Tuesday, February 8, 2011

San Benito County & Panoche Valley: Feb 5, 2011

Howdy, Birders,

Birding in San Benito County on February 5th, my first stop was on Santa Ana Valley to search for the continuing EASTERN PHOEBE. Sophie Webb was already there, shooting photographs of the birds. Below, are her copyrighted images. County Birders, Jim Lomax and John Luther arrived within minutes and ticked the phoebe.
This FERRUGINOUS HAWK is the same individual in my previous post. Remember how I mentioned that they can very habitual in their daily routine? Well, it is still near the intersection of Santa Ana Valley and Quien Sabe Roads, on the telephone pole.

There I am, with my cup of morning "joe."
The Eastern Phoebe was staying high in the trees, making photography extremely difficult!
Heading out to Panoche Valley, we spotted many White-crowned Sparrows along the J1, or Panoche Road.
A stop along the way, produced a California Thrasher. Even though it is only early February, they are singing away, establishing their breeding territories.
This Red-tailed Hawk is having landing difficulties.
A beautiful soaring Red-tail. They are also on territory, as well as actively nest building.
The roadsides of the valley floor in Panoche host thousands of Savannah Sparrows.
The beautiful Panoche Valley is slated to become covered with solar panels. Our field trip on this day, lead by the very capable Clay Kempf, was centered around fundraising for the legal defense fund. Donations can be made to Santa Clara Valley Audubon. Mark your check, Save Panoche Valley, 100% of your donation will go to the fund.
We ended our birding day at Mercy Hot Springs where both Long-eared and Barn Owls were a highlight of a great day of birding.
P.S. Today, February 8th, the Eastern Phoebe was still present at mile marker 3.02, along with at least two Cassin's Kingbirds on a nearby fence.

Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater

Friday, February 4, 2011


Hello, Birders,

Below, is a pictorial highlight of three days of San Benito County birding. All images are copyrighted by Don Doolittle. We visited many places throughout the county on January 29, 30 and 31. It rained off and on most of the 30th, making photography very challenging. I hope you will enjoy this collection.
In my opinion, the finest bird in the world— GOLDEN EAGLE. It is my most favorite bird, worldwide. My car license plate is: IOLAIR which is Gaelic for Golden Eagle. These majestic birds are common throughout San Benito County. Is there any buteo more regal than Buteo regalis? Ferruginous Hawks are grassland inhabitants. In olden days, they built their nests on the ground, lining them with buffalo dung.
This Ferruginous Hawk has a full crop— ground squirrels, no doubt. Debi's most favorite hawk. I call them, "Buffalo Hawks."
Check out those fully feathered legs!

Ferruginous Hawks tend to become very habitual, returning to the same telephone pole, even. Sometimes, winter after winter, they will do this, from one year to the next. You can find this particular individual on Santa Ana Valley Road near the intersection with Quien Sabe Road.

This Prairie Falcon was on a private ranch. These falcons are not uncommon in the county, breeding at Pinnacles National Monument and in the Diablo Mountains.
A Green-winged Teal on a private ranch which I am scoping out for birding.
Buffleheads on the same ranch. Black-crowned Night Herons, Virginia Rail and Sora were also found here.
The California Towhee is often taken for granted. They are very confiding, which leads to their demise in suburban habitats due to cat predation. They mate for life.
One of many Yellow-billed Magpies that we saw. This is a bird of open grasslands and blue oak savannah. Cattle, and or, horses are part of their life history.
A male Phainopepla guards his mistletoe berry stash on a private ranch. We saw a good number of these "Devil Birds."
Say's Phoebe is a bird of the grasslands. They are common throughout most of San Benito County.
In the town of Hollister, we visited the sewer ponds for gulls.
And, hundreds of Northern Shovelers.
At the far southern end of San Benito County, lies Hernandez Reservoir where Tule Elk have been introduced. We saw a herd of about 40 animals.
Shrikes are disappearing, worldwide. So, it is great to see so many Loggerhead Shrikes in San Benito County.
A little bit of a surprise for winter, was this Townsend's Warbler at Vista Park Hill in downtown Hollister. This is a great park for birds anytime of the year. Soon, it will be loaded with migrating orioles, tanagers and grosbeaks.
This Cackling Goose was also on the private ranch.
The ubiquitous Killdeer.
A pair of Cinnamon Teal at a vineyard pond.
Yellow-billed Magpies are nearly endemic to California. Nearly half of the birds in California have died from the West Nile Virus. However, large flocks of up to 30 birds, can be seen on Highway 25, especially south of Pinnacles National Monument, in San Benito County. This county seems to have been spared the virus.

Hope to see you out there,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding

San Benito County Birding: Update on Eastern Phoebe

Howdy, Birders.

This afternoon from 3:07 to 3:32, I tried to get a photo of the EASTERN PHOEBE on Santa Ana Valley Road in San Benito County. To my surprise, it was nowhere to be seen when I first arrived. After finding a SAY'S PHOEBE nearby, I began to search a small orchard in the area. A BLACK PHOEBE was calling loudly from the orchard. Then, I noticed the EASTERN PHOEBE, sitting on the very top of some leafless trees in the front yard of the white home. This was closer to the 3.02 mile marker. The phoebe was making a soft call note. Below, is my photograph.

It was surprising how many other birds were around in this sort of habitat: NUTTAL'S WOODPECKER, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, KESTREL, WHITE-TAILED KITE, WESTERN SCRUB JAY, CALIFORNIA QUAIL, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, HOUSE FINCH, WESTERN MEADOWLARK, and a CASSIN'S KINGBIRD near house #2200. My photograph is below.
See you out there!
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding

San Benito County Birding: January 29-31, 2011

Howdy, Birders,

This report is to confirm the EASTERN PHOEBE in San Benito County at #3080 to #3100 Santa Ana Valley Road.

After seeing the post by Al Eisner, I jumped in my car and headed for Santa Ana Valley Road. This was by far, the easiest bird that I have ever chased. It was the second bird that I saw, after house finch. The phoebe was closer to #3080, in ditch on the side of the road opposite the houses. It was perched on a dead thistle plant. It flew to the second line of barbed wire fencing, on the same side of the road. So, it is hanging in that area. I only stayed a few minutes. It is a classic Eastern Phoebe. There is a mile marker at the exact spot: 3.06.

This is the sixth known Eastern Phoebe record for San Benito County. Amazingly, this bird is precisely where I heard, but did not see, an Eastern Phoebe about ten years ago.

Elsewhere in the county: I would like to clear up the location of the Bear Valley Fire Station pond. It is south of Paicines Reservoir, and not south of Pinnacles. The pond is full with water. American Wigeon have been hanging out there. The large flock of blackbirds has been hanging around, as well. This is a known past breeding location for Tricolored Blackbirds. So, if you are thinking of chasing the Yellow-headed Blackbirds (2) which I reported a few days ago, the chances are good for finding them (in my opinion).

Many thanks to Al Eisner and Alvaro Jaramillo for relaying the reported phoebe. Please email me, if you see any of these birds, or other birds in San Benito County.

San Benito County Birding,
Debi Shearwater

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

San Benito County Birding: January 29-31, 2011

Howdy, Birders,

Below, is a report of some highlights of birding in San Benito
County, January 29 through January 31, 2011.

January 29th, there was a MERLIN on John Smith Road. On Santa Ana
Valley Road a FERRