Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Community Gardens near Vista Hill Park, Downtown Hollister
Hello, Birders,

After several "false starts" about exactly where to go birding this morning, I finally hit the jackpot on San Juan Canyon Road. Best bird of the day was a BLACKPOLL WARBLER, (first fall female) which I believe is a first record for San Benito County. It was in the lower third of the canyon, not at the top of the road, about 4 miles in from the junction with Old Stage and Mission Vineyard Roads. It was with a mixed flock that included two singing ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS. San Juan Canyon Road is the road that leads up to Fremont Peak State Park. I was birding from the road between 0945 and 1145 this morning (not the best time of day- I'd recommend starting earlier). This is an excellent birding road during both fall and spring migration.

Other migrants on this road today included: WILSON'S WARBLER (2), MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (1), HUTTON'S VIREO (13), YELLOW WARBLER (1), NASHVILLE WARBLER (1), TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (1), BLACK-THROATED-GRAY WARBLER (2), WESTERN TANAGER (1), and the above mentioned Orange-crowns. Missed HERMIT WARBLER, but saw two on 30 August. Also, on August 30, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (1), WESTERN WOOD PEWEE (1). The "usual suspect" birds which are resident. At the top, in Valley View Campground, I saw a BOBCAT (HY). On the return drive, downhill, I caught the hind end of a MOUNTAIN LION! It was a most unsatisfactory view. Stopped the car. Pished for it (works for bobcats!). But, I could only hear it crunching leaves and snap one twig. This past week, a mountain lion on this road took someone's dog, I am told. I see bobcats, on average, one time for every ten birding days.
American White Pelicans on Paicines Reservoir
Elsewhere in the county: mudflats are appearing at the south end of Paicines Reservoir, finally! Least and Western Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, etc. have been showing up, with one RED KNOT on 3 September. BALD EAGLES, and the occasional Golden Eagle continue at the reservoir. along with off and on WHITE PELICANS (2-3), and a PEREGRINE flyover on 3 September. Both HOODED and BULLOCK'S ORIOLES have showed up in the solitary willow, easily seen from the pullout. The first Northern Shovelers appeared on the reservoir 3 September, although the first shovelers arrived at the sewer ponds several weeks ago. They now number over 200. A female BUFFLEHEAD spent the summer going between the sewer ponds and San Justo Reservoir (closed to the public). At the sewer ponds, both BAIRD'S and PECTORAL SANDPIPERS, WILSON'S PHALAROPES and SEMIPALMATED PLOVER have been around, off and on. A STILT SANDPIPER on 15 AuguOverall, shorebird habitat is exceedingly slim. The Sewer Ponds are open to birders. It is required to sign in and out. Please do so! Very easy, and no hassles.

DO NOT TRESPASS at Paicines Reservoir! You WILL be ticketed. The sheriffs pulled up while I was there recently to ticket some fishermen.

On private properties: a WILLOW FLYCATCHER was along the riparian of San Benito River 5 Sep; a communal roost of 21 White-tailed Kites was in a wetland 5 Sep; nine WHITE-FACED IBIS established a new high count for the county; confirmed nesting Ruddy Ducks for the first time in the county, earlier this summer.
Cassin's Kingbird, Santa Ana Valley Road

Santa Ana Valley Road is just loaded with raptors. There is a large rodent outbreak, along with an explosion of small grasshoppers (smaller species of grasshoppers than the type that exploded in Panoche Valley over the summer). Kestrels, shrikes and CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS are feeding on the grasshoppers. This road will be well worth watching throughout the fall and winter months. The PRAIRIE FALCON is well stationed near the intersection of Santa Ana Valley and Quien Sabe Roads. It will likely remain there until the first wintering Ferruginous Hawk shows up and steals that spot. On 15 August, I saw four Prairie Falcons on Santa Ana Valley Road. Up to three CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS are on this road. Locations have been: mailbox #4500, mailbox #1275, at Samarkand Ranch. Both BALD (HYs and adults) and GOLDEN (HYs and adults) have been hunting Santa Ana Valley and Quien Sabe Roads.

Where to go birding during fall migration in San Benito County? For passerines: Vista Hill Park off Hill Street in downtown Hollister is a great place. I was there this morning, but could not tolerate the leaf blowers. BE AWARE: there is a homeless people's camp set up, complete with yappy dogs. All harmless, but take car. Just slightly downhill from the park is the Community Garden. I recommend it for birding as well. Fall migrants I have seen in this location in the past: Willow Flycatcher, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler. This park represents the highest elevation in the surrounding area. It is planted with numerous exotics. It is extremely attractive to migrants, and being such a small area, tends to concentrate them well. San Juan Canyon Road is obviously one of the best places for regularly migrating passerines, as well as for the chance of a rarity. I have seen Northern Parula Warbler at the top of the road, several years ago. For shorebirds, try the sewer ponds, but be prepared to be disappointed. Paicines Reservoir could be good. The lighting is best in the early morning.

Trying to catch up, but not getting there fast enough!

Cats forever,
Debi Shearwater
AKA Annie Auklet in the movie, "The Big Year"

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