Friday, September 19, 2008


Howdy, Birders,

Unable to stand it any longer, I finally grabbed my lattte and headed to PAICINES RESERVOIR about 30 miles south of Hollister on Highway 25, this chilly morning at 7 am. A light breeze from the east made it feel like winter already, with temps only 49F. Upon arriving at Paicines, I immediately found the male ADULT BALD EAGLE sitting in the oak grove on the far side. Nice to have coffee with the eagle. The small willow tree directly across from the Highway 25 pullout had several chipping warblers. The same tree became dripping with warblers once the sun hit it from behind me. (Great viewing conditions here in the early morning, and not so great in the afternoon). I scoped around, finding most of the usual birds, and was debating with myself about stayin' or leavin'. I'm not an impatient sort, but I am a "movin on" kind of girl. But, a good birder friend taught me the beauty of waiting for more. And, yup, more it was. At 7:45 am, a JUVENILE SABINE'S GULL was sitting on the water, on my next search. I never saw it fly in, nor did I see it fly out! Well, there's a lot to look at in this spot. Mostly, it sat on the water, but twice it did fly up, showing the distinctive wing pattern. Felt like I was on a pelagic trip, again!! I watched it for about 5 minutes, went to get my camera, and it was gone. It is doubtful that I could have obtained any image of it, since it was so far away. To my knowledge, this is only the second San Benito County record of Sabine's Gull, and the first fall record.

 As the sun rose the willow tree became alive with more and more activity: YELLOW WARBLER (3), NASHVILLE WARBLER (1) COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (5), ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (3), YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (1), HERMIT WARBLER (1- new for this location for me)., WARBLING VIREO (1), CASSIN'S VIREO (1) and WILLOW FLYCATCHER (1). The drip irrigation in the vineyard behind me came on, and many WESTERN BLUEBIRDS and LESSER GOLDFINCHES showed up. Activity in the willow tree died down. I think that there must be some puddles of water under the tree. And, my guess is that the warblers went down for bathing, as many reappeared, cleaning their feathers. Other passerines of note included: LINCOLN'S SPARROWS (4), CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (1), and BEWICK'S WREN (1). The water level is down quite a bit, exposing a very nice mudflat area. LEAST (4) and WESTERN (5) SANDPIPERS, GREATER (1) and LESSER (1) YELLOWLEGS, BLACK-NECKED STILT (1), LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (2), SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (1), and WHITE PELICAN (2) were present along with a few ducks: CANVASBACK, RUDDY DUCKS, and MALLARDS.

On my way to town, I saw two EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES in Tres Pinos, where I stopped to use the restroom. I also noted that one of my favorite restaurants, Flap Jacks, closed down.

At 10:15 am, I was at VISTA PARK HILL, a small park in downtown Hollister, with public access from Hill Street, off of the main drag in town. This is the highest point in town, heavily vegetated with a variety of introduced species. It has always been a draw for unusual birds. A substantial row of bottlebrush attracts many hummingbirds, orioles, grosbeaks, and tanagers in the spring. Most of the flowers area now faded. I pulled into the park, and parked in the very first parking places on the left of the bottlebrush bushes. Hearing CHESNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES in the tall eucalyptus trees on the left side of the entrance, I walked toward them. Immediately, 2 WARBLING VIREOS popped up and sat on the telephone wires! I thought that I heard a Northern Parula, and may well have, but a man was using one of those noisy leaf blowers! (Why the city wants to pay for blowing leaves as opposed to keeping the restrooms open, is beyond me). One pish, and the next bird in front of me was an AMERICAN REDSTART, first fall male, or female. I was so shocked! Ran for my camera in the car, and tried to get some shots, but it went higher in the tree. Doubtful if I got anything. As far as I know, this is the second record for San Benito County. I found one last fall, on private property. So, this is the first record accessible at a public spot. 


Made a quick drive through the HOLLISTER INDUSTRIAL PONDS. Wow! 590 NORTHERN SHOVELERS are all over the place, along with 194 WILSON'S PHALAROPES, 1 SPOTTED SANDPIPER, 1 WILLET, and a few other things. 

At home, I added CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (1!) for a new yard bird. Great morning. 

Well, tomorrow morning I'll be back at Paicines Reservoir, early, for latte with the bald eagle. Please join me.

Inland pelagics,

P.S. Birding in the afternoon in Hollister is not too much fun, as we almost always have wind at that time. Morning is best.

Debra Shearwater
Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
PO Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024

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