Thursday, May 19, 2011


Howdy, Birders,
After several dreary days of rain, I decided to head out for some San Benito County birding. My goal was to head to Lone Tree Road, off Fairview Road, to search for Grasshopper Sparrows. I've looked for them at least five times this spring. We missed them on the San Benito County Big Day. It was still quite overcast and dark, since it was late afternoon. The view of the Diablo Mountains from Fairview Road is the image below.
On the lower portion of Lone Tree Road, YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES were busy, their large, football-shaped nests in plain view in the sycamore trees. A pair of RED-TAILED HAWKS were both at their nest, busily feeding the large, white fluffy youngsters.
It turned out to be a great "wire birding" evening. First, a female BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK popped up on the barbed wire fence.
Next, a male BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK popped up. Then, I heard several singing GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS, and one individual popped up on the fence.
A small flock of half a dozen LAZULI BUNTINGS, along with two LESSER and two LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES were feeding in the thistles along side the road. A poor shot of the Lawrence's Goldfinch is below.

Continuing with my wildflower theme and yellow flavors, I believe the above flowers are Mule Ears, a bit worn down from the rain, no doubt.
A lucky moment, with a RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW perched up! Often this localized sparrow is very secretive, skulking on the ground under shrubbery, making it very hard to see.
It just so happens that I know this particular individual has a nest nearby. There is also a Rock Wren nesting in the same area. And, it looks like a male Lazuli Bunting is singing on territory in the same locale. Must be something great about that spot.

Many of the "usual suspects" were found, including my favorite GOLDEN EAGLES on their high, rocky cliffside eyrie. It was thrilling to see one of the adults perform a territorial flight display— soaring up high, folding the wings completely against the body, diving head-straight toward the ground with a last second, upward, U-shaped pullup. I wonder if that's where stunt aircraft fliers got their ideas! This is a very spectacular flying feat. Finally, the eagle who was in the audience became impressed, and took off to the skies as well, joining the displaying bird. WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS zipped around the cliff tops.

Suddenly, I glimpsed a cat at the right side of the road! No sooner did I see it, than it vanished (I thought), downhill. I stopped the car, killed the engine, grabbed my camera— for once, not forgetting it. Well, let's be honest here, I was hoping this was going to be a young mountain lion. I jumped up the embankment and saw— nothing. Felt the eyes on me— and, there was a BOBCAT, sitting on a trail! As I tried to get closer, I fell, sliding down the wet grass hillside on my butt. Oh, great, that will surely make the cat run away. Nope, there it sat— talk about a "Cheshire grin"! And, wait a minute— there's TWO BOBCATS!!
More on the tale (tail) of the two bobcats in the next blog. Have to get out birding, now!
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding

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