning and spring-like temperatures.

On the right side of the beach a small group of Western Gulls, mostly adults were resting quietly. One or two Glaucous-winged were among them, providing a nice gray-value comparison. Easy enough... Also present were several first winter birds of both species. Slightly more difficult, but still manageable. In the lagoon below us was a male Red-breasted Merganser that swam quite close and seemed very comfortable with our large group of birders. Down to our left a positively enormous flock of Gulls resting on the beach. And as many of our nearby Westerns and Glaucous-winged Gulls lifted into the air and flew in that direction, we realized quite clearly that we should too. In the distance on the bluff, stood two lone figures. Each with a scope...




Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

We stopped several times as we approached the huge flock, finding Surf and White-winged Scoters and both Aechmophorus Grebes, and Double-crested Cormorants off shore. We also picked up Song and Savannah Sparrows. We'd already located White-crowned by the lot as they were singing clearly. Their Golden-crowned cousins were a little quieter, but still present in the thicket by the restrooms and along the fence. House finches, European Starlings and Brewer's Blackbirds were hard to miss, as was the lone Red-shouldered Hawk that called loudly. Another raptor, a Red-tailed Hawk stood watch on a phone pole watching for any movement.

By now we were also identifying 2nd or 3rd winter birds. We found Westerns and Glaucous-winged to be the most user friendly, but we were also growing confident with the various ages of California and Herring. Some birds, perhaps many, remained unidentified, but we continued to try. Not surprisingly, we were unable to find any Ring-billed, and it would be some time before we located any Mew. We passed a large sea lion carcass that served not only to attract a group of Glaucous-winged Gulls, but also a handy reference point for us to communicate location.

The two lone birders turned out to be Ron Thorn and Dan Singer. We chatted for a moment, learning that they hadn't found anything unusual. While we were content to identify species, Ron and Dan were scanning for hybrids.

We left them to their project and walked along the bluff to an area of dense Gull numbers. Here we found many more Californias and Herrings than before. The light was still too bright to our left so we scanned mostly straight ahead and back to our right. A good thing too! Soon Ron and Dan were signaling to us about something. We made our way back to them quickly. They were about 200 yards away. Well, their announcement couldn't have been more exciting. They'd found a Slaty-backed Gull!! They had the bird in both of their scopes for us to position. Instantly, we had 10 scopes on the sleeping bird. It was difficult to locate, but very obviously different when we finally got it in view. Dark, brownish-gray mantle, as opposed to bluish-gray of the nearby Westerns. It also had an excessive amount of smudging around the ghostly pale eye. That's about all we could see at first, but eventually the bird stood up and revealed its long, but thick-necked profile and pot-bellied structure. Some of us were even able to see the shorter legs before it sat back down and resumed its nap. I made sure that no scope remained idle, and that everyone got looks at the bird. It was very exciting of course, especially since it was a lifer for almost everyone. I had tried a good ten times the year before in search of the bird, but never managed. Now it was right in front of us and in our scopes, thanks entirely to two expert birders who had put in the time and work necessary to dig out this rare bird. Thank you Ron and Dan!

Up to our right, we picked out a first-cycle Glaucous Gull. On a normal day that would have been very exciting, but today all most of us could think about was whether the Slaty-back had moved.... at all. The subtle movement of its head revealing the bill, or a momentary stretch of its wing or even the opening of its fierce white eye... were all captivating!

We made the decision after a while to leave Dan and Ron to their work and move to our second destination. We made our way through town to the Mavericks Beach parking lot... FULL. An awkward u-turn took us to a second parking area near the willows, meaning a long walk back to the harbor. It didn't bother us too much. Nothing really bothered us... We'd seen Slaty-backed Gull and everything else was kind of extra! Gravy.

On the water were 4 Red-throated Loon, 2 Common Loon, many Surf Scoter, and Bufflehead. We managed to find a single Pelagic Cormorant that was perched on a buoy also, but generally, the harbor was quiet. The cypress trees failed to produce any Black-crowned Nigh Herons as we usually find, but a pair of Townsend's Warblers put on quite a show for us. The male sang directly over our heads. Seemed like spring was in the air.



Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis

Out farther we found a small variety of Shorebirds, including Sanderling, Willet, Marbled Godwit and Black-bellied Plover. A pleasant surprise was a small group of Brant, foraging right on the beach at a scope-filling distance. We also encountered an Osprey, but despite a few hints it might dive in front of us, it never did. In the tide pool area we were able to find Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstones and Surfbird but no hoped-for Wandering Tattler. Mew Gulls were numerous here as well. Back by our cars we got good looks at a male Common Yellowthroat and a very bright Orange-crowned Warbler foraging in the budding willow tangle.



Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Brooke Miller

Lunch at the brewery was happy but lengthy. I guess we should have made a reservation... Next time.

A quick stop at the Creekside Smokehouse for our usual cold smoked salmon fix. Everyone in our group bought some... It's just that good! After that it was up to Skylawn Cemetery to pick up a few Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins and a single Sharp-shinned Hawk. What a day!



Photo: Ken Lillis


Brant
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Horned Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Osprey
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Sanderling
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Wrentit
California Thrasher
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch








Charleston Marsh and Shoreline Lake 02-09-08

Our previously scheduled visit Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass had to be changed because of serious flooding in that area. Apparently, large stretches of the auto loop were still under water after last week's heavy rain. The Flannery and Robinson Road area, originally planned to be the second half this full day of birding, was also seeming like a less-than-ideal destination because of the small number of target species... So, because we had traveled so far the previous week, and had already logged many of the target birds earlier in the term, we found ourselves with a perfect opportunity to visit a local area and give ourselves a break from drivng... The new plan involved a sweep of recently reported bird in Mountain View, with Charleston Marsh and Shoreline Lake being of most interest and greatest potential.

The weather was wonderful, sunny and warm, making it easy to understand why so many birds were in full voice. We began the walk with a very short talk on directional communication, meaning, how to express the location of a bird to others in the group. Charleston Marsh (located on Charleston Road, just off of Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View) provides a perfect setting to practice these skills. The three-dimensional nature of the habitat requires we articulate elevation and distance of a given bird, as well as find ways of differentiating between kinds of trees. For example, some trees look like Christmas trees, while others look like broccoli. Still others seem feathery, or twiggy. In the heat of the moment, when one birder is trying to direct another, strange comparisons creep into the dialog. "That bluish tree with the funny yellow things on it..." We used the clock as well, to direct each other to a position within a given tree and experienced a bit more success. Well, it worked splendidly, but we'll continue practicing so that more class members will see the birds we encounter on our field trips.

As far as our quarry, we walked directly to the area where I had seen the Northern Waterthrush on previous visits. A short blast from the ipod elicited an almost immediate response from "our" bird. It gave a loud "TINK!" call from the deep in the reeds. For such a small bird, a Warbler in fact, it has a surprisingly loud call, not unlike a California Towhee, I'd say. We continued to hear the bird from various places in the marsh as it moved un-seen up and down the waterway. Eventually, we had to leave it but hoped maybe to find it when the trail brought us to the opposite side of the water. Perhaps there, the visibility would be better.

Further along the walkway, or par course more accurately, we found a lovely Green Heron sunning itself quietly. Elsewhere we found the previously reported female Hooded Merganser. Both birds seemed very relaxed and allowed us to observe them for quite a while. Carol and Howard's grandchildren enjoyed the birds we were seeing in this small, but very pretty habitat. Both Snowy and Great Egrets were foraging in a section of the creek, allowing for nice comparison, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Hutton's Vireo. The Vireo, in fact, was considerably ready for spring and sang loudly from a branch directly overhead.




Photo: Jeff Mencher



Photo: Jeff Mencher



Photo: Jeff Mencher


The trail led us toward Shoreline Blvd, where the Merganser was floating, and then doubled back toward the Stevens Creek Trail. We spotted an adult Peregrine Falcon on one of the power towers. I pointed out the "lone eucalyptus" along the trail, and described the area to those who hadn't yet had a chance to explore. Come spring and fall, this stretch of trees may become quite active with migrants.



Photo: Jeff Mencher


We made our way back to the cars, finding Lincoln's Sparrow and a good-sized flock of Cedar Waxwings along the way. Just as we were getting ready to leave, we hear a loud "TINK!" from the willows at the trail head. Further investigation confirmed it was indeed a Northern Waterthrush. Thorough digging, produced fleeting glimpses of a small streaky bird with supercilium and bobbing tail. Better look desired...



