Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Panoche Valley: Report for November 29, 2009

Hello, Birders,
This is a report for a long day ofbirding in Panoche Valley, San Benito County on November 29, 2009. Don Doolittle and I departed from Hollister about 5:45 am, heading out to Panoche Valley. We saw a GREAT HORNED OWL perched along the roadside. The first MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS we spotted were barely at dawn near the McCullough ranch.
We also found a few MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS on Panoche Road, near Silver Creek Ranch.
A ROADRUNNER, had Don running across the hills to get a photograph!

On Recalde Road, a MERLIN was speeding across the barren fields like lightning. SAY'S PHOEBES were common throughout the day.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES were found in good numbers, as well. We found a small flock of 18 HORNED LARKS near Silver Creek Ranch, but no Mountain Plovers.

However, the road to New Idria was where we spent many, many hours. In total, we found about 200 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS on this road. They were not easy to photograph, often flying just as I slowed the car to a stop. Many of them were feeding out in the fields, making an accurate count difficult. We went all the way to the ghost mining town of New Idria, which is officially closed by BLM. (at least that's what we were told by some locals we met along the way). The buildings, of course, are a real hazard, and warning signs for hauta virus abound. Still, it was interesting to see what was left of the mine. A couple of dirt bikers were riding on the hills, while hunters were shooting ? In the town, we found DARK-EYED JUNCOS, one HERMIT THRUSH, BEWICK'S WRENS and one HOUSE WREN.

We had a picnic lunch on the road, near some cottonwood trees where some WESTERN BLUEBIRDS and a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH were hanging out.

More Mountain Bluebirds were out on the fences on our return trip back to the valley, along with a PRAIRIE FALCON.
Reluctantly, in the late afternoon, we headed to Mercy Hot Springs where we ran into Donna Kirsacko and Jean Myers who were also birding in the valley. Everyone was practicing photographing the LONG-EARED OWLS.
Jean spotted one of the best birds for the day— a GOLDEN CROWNED KINGLET in the tamarisk trees at Mercy. Unfortunately, as kinglets do, it did not sit still long enough for a photograph. Don managed to get this Ruby-crowned, though.

Jean and Donna put us on to a "stake out" BURROWING OWL. So, we headed back to Panoche Road, just beyond the Little Panoche intersection. Sure enough, the owl was right where they said.
It was a gloriously beautiful fall day for Don to practice photography with his new Canon 7D. The WESTERN WOOD PEEWEE which I found on November 26th was still present.

Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
All images by Don Doolittle