This is a late report of some birds in San Benito County.
PAICINES RESERVOIR has had a good selection of waterfowl: up to 14 HOODED MERGANSERS (25 Nov), 250+ COMMON MERGANSERS (all days), 12 RING-NECKED DUCKS (11 Dec), and other usual species, including WHITE PELICANS (3-5); EARED, PIED-BILLED, WESTERN and CLARK'S GREBES. Raptors present have included the adult BALD EAGLES, off and on, usually perched in the oak grove, with both male and female present (26 Nov); PRAIRIE FALCON, usually perched on the double power tower on the far side (25, 26 Nov; 11 Dec); MERLIN, usually perched in the far leafless trees (I saw one eat a red-winged blackbird, 11 Dec); and NORTHERN HARRIER (11 Dec). TREE/VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS (3) were present on 12 Dec. Reasonable numbers of shorebirds have been present, including: LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (up to 25 most days); LEAST SANDPIPER (up to 22 most days); WESTERN SANDPIPER ( 1 on 26 Nov; 2 on 12 Dec); BLACK-NECKED STILT (1 on 19 Dec); SPOTTED SANDPIPER (1 on 12 Dec, unusual in winter). Geese have included: CANADA, CACKLING (2 on 12 Dec), and WHITE-FRONTED (22 on 12 Dec).
HOLLISTER SEWER PONDS: I visited the sewer ponds on 10 Dec. Birding is abysmal, as there is precious little water. Shorebirding is next to nil. The best place for shorebirds is at Paicines Reservoir. Two COMMON GOLDENEYES were just about the only birds of note.
PANOCHE VALLEY: At Summit Ranch Pond, I noted one DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, which I do not believe I have ever seen at this pond. (Reasonable numbers of cormorants are at Paicines Reservoir). Panoche Valley was socked in with fog on 12 December, even in mid-day. On Panoche Road near the school, both a dark-morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK and PRAIRIE FALCON were present. Another PRAIRIE FALCON was present on Recalde Road, along with a few MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. Near Silver Creek Ranch, small numbers of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, AMERICAN PIPITS, and 3 VESPER SPARROWS were present. At Shotgun Pass, an immature GOLDEN EAGLE was hunting ground squirrels, as it perched on rocks, and 2 ROCK WRENS were in the pass itself. I found no mountain plovers or kingbirds.
BROWN'S VALLEY ROAD: On Dec 12, two BURROWING OWLS and one SHORT-EARED OWL were present. On Dec 11, two BURROWING OWLS and a MERLIN were present.
PINNACLES NATIONAL MONUMENT: On December 11, I found 5 CALIFORNIA CONDORS (2 were soaring, while 3 were perched in a large pine tree on the ridge); one ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER in the campground, along with the usual resident suspects.
GLORIA ROAD: On 25 Nov, I birded this road, and found most of the usual resident and winter birds. Highlights included: more than 20 LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES, 12 BELL'S SAGE SPARROWS, 1 HUTTON'S VIREO, and 1 PHAINOPEPLA.
FREMONT PEAK STATE PARK: On 10 Dec, near the top of San Juan Canyon road, at the entrance to the park. very large flocks were encountered, including 100+ CEDAR WAXWINGS, HERMIT THRUSH, AMERICAN ROBINS, and 2 EVENING GROSBEAKS (very few records for San Benito County of this species). A male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and a BROWN CREEPER were in the oaks near the campground. Finally, a BOBCAT was scampering along the hillside. Images are at:
HOLLISTER: On 14 Dec, from my front yard, I heard an EVENING GROSBEAK calling in a grove of trees near the intersection of Hilltop and Clearview Roads.
Sorry this report is so late, however some of the species are worth mentioning.
Happy Holidays to all,