Wednesday, December 15, 2010

San Benito County Birding Report

Howdy, Birders,

This is a late report of some birds in San Benito County.

PAICINES RESERVOIR has had a good selection of waterfowl: up to 14 HOODED MERGANSERS (25 Nov), 250+ COMMON MERGANSERS (all days), 12 RING-NECKED DUCKS (11 Dec), and other usual species, including WHITE PELICANS (3-5); EARED, PIED-BILLED, WESTERN and CLARK'S GREBES. Raptors present have included the adult BALD EAGLES, off and on, usually perched in the oak grove, with both male and female present (26 Nov); PRAIRIE FALCON, usually perched on the double power tower on the far side (25, 26 Nov; 11 Dec); MERLIN, usually perched in the far leafless trees (I saw one eat a red-winged blackbird, 11 Dec); and NORTHERN HARRIER (11 Dec). TREE/VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS (3) were present on 12 Dec. Reasonable numbers of shorebirds have been present, including: LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (up to 25 most days); LEAST SANDPIPER (up to 22 most days); WESTERN SANDPIPER ( 1 on 26 Nov; 2 on 12 Dec); BLACK-NECKED STILT (1 on 19 Dec); SPOTTED SANDPIPER (1 on 12 Dec, unusual in winter). Geese have included: CANADA, CACKLING (2 on 12 Dec), and WHITE-FRONTED (22 on 12 Dec).

HOLLISTER SEWER PONDS: I visited the sewer ponds on 10 Dec. Birding is abysmal, as there is precious little water. Shorebirding is next to nil. The best place for shorebirds is at Paicines Reservoir. Two COMMON GOLDENEYES were just about the only birds of note.

PANOCHE VALLEY: At Summit Ranch Pond, I noted one DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, which I do not believe I have ever seen at this pond. (Reasonable numbers of cormorants are at Paicines Reservoir). Panoche Valley was socked in with fog on 12 December, even in mid-day. On Panoche Road near the school, both a dark-morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK and PRAIRIE FALCON were present. Another PRAIRIE FALCON was present on Recalde Road, along with a few MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. Near Silver Creek Ranch, small numbers of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, AMERICAN PIPITS, and 3 VESPER SPARROWS were present. At Shotgun Pass, an immature GOLDEN EAGLE was hunting ground squirrels, as it perched on rocks, and 2 ROCK WRENS were in the pass itself. I found no mountain plovers or kingbirds.

BROWN'S VALLEY ROAD: On Dec 12, two BURROWING OWLS and one SHORT-EARED OWL were present. On Dec 11, two BURROWING OWLS and a MERLIN were present.

PINNACLES NATIONAL MONUMENT: On December 11, I found 5 CALIFORNIA CONDORS (2 were soaring, while 3 were perched in a large pine tree on the ridge); one ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER in the campground, along with the usual resident suspects.

GLORIA ROAD: On 25 Nov, I birded this road, and found most of the usual resident and winter birds. Highlights included: more than 20 LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES, 12 BELL'S SAGE SPARROWS, 1 HUTTON'S VIREO, and 1 PHAINOPEPLA.

FREMONT PEAK STATE PARK: On 10 Dec, near the top of San Juan Canyon road, at the entrance to the park. very large flocks were encountered, including 100+ CEDAR WAXWINGS, HERMIT THRUSH, AMERICAN ROBINS, and 2 EVENING GROSBEAKS (very few records for San Benito County of this species). A male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and a BROWN CREEPER were in the oaks near the campground. Finally, a BOBCAT was scampering along the hillside. Images are at:

HOLLISTER: On 14 Dec, from my front yard, I heard an EVENING GROSBEAK calling in a grove of trees near the intersection of Hilltop and Clearview Roads.

Sorry this report is so late, however some of the species are worth mentioning.

Happy Holidays to all,
Debi Shearwater


Hello, Birders,

On December 10th, while birding in San Benito County, I had a wonderful encounter with a bobcat (Lynx rufus) at Fremont Peak State Park. It was a dark, dreary, foggy noontime when I entered the park picnic areas. Immediately, I noticed an animal running up the hillside. Stopping the car, I was able to shoot about 35 frames, as the bobcat scampered up the hillside. In order not to scare the bobcat, I used my car as a blind, and did not get out of it. Below, is one of my first shots. You can see that it was headed for this fallen tree.
Although bobcats are mostly nocturnal, I have had many encounters during the day. Since there is no trophy hunting of bobcats in the State of California, they are often very tame. I've even had the experience of having one walk very closely to me, while I was standing in a road, birding.
The image, below shows the very short, "bob" tail, which is only black on the very tip. This is a field mark for the bobcat. Tails average about five inches long. I love the way it curls!
Here, the bobcat walks up the hillside. Notice that the underside of the paws are black. Bobcats are mostly solitary, as this one was. They do den in hollow logs. So, I am wondering if this animal could use this area for a den.
Bobcats average 25-30 inches long and weigh 15-35 lbs.
This image shows the black markings on the ears.
It is almost possible to detect the short ear tufts in the image below when the bobcat turned around to look my direction.
Finally, it slowly walked off uphill, into the grass. It blends in so easily!
It is always a pleasure to encounter wildlife, and San Benito County is great for this!

Happy trails,
Debi Shearwater