Fall and winter are the months when many birders head to Panoche Valley, California to find the specialty birds of the grasslands, including Mountain Plover, Mountain Bluebird, Prairie Falcon, Ferruginous Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, Chukar, Sage Sparrow and more.
If you are birder who uses eBird, and I hope you are, please note that a number of new public locations have been added for reporting your bird records. This is an important update.
Previously, birders, especially those on long field trips, simply dumped all of the records under one location for San Benito (SBT) County, "Panoche Valley." However, upon review, it was found that this dumping included birds seen at Paicines Reservoir, Mercy Hot Springs, etc.
When you enter a checklist in eBird, you are encouraged to be as precise as possible when you plot your location. This has now been made easier with the new public locations, covering the entire Panoche Valley. Precise locations allow eBird to accurately link the location with datasets.
Some special considerations:
COUNTY LINES: Please enter data for the correct county! On Little Panoche Road the Fresno (FRE) County sign is posted, beyond Shotgun Pass. There is no San Benito County sign! Mercy Hot Springs (and therefore, all Long-eared Owl records), is in Fresno County. Panoche Hills BLM lands are mostly in Fresno County. There is a new sign at the kiosk with county lines on it. On Panoche Road, beyond Silver Creek Ranch, the road turns to dirt, or mud, if wet. Panoche Road leads to I-5. At the top of the pass, Jackass Pass, there is a Fresno County sign, but no San Benito County sign. Please pay attention to the county lines when entering data.
MOUNTAIN PLOVERS: Due to the serious conservation status of this species, exact counts should be made. Estimates should not be made.
NEW PUBLIC LOCATIONS are numerous. Please use the location that is most accurate. It might be helpful to look at the map beforehand. Some of the new locations include:
Panoche Hills-BLM-Public Lands- the actual BLM lands. This list should include any birds inside of the entrance to the BLM area.
Panoche Hills -overlook- this is the new kiosk area where you will find a map, toilet & picnic table. This list should include the birds seen along the road up to the kiosk, after turning off Little Panoche Road.
Panoche Road- Jackass Pass-FRE County
Panoche Road- Jackass Pass-SBT County
Panoche Road- Red Rock- this is the area where many birders stop at the large red rock, before entering the valley.
Panoche Road- Summit Pond- the small pond near the Summit, and Summit Ranch.
Panoche Road- MP 6.71- where many birders stop to look for Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Panoche Valley-Griswold Hills - marked by the BLM sign, new kiosk, toilet & picnic table.
Panoche Valley & Little Panoche Road south of Shotgun Pass- this is the Panoche Inn store area.
Panoche Valley-New Idria- the area along New Idria Road, beyond the Griswold Hills
Panoche Valley- Recalde Road- this is the unmarked dirt road. Formerly it had a road sign.
Panoche Valley-Shotgun Pass- the pass itself, where chukar is frequently seen.
Panoche Valley- Silver Creek- the area where mountain plovers have most consistently been found.
This does make for a quite a few checklists! If you have any questions, please contact me off the list. I hope to see you in Panoche Valley! It is one heck of a birding place, as well as a recognized IBA, Important Bird Area of global significance. As such, it deserves all of the detailed attention it can garner. Thank you for your assistance and eBird input!
San Benito County Birding