There has been an ongoing raptor "traffic jam" in San Benito County that is quite spectacular. This large concentration of raptors can be found along a seven mile stretch on Santa Ana Valley Road. The single best spot is where Santa Ana Valley and John Smith Roads meet. For avid raptor fans and professional photographers this is a great opportunity. Possibly, the best light is in the late afternoon, for photography, as the sun will be behind the observer. I was out there, both yesterday at 8:30 am and from 4 to 6:30 pm.
In the morning, Brian Sullivan and I found 13 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, including two dark morphs, along with 3 GOLDEN EAGLES. The field near the above intersection was being disced while we were standing there. Most of the raptors are on the ground, hunting ground squirrels.
FERRUGINOUS HAWK, above and below.
FERRUGINOUS HAWK soaring, above.
FERRUGINOUS HAWK, soaring, above, and below.This FERRUGINOUS HAWK was on the ground, late last night, hunting ground squirrels. Yesterday, evening I saw 10 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, 10 GOLDEN EAGLES (almost all of them on the ground), 6 WHITE-TAILED KITES (many perched on fence lines), 13 RED-TAILED HAWKS, 11 AMERICAN KESTRELS and 5 LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES, along Santa Ana Valley Road. A young fellow who lives on a ranch at the key location, stopped to ask me what I was doing. He was very interested in the hawks. He said that his ranch was planning to disc their field the next day. So, there is a good chance that the ground squirrel feast will continue. I let him know that he may see folks out there with cameras and spotting scopes. If locals stop to chat, be sure to let them know that the raptors are eating the squirrels! They will like to hear that.
A GOLDEN EAGLE hunts at a ground squirrel hole. Shot from a long distance.Above, a GOLDEN EAGLE soaring. If you arrive at the magic hour when the thermals are just right, you may see them lifting skyward.
This field was covered with 59 feasting TURKEY VULTURES a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, these vultures, along with other raptors, were feeding on ground squirrels that had been shot. One can only hope that lead bullets were not used.
A TURKEY VULTURE and FERRUGINOUS HAWK, soaring, above.
This young GOLDEN EAGLE, above, was also feasting on ground squirrels.Follow Santa Ana Valley Road to the intersection of Quien Sabe Road, then follow Quien Sabe to Highway 25, head south to Paicines Reservoir, one of the best birding spots in San Benito County. There is a large, dirt pullout where one can park. Use your spotting scope to check out the birds. The dike on the east side has a small oak tree where the BALD EAGLES often perch. Both the male (on the right), and female, were there, yesterday.
A couple of days ago, a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK was in the vineyard at Paicines Reservoir.
This HY RED-TAILED HAWK killed a rabbit. Hunting is good in San Benito County!
PRAIRIE FALCONS have been around, off and on, in this area, too.
PRAIRIE FALCON, above, carrying prey.
Sunset last night in the grasslands of San Benito County.
San Benito County Birding
All images, copyright, Debi Shearwater