Friday, January 28, 2011

Paicines Ranch Reservoir Today

Howdy, Birders,

Felt like a sunset drive, late this afternoon, so I headed to my favorite "patch," Paicines Ranch Reservoir in San Benito County. The last 4 or 5 times I've been there, a two year old, female BALD EAGLE has been actively and successfully hunting waterfowl. It has been disappointing to see the numbers of ducks in steady decline. This afternoon, however, the picture had changed. One of the first birds I spotted was an adult, male BALD EAGLE sitting in the oak grove on the west side of the reservoir. A nice raft of COMMON MERGANSERS and CANVASBACKS had returned. LEAST SANDPIPERS were feeding on the nearest shoreline to the parking lot. I scoped around and enjoyed my chai. For the first time this year, I spotted a male NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER in the small oak at the pullout. Then, I noticed that the bald eagle was not in the oaks. Shortly, I spotted him on the ground at the little patch of a mud bar on the east side. He was just standing there with his feet in the water. Maybe he needed to wash them? I looked around a bit more. Saw a WHITE-TAILED KITE hovering over the fields. A MERLIN zipped by. Suddenly, I noticed that the eagle was no longer alone! Twentyfive LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS had landed across from the eagle on the mud bar. Well, I felt for certain that he would snatch one of those dowitchers, especially after watching the female from the previous visits hunting so voraciously. Heck, I had even seen a prairie falcon kill and eat a coot one morning, recently. So, I didn't want to take my eyes off the eagle. But, I had to switch from sunglasses to regular glasses as it was getting darker. Next time I looked at the eagle, the dowitchers were filing right past him, one by one! I mean, come on. What were they thinking— plastic eagle! I guess he tilted his head because they suddenly realized he was the real deal, and flew off, lickety split! Whew!

Just about that time, Rick Whelen from Manteca drove up. We chatted for a few minutes. He was just coming from Panoche Valley where he had found all of the usual suspects. However, he reported that he also found a SAGE SPARROW and a SAGE THRASHER up at the Panoche BLM lands. It sounded like these birds were not too far from the new toilet facility. Both of these species were missed on the Panoche Valley CBC.

As it was getting darker, I left Paicines for Quien Sabe Road. Just at the junction of Quien Sabe and Airline Highway, I saw and heard a male GREAT-HORNED OWL in the big eucalyptus tree.

And, tomorrow? Why it's off to my patch, again, hopefully for latte with the bald eagle and friends,

Happy dowitchers,
Debi Shearwater

The eBird list for Paicines Ranch Reservoir is below:

Location: Paicines Reservoir

Observation date: 1/28/11

Notes: 59F. Clear. Nice sunset.

Number of species: 24

Gadwall 28

Mallard 7

Northern Shoveler 6

Northern Pintail 5

Green-winged Teal 8

Canvasback 200

Common Merganser 150

Ruddy Duck 8

Double-crested Cormorant 1

Great Egret 1

Snowy Egret 1

White-tailed Kite 1 Hunting in the field on the west side of the reservoir.

Bald Eagle 1

Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 Flew into the solitary willow tree, just at dusk.

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Merlin 1 Flying, overhead. Did not stop.

American Coot 12

Killdeer 3

Greater Yellowlegs 3

Least Sandpiper 8

Long-billed Dowitcher 25

Nuttall's Woodpecker 1 In the tree near the parking lot.

Black Phoebe 2

blackbird sp. 450 Going to roost on the high tension wires on the west side of the reservoir.

House Finch 2