Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SBT: Northern Waterthrush Macabre Scene

Howdy, Birders,

Birding in San Benito County has been a lot of fun lately. It was somewhat frustrating for me not to be able to share some of these interesting finds with someone else. So, on Saturday, September 20th, I begged my friend, Don Doolittle, to go out with me the next day. And, he did! 

We headed for latte with the bald eagle at PAICINES RESERVOIR, just south of Hollister, my home town. En route, a LEWIS' WOODPECKER flew across Highway 25. Sure enough, the BALD EAGLE was there, along with many of the recent suspects, including 8 WHITE PELICANS and one CANVASBACK. We headed out to PANOCHE VALLEY where we found 2 CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, 2 NASHVILLE WARBLERS, 1 MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER, 4 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, 1 YELLOW WARBLER, 1 GOLDEN EAGLE, 1 BARN OWL, and 75 LARK SPARROWS, along with 25 SAVANNAH SPARROWS. 

Back in town, mid-day, we stopped at VISTA PARK HILL to look for the AMERICAN REDSTART that I found on September 19th without success. So, we headed up to SAN FELIPE LAKE, or Soap Lake, as it is known to locals. We saw one BURROWING OWL on the drive, and many of the "usual suspects, " including a VIRGINIA RAIL that I heard. Our target was the Northern Waterthrush. Sure enough, as we approached the area where I had seen it the previous day, I heard the loud, metallic chip call. And, there it was— NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH! You might be wondering what all the fuss is about. This is only the third county record of this species. Although, somewhat regular on the coast in fall, the status of vagrant warblers is not so well known in this inland county. The first county record was at Pinnacles National Monument on September 1, 1954. The second county record was on Gloria Road on September 13, 2006. So, we were elated at having refound this little gem.

Don proceeded to aim for photos of the warbler, as it hopped along the small stream, or perched, bobbing its tail non-stop. Every once in awhile, it would disappear from us, either in the thick branches that overhung the stream, or— oh, no, I saw it go into the eye socket of a long-dead cow!! It was an absolutely macabre scene. This cow was long dead, and mostly a hide on bones, nevertheless, it did manage to attract a number of insects. Don actually saw it disappear into the inner gut area under the hide! One dead cow, keeping one very sweet warbler alive. 

Debi for San Benito County,

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

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