This is a report of some recent bird sightings in San Benito County. Before I get to that, I'd like to say that I've spent more hours and miles birding in San Benito County this spring than any other spring since I moved to the county 17 years ago. Some springs, I have spent a minimal amount of time birding, as I've been on trips elsewhere in the world. But, many springs, I've been home. There has never been a "slower" spring in my experience. In past years, I've never been hard pressed to find, say, a black-headed grosbeak. But, here is it, the third week in May, and these birds are not all that easy to come by. It just doesn't seem like I should not have to "hunt and peck" so much to find neotropical migrants. Perhaps, various species are arriving in "waves", but I am not seeing that in this county. In any case, in years past I have seen far more numbers of a given neotropical species than what I am finding this year.
Recent bird sightings have included:
GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS returned to Lone Tree Road on 19 May, with at least 6 singing birds. It has been thought that these birds might nest in places such as Panoche Valley early in the season. This was recently confirmed by another local birder who photographed a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW in Panoche Valley, carrying food. After this brood fledges, it is thought that the birds move to other locations that are cooler and more humid, leaving Panoche Valley.
Newly fledged BROWN CREEPERS were on San Juan Canyon Road on 19 May, while a WESTERN WOOD PEEWEE was peeling strips of bark off a redwood tree, then stopping to snatch lichens from an oak tree, to build a nest. Other migrants/arrivals on this road included TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER and two WESTERN TANAGERS at the very top.
The BALD EAGLE nest had one very actively, wing-flapping, brown eaglet on 21 May. The male BALD EAGLE was still guarding the nest. There was a large, second eaglet, but I did not see it on this date, and do not know if it survives.
In Panoche Valley on 21 May, fledgling HORNED LARKS numbered about 36, a ROADRUNNER was carrying food to a nest near Silver Creek, 2 migrant BLUE GROSBEAKS were nearby. About 5 pm, a single CASPIAN TERN was at Paicines Reservoir.
On 22 May, an OSPREY was flying northwest over Paicines Reservoir, while a male BALD EAGLE was perched in the oak grove on the west side. Nearby, a male WESTERN BLUEBIRD was feeding noisy young in a nest on a dead tree, while some recently fledged young were on the dirt road.
Finally, at Pinnacles National Monument on 22 May, I hiked the Bear Valley Trail from Bear Valley Gulch, hoping to find a yellow-breasted chat. The highlight was a singing GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, a species that is listed on the park checklist. According to reports, only two records of this species exists for the county, both at Pinnacles National Monument in 1954. This would represent the third county record. Other birds on the hike included PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (only one bird), a beautiful male YELLOW WARBLER, quite a few singing WARBLING VIREOS, HUTTON'S VIREO (2), BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (2), ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (1), many singing ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS and HOUSE WRENS. Two CANYON WRENS were on two different territories, and could make for good stops for photographers. Oh, and quite a lot of RUFOUS-SIDED TOWHEES.
Elsewhere in the county, I visited the recently discovered LONG-EARED OWL family. The young are still "branchers." I tried video taping them, but failed. Operator error. Will try, again. To protect these birds, I cannot divulge their location, however, long-eared owls are common in San Benito County.
San Benito County Birding