Saturday, February 8, 2014



The recent "Pineapple Express" has brought some much need rain to San Benito County, California. Not nearly enough to end the ongoing 500 year drought, but better than no rain at all! Along with the rains, birds have been on the move in San Benito County. 
This morning, February 8, 2014, Steve Rottenborn discovered the first record of LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL at San Felipe Lake at the northern border of the county. Here is a full report:

Steve Rottenborn found the first San Benito County record of a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL this morning, February 8, 2014, at San Felipe Lake. He emailed me about the find and I ran out there immediately. Steve also emailed the MBB list serve, but it did not initially go up. 

I spent about an hour birding with Steve from the Highway 152 call box pullout. Additional outstanding highlights included: 44 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (not easy to find in San Benito County this winter), 60 CACKLING GEESE, 1 male EURASIAN WIGEON, 1 male EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL1 WESTERN GULL1 GLAUCOUS GULL, and some probable high counts of: 150 HERRING GULLS, 75 THAYER'S GULLS and 250 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. CAUTION: one very white gull with an all black bill is present, identity unknown, easily mistaken for ?

ABOUT SAN FELIPE LAKE: The only public viewing location for this lake, locally known as "Soap Lake" is from the extremely dangerous Highway 152. Many fatalities have occurred along this particular stretch of highway. I strongly recommend attempting to pull over to the pull outs in the direction of traffic and not trying to cross traffic. For the most part, Highway 152 is the border for Santa Clara and San Benito Counties, but not everywhere! Beware of county lines, especially if you are submitting an eBird checklist. If you submit an eBird checklist, and I hope you do so, please give your best estimate of birds, or count one-by-one, if smaller numbers and note this on the checklist. 

A large flock of gulls, estimated greater than 1000, and as many as 2000,  has been frequenting this lake. There is a dump on the other side (Santa Clara County) of Highway 152. I thought that the dump was closed on weekends, and consequently, no or few, gulls would be there on weekends. However, it seems that at least some gulls are using the dump on weekend, but not nearly as many. 

Leaving the lake, I turned on Lover's Lane (first 150 yards of this road are in Santa Clara County) where I found one FERRUGINOUS HAWK sitting in the top of a tall evergreen tree at a residence! 

Been a long time since I've ticked a new San Benito County bird. Many thanks to Steve Rottenborn! 

Below is the complete eBird checklist which I entered, below, subject to changes by Steve.

San Felipe Lake / Soap Lake, San Benito, US-CA
Feb 8, 2014 10:15 AM - 11:15 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     Steve Rottenborn + Debi Shearwater checklist compilers. Steve arrived at the Highway 152 call box pullout about 9 am and notified me by email that he had found a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, FIRST RECORD FOR SAN BENITO COUNTY. There is a dump on the other side of the freeway which I believe is closed on weekends. During the week, as many as 2000 gulls have been present at the lake. Far fewer gulls were present today, but still a good selection. This location is best visited in the morning hours, rather than pm hours when one is looking straight into the sun. Conditions today: Overcast, about 58F. Recent rains from a "Pineapple Express" system that is forecast to bring more rain to the drought-stricken region Steve found a number of additional rare birds, in the checklist. He tried to photograph the Lesser Black-backed gull through his scope. A good quality spotting scope is necessary. CAUTION: EXTREME CARE NEEDS TO BE TAKEN IN PULLING OVER TO THIS CALLBOX AREA AS TRAFFIC IS HEAVY ON THIS VERY DANGEROUS ROAD WHERE MANY DEATHS HAVE OCCURRED.
37 species (+2 other taxa)

Greater White-fronted Goose  44
Cackling Goose  60     Probably Aleutian; This could represent a record high count for SBT County of this species. Careful estimate.
Canada Goose  15
Gadwall  60
Eurasian Wigeon  1
American Wigeon  60
Mallard  250
Cinnamon Teal  10
Northern Shoveler  15
Northern Pintail  90
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)  1     Bold, horizontal, white stripe.
Green-winged Teal (American)  150     This could represent a record high count for SBT County of this species. Careful estimate.
Bufflehead  40
Ruddy Duck  80
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Eared Grebe  5
Great Blue Heron  1
Snowy Egret  10     This could represent a record high count for SBT County of this species. Careful estimate.
Turkey Vulture  3
Golden Eagle  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  3
American Coot  120
Long-billed Curlew  3
Western Gull  1     Found by Steve Rottenborn. Few records for San Benito County. Steve can describe it.
California Gull  50
Herring Gull  150
Thayer's Gull  75     This could represent a record high count for SBT County of this species. Careful estimate.
Lesser Black-backed Gull  1     A first San Benito County record, found by Steve Rottenborn. 2nd cycle. He might have some images.
Glaucous-winged Gull  250     This could represent a record high count for SBT County of this species. Careful estimate.
Glaucous Gull  1     At least one glaucous gull has been present for several weeks. Second winter with the pale-based, dark-tipped bill.
gull sp.  1     One very white gull with an all dark bill. Not a Glaucous gull. This gull has been present for several weeks. Steve was not sure about the identity of this individual.
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  2
Black Phoebe  1
Say's Phoebe  1
American Crow  6
American Pipit  1
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  60

View this checklist online at

San Benito County Birding,
Debi Shearwater

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