Along with my friends, Bob & Bernadette Ramer, we headed out for some San Benito County birding, ultimately ending the day in Panoche Valley. The weather could not have been better— dreary clouds cleared and the sun broke out. It was beautiful and balmy, with not a breath of wind. Below, are the highlights of our day.
While tanking up at Starbucks, we saw 13 commuter CALIFORNIA GULLS flying over the parking lot and heading for the dump. On John Smith Road 6 BUFFLEHEADS were on the pond at the entrance to Guerra Vineyard; a FERRUGINOUS HAWK was in the plowed field along with 2 GOLDEN EAGLES and 25 AMERICAN PIPITS.
At the intersection of Santa Ana Valley Road, the raptor happening hot spot, we saw 10 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, 3 GOLDEN EAGLES and a married pair of BALD EAGLES. This morning, he was hunting, while she relaxed in one of the leafless trees. Watch the RAVENS, as they are following the raptors, trying to steal food from them. (Hey, JAEGER RAVENS!)
On lower QUIEN SABE ROAD, we saw a NORTHERN HARRIER, 7 AMERICAN KESTRELS, 2 WHITE-TAILED KITES and 1 YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE, along with the usual suspects.
A stop at Paicines Reservoir found most of the recently reported species, best of which included: 1 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 2 WHITE PELICANS, 25 COMMON MERGANSERS, 2 WESTERN GREBES, 1 COOPER'S HAWK, 7 CANVASBACKS, 2 GADWALL, 4 AMERICAN WIGEON, 2 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 18 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and 3 AMERICAN PIPITS.
Along Panoche Road, we saw most of the blue oak woodland species, but also a male PRAIRIE FALCON in the first couple of miles. Another PRAIRIE FALCON, female, was near McCullough Ranch. Continuing along this road to the Silver Creek Ranch area, highlights included a GOLDEN EAGLE sitting on a telephone pole; 71 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, 5 ROCK WRENS and one FERRUGINOUS HAWK.
Below, is a view of Panoche Creek on Panoche Road. We crossed the creek. If it rains a lot, this creek and the dirt road might become impassible. Take care. We heard a MARSH WREN here. A few days ago, I heard a VIRGINIA RAIL, as well.
Along this road, we found a BURROWING OWL, another PRAIRIE FALCON, 38 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, one MERLIN, see below.
MERLIN, above, by Debi Shearwater. We found this particular merlin on the valley floor. He was particularly confiding, although I was shooting straight into the sun, unfortunately. Near the Douglas Ranch, were 750 TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS.
Zipped through Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road, heading for the Panoche Hills BLM lands. It was getting late in the day. Nevertheless, I was determined that we would find a sage sparrow. Flushed lots of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. Sighted a GREATER ROADRUNNER hoofing it along a ridge top. Finally, a SAGE SPARROW! Great views. On our return to the main road, we found a CHIPPING SPARROW, as well. Success! Although, if you are searching for sage sparrows, I'd recommend visiting this site in the early morning, rather than late in the day, as we did.
The sun had set by the time we wound our way through Shotgun Pass a second time. Near the intersection of Panoche and Little Panoche Roads, I noticed a small, brown pile on the road. Backed up the car— it was a fresh, road killed COMMON POORWILL, unfortunately. I retrieved the bird for a special class that will be taught at UCSC this weekend on preserving birds.
I'll likely head out to Panoche Valley this weekend. Stop and chat, if you see me. License plate: IOLAIR, blue Subaru Outback, for driving the outback, naturally.