Photo: Jeff Mencher



Photo: Jeff Mencher


We caravanned to Shoreline Lake and hoped to have success with some recently reported birds there as well. Short work produced very satisfying looks at Common Merganser, Pelagic Cormorant, Red-throated Loon and a female Barrow's Goldeneye. Also on the lake were Eared, Horned, Pied-billed and Clark's Grebes. It wasn't until later we found Western Grebe on the salt pond. We got to watch the Mergansers in flight, and enjoyed the same with the Loon, which left the scene altogether but approached close enough to photograph before disappearing. Surf Scoters dominated the swimming birds, but there were also American Coot, Ruddy Duck, Canvasback, and Common Goldeneye. It was very satisfying to pick of so many birds without even moving from our spot on the lawn. Several Gulls were in attendance too, including Ring-billed, California, Western and Glaucous-winged.



Photo: Jeff Mencher


A short walk to the path overlooking salt pond A1 produced the one Western Grebe we encountered, but little else. I guess, that's not fair... We saw a very handsome male Gadwall in absolutely perfect light, which showed off his delicate vermiculation. It's one of Carol's favorite Ducks, I believe... Finally, we arrived at the Mountain View Forebay where we hoped to find Black-crowned Night Heron. We did, in fact several, as well as Common Moorhen and a veritable Rail show with Sora and Virginia passing, although fleetingly, between reedy sections of the marsh. Especially interesting was a pair of Sora squabbling in the center of the water. Each kicked at the other while trying to remain afloat. Charleston Marsh provided a few extra species for the list including Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt and a single American Wigeon. All-in-all, it wasn't a bad day. We were all home in time for lunch, and not too tired from driving.



Photo: Jeff Mencher


Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow








Panoche Valley 02-02-08

It seemed like everyone chose to visit the valley today. Ted Chandik, Clay Kempf, Lisa Myers, each with their group, and a Harley Davidson club of bikers were all there enjoying the gray, mostly rainless day. Our groups enjoyed several opportunities to share reports and help each other locate target birds. Even the bikers pointed us toward a Golden Eagle as we chatted during lunch. I'm always impressed with how friendly the bikers are at the Panoche Inn, just regular people but maybe with a few more tattoos and leather pants...

We began our day at Paicines Reservoir near the intersection of Hwy 25 and J1 (Panoche Road) south of Hollister. Despite the recent rains, the reservoir was surprisingly low. The group of trees visible from the turnout was not surrounded by water as it often is, and there were no Cormorants perched on the branches. Most of the birds were gathered near the far shore. Among them we picked out Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Common Merganser. Somewhat unexpected were two American White Pelicans, and both species of Scaup. Ruddy dominated the Waterfowl numbers. On the close shore we found both Killdeer and Least Sandpiper, our only Shorebirds of the day. A Prairie Falcon was spotted on a distant tower but took off too soon for us to fully enjoy. Also present was a pale Buteo which generated some debate. The pale grayish head with slight supercilium, bright yellow cere and white, belt-less belly suggests Ferruginous Hawk to me. Despite a thorough scan of the many oaks, fence posts and power lines, we were not able to locate a Bald Eagle.




Photo: Matthew Dodder



Photo: Eric Goodill


Photo: Matthew Dodder


Photo: Matthew Dodder



We backtracked slightly to reach the junction with J1 and continued toward the first of several stops. The mud wall by the first bridge, a traditional spot for Great Horned or Barn Owl because of the small caves showed evidence of Owls, but none were seen. Instead we found the first Lark Sparrow of the day, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and several Hermit Thrush. Yellow-billed Magpie were heard repeatedly and American Robins landed on the wires overhead. We also managed to find a Bewick's Wren, possibly stirred into action by the recording of the Canyon Wren I played. Regarding the Canyon Wren, it responded a couple of times with a distinctive metallic call note, but never showed itself. Still, it's on the list, even if as a heard-only.


