SAN BENITO COUNTY BIRDING
Panoche Valley is a major destination for birders in winter. On 20 December, Kent Johnson and I spent a beautiful day birding this region. Highlights included: 120 MOUNTAIN PLOVERS, 2 LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS, RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, GOLDEN EAGLES, PRAIRIE FALCON, FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, including 2 dark morphs, 2 BALD EAGLES and many of the usual bird species typical of this habitat. At the day's end prior to leaving the valley floor, we watched a BADGER poking its head in and out of ground squirrel holes. Notable negative data included no sign of any mountain bluebirds. Images below, copyright Debi Shearwater, are from previous trips to Panoche Valley.
Beginning the day at Santa Ana Valley and John Smith Roads, near Hollister, we found 5 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, including one dark morph. Paicines Reservoir was out next stop. The water level seems to be about one fifth of the usual winter level. Consequently, waterfowl is located at the far end. Two adult BALD EAGLES were perched in the oaks on the northwest side of the reservoir. The eBird list for this spot can be found here.
Two LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS brought us to a full stop at Mile Marker 9.14, near mailbox #10251. While watching the woodpeckers, a PRAIRIE FALCON flew by. The complete eBird list for this stop can be found here.
We stopped near the Antelope Valley Fire Station to search for birds. A RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was present, along with a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER. In all, we tallied SIX SPECIES OF WOODPECKERS for the day. The eBird list of birds at this stop can be found here.
After a sandwich stop at the Panoche Valley Inn, we proceeded to search for Mountain Plovers along Little Panoche Road where a flock of 55 was recently reported.
We stopped about every 100 yards, looking for Mountain Plovers without success. We made a brief stop at the Panoche Hills BLM area where we found no mountain bluebirds. Finally, we decided to head to Silver Creek Ranch area on Panoche Road, stopping at the historical sites where Mountain Plovers had previously been recorded. Near the intersection of Panoche Road and Norton Road (an unmarked, dirt road that borders Panoche School), we found a flock of KILLDEER. Scanning in the field far behind the Killdeer, we could detect MOUNTAIN PLOVERS on the move! MORE THAN 100 MOUNTAIN PLOVERS! This is the largest flock of MOUNTAIN PLOVERS that has been found in Panoche Valley in a decade. What a gratifying sight this was.
The complete eBird list for this stop can be found here, along with many notes and details.
Leaving the valley floor, we spotted a BADGER!
At the end of this lovely day, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Tres Pinos Inn.
Hope to see you out there!
San Benito County Birding