This is a brief report for Panoche Valley, Paicines Reservoir and Santa Ana Valley, birding in San Benito County, California for Sunday, January 29, 2012. It was a gorgeous day for birding — I couldn't resist getting out there!
PRAIRIE FALCONS continued at all three locations. Birders who were already at Paicines Reservoir when I arrived, said that a Prairie Falcon had just been there. Look on the "H" shaped telephone poles on the west side. The Prairie Falcon, below, was along Santa Ana Valley Road.By now you, dear reader know how much I love shades of brown. This tangle of oak branches easily conceals an adult GOLDEN EAGLE, below. This eagle repeatedly let out a plaintive call while sitting in this tree. It could have been calling for its' mate.
Sadly, one of my most favorite barns went down with the last storm. GREAT-HORNED OWLS have nested in this barn for the past 12 years.
On PANOCHE ROAD I found the "usual suspects," including PHAINOPEPLA, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, HERMIT THRUSH, etc. Quite a few singing CALIFORNIA THRASHERS, WRENTITS, OAK TITS, etc. as is normal for this time of year. Two HOODED MERGANSERS were at the pond at Summit Ranch. Be sure to look on the duck house! (I failed to find the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which had been around for several weeks). At the intersection of Panoche and Recalde Roads, a MERLIN was present. Sixteen MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were along Recalde Road. On Panoche Road from Silver Creek Ranch to Jackass Pass at least 28 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were in mixed flocks with House Finches. Unusual birds included one SAGE SPARROW and one male NORTHERN HARRIER. A FERRUGINOUS HAWK was hunting here, also.
At PAICINES RESERVOIR I found 1 EURASIAN WIGEON, 2 CACKLING GEESE, 5 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, one 4th year BALD EAGLE in the morning and one adult MALE BALD EAGLE in the late afternoon, 1 SPOTTED SANDPIPER and an assortment of waterfowl. For some reason, this BUSHTIT, below, popped up, chattering and scolding, on the fence right in front of me while I was standing at the dirt pullout, scoping waterfowl at the reservoir!
Continuing with my love of old barns— this one, above, is located on Panoche Road. A CALIFORNIA THRASHER, below, was — well, thrashing away at the Miller Ranch. Thrashers are singing and on territory about mid-December. This one was no different. When it wasn't thrashing, it was singing from the tops of trees!
Large flocks of mixed sparrow species can be encountered on Panoche Road. This LINCOLN'S SPARROW, below, was with a large flock of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS near McCullough Ranch.
A female, AMERICAN KESTREL, below, near the intersection of Panoche and Little Panoche Roads.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, a male below, were scattered on the Panoche Valley floor— near Silver Creek Ranch on Panoche Road and on Recalde Road.
An immature RED-TAILED HAWK, below, was on Panoche Road near Jackass Pass. Flocks of HORNED LARKS and AMERICAN PIPITS were also in this location. However, I did not locate a single MOUNTAIN PLOVER.
A LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, below, hangs around Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road.
It has been a good year for finding BURROWING OWLS in San Benito County. They can be found in both Santa Ana Valley and Panoche Valley.
Returning from Panoche Valley, I always take Quien Sabe Road just south of the small town of Tres Pinos. The presence of six YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES in the image below indicates that the adult GOLDEN EAGLE (look closely— it is the hump in the middle), had just consumed some prey item, likely a ground squirrel.
Sunset began with pinks and purples.
Late evening shot of a SAY'S PHOEBE, below, a grassland specialist.
Sunset colors begin to change to oranges.
Ravens head to their roosts on the tower powers of Santa Ana Valley.
The boldest colors of sunset over the grasslands that I love.
San Benito County Birding
All images, copyright, Debi Shearwater. Please ask permission to use.