Photo: Matthew Dodder


Photo: Matthew Dodder

A couple of unscheduled stops were made before Eagle Rock. A large patch of chaparral on the left side of the road looked promising for something, so we got out and listened. First detected was a very vocal California Thrasher which we soon found propped on the top of a coyote bush. There was also Spotted Towhee, both crowned Sparrows and another Hermit Thrush. There was a lovely stop near a small valley near a ranch. The shallow stream seemed like a good place to search for Bluebirds, Spotted Sandpiper or even Wilson's Snipe. I think we ended up finding Western Meadowlark, Anna's Hummingbird and another Hermit Thrush. Also present in this area was our first Black Phoebe of the day. A neatly woven nest was hanging from a small willow by the water's edge. We're not sure to whom it belonged, but it contained bits of thread and other items. Perhaps a Bewick's Wren...



Photo: Jeff Mencher


Eagle Rock was exciting. The huge tower of rock above the road has for sometime been the favored nest site for both Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon. Today we saw only the huge empty nest of the Eagle and a bit of bleaching where the birds apparently like to perch. What made the stop successful was a close encounter with a young Greater Roadrunner first spotted by Mr. Melnick. The bird strolled up the slope, not far from the road, and occasionally stopped to eye us or pick up a bit of food. We admired it for several minutes, but when Ted's group rolled up, the bird was out of site. We heard later that they were not able to relocate it.



Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Eric Goodill

Once we set out on this tour, I quickly lose track of exactly where we are on the map. I need to remember to zero-out my tachometer so I can communicate locations better... Somewhere along the route we came across a small barn close to the road, and a short bridge. This is the spot were last year we found a large flock of Wild Turkey and once before that a Wilson's Snipe. Today it produced our only House Sparrows of the day, but more happily Kelly spotted a lovely Lewis's Woodpecker. It went from one oak tree to another, and then to a phone pole where it perched openly for some time. Back and forth it went a few times, allowing everyone to see both the rosy coloration on the breast and the deep wine-bottle green back and wings.


Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Jeff Mencher

There's one ranch I made sure to remember the name of. The Appel Ranch is where we usually find Lewis's Woodpecker and Phainopla. Because of the widely spaced oaks, many festooned with mistletoe, it creates a perfect habitat for both. Today we detected White-breasted Nuthatch and Oak Titmouse calling from the trees and eventually Kelly and Leonie found a male and female Phainopla perched in the top branches of an oak, heavily laden with spherical clumps of mistletoe.


Photo: Matthew Dodder


Photo: Matthew Doddere

As we passed through the narrow roads in the hills, we admired the small orchard to our left. The planted trees showed thousands of organized holes on the trunks and thick branches--proof positive of at least one species of Sapsucker. Unfortunately the road is not wide enough to park and explore, but this is indeed the location where Red-naped Sapsucker was found a few years ago... Perhaps it is because of the steep slopes, or some change in the soil quality, but there is a marked shift away from oak to gray pine here along this stretch. It is also where we search for Rufous-crowned Sparrow. We found a good place to turn off, right near where the creek occasionally floods over the road, and got out. Within a very short time, we had a Rufous-crowned Sparrow responding to the recorded song. More accurately, it responded to the "peer, peer, peer, peer-peer!" portion of the recording. It came down the rocky slope as expected, snuck into the back of a coyote bush and when he thought the time was right, he climbed into the open showed his dominance to our group from a small tree right in front of us. Full song as well! The recorded rival had already stopped its challenge, and soon the real bird knew he'd won. We left him there, and occasionally heard him calling after us. "Yeah, that's right. Keep moving folks... This is my town!"


Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Jeff Mencher


There's another wide open area with big enough skies for a few Raptors to enjoy. Lots of widely spaced oaks again and gentle rolling hills. Oak savannah. Today we moved through it quickly because many of the targets for this habitat had already been logged. We stopped only at the "orchard" along the straightaway. Most of the produce trees have been removed, leaving a meager line of trees and a huge plowed field. I don't know what they're planning here, but personally, I miss those trees. In spring they used to flower and the petals would fall after a while, coating the earth with white. It was a lovely sight... Today the deciduous trees that still stand held hundreds of Lark Sparrows. Their songs and calls produced a constant sound from the branches, and yet it took a while for us to get good look at the birds. As loud as they were, they disappeared into the branches, blending in with the dried leaves. We listened for the telltale "dot-matrix printer" sound that characterizes their unique song.



Photo: Matthew Dodder


Photo: Jeff Mencher


Photo: Jeff Mencher



Finally, we descended into the valley leading up to the Panoche Inn. A few Savannah Sparrows showed up along the barbed wire fence. We stopped to investigate. Western Meadowlark, Say's Phoebe... time for lunch. The picnic tables at the inn were already filled with Clay's group and a dozen or so Harley club members. We chatted with everyone, exchanged stories and ate our sandwiches. Eventually Ted's group appeared as well. As I talked with Mike, a biker, he shared stores about "buzzards" and "red-breasted hawks" and other birds I could only guess at might be. Still he and his friends were very pleasant and I did my best to tell them about another popular biking area, Mines Road... He said he'd heard about it, but it was too far from his home to ride. I guess that's good. Mine's road has enough visitors already. He asked what we were looking for today, and we told him we were hoping of Golden Eagle. I just picked a bird I thought he'd recognize. "Oh, yeah. Those are great..." "Big," the black leather-clad biker seated next to him added. After a moment, "Looks like a couple of scavengers chasing something," Mike pointed with his chin. "Up there, " he motioned again over my shoulder toward the sky. Sure enough a Golden Eagle was dodging the attacks of two Common Ravens. "Thanks Mike!" I said. "Yeah, I'll send you my bill." he smiled. Incidentally, Mike likes to play golf too. Who would have thought...?



Photo: Jeff Mencher

After lunch we headed down New Idria road for a while. No Cassin's Kingbird... Carol and Howard's car spotted a Vesper Sparrow just past the school. Anther car located a Merlin and all of us got a good look at Prairie Falcon. Clay's group was on a dirt road past the buildings and when they were about to leave we asked what they'd found. Vesper Sparrow was the answer. We gave it a try next. It took a while, but finally after a very thorough search by everyone, Jean found 3 Vesper Sparrows sheltering beneath a tiny tumbleweed. She said it was the short tail that clued her of the id, but we all noticed the prominent eye ring. Some saw the white outer tail feathers, and Eric even saw the rufous lesser coverts at one point. For me this was the highlight of the day. A huge beautiful area, many many places for birds to hide, three very subtle Sparrows in our scopes and a big group of very happy birders! Oh, yes. There was also a juvenile Golden Eagle soaring directly over us!



Photo: Eric Goodill


Photo: Eric Goodill


Photo: Eric Goodill


Photo: Jeff Mencher

Seemed now like we didn't really need to stop anywhere before Shotgun Pass. So off we went, speeding toward the base of the hills. After parking, and scanning for Burrowing Owls, we walked up the road to where legend has it there is a population of Chukar living among the rocky slopes... What we did find was a Rock Wren, calling loudly as if he was the only bird around for miles. Indeed, that was our experience as well...

Up and over the rocky pass to Mercey Hot Springs. As usual, the caretakers were there ready to accept our $5 per person fee so that we could search for their famous Long-eared Owls. We quickly found 10 or so of the mysterious Owls in a single tree adjacent to the restrooms. They are obviously acquainted with the presence of birding groups, but not so acquainted that they ignore them. Some were asleep or facing away, while others glared down at us, ears erect and bodies elongated. Simply beautiful. If only we had a Great Horned Owl for comparison we'd see the different head shape and body mass. Well, as we sipped hot tea and munched on delicious ginger cookies made by Leonie, Mary Anne located a Great Horned Owl over the picnic tables. Great timing!

It was getting much darker by now, and the raindrops started to concern us. A very brief expedition up the BLM road produced only Horned Larks. We came down almost immediately after reaching the scrubby area where last year we'd found Sage Thrasher and Sage Sparrow. Nothing was there today. We spoke with Lisa and here people as they were heading down from the hills. They had seen little or nothing as well. So we left the area very quickly. Back along Panoche road we searched the mud caves for any Owls. Nothing. And we stopped briefly at the Panoche Reservoir initially to look for Tricolored Blackbird or additional Waterfowl. But it was so dark and cold at this point we decided to head to Los Banos for dinner. A good thing we did too. It began to rain hard now and we were all tired. Dinner at the Mexican restaurant was fast, cheap and quite good.

Thanks to everyone for a nearly perfect day. Many target birds and very little rain... I guess we'll have to wait another year for Chukar, if they really exist at all...

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Merlin
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Killdeer
Least Sandpiper
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl
Long-eared Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Lewis's Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Phainopepla
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
House Sparrow



Earlier reports for winter term 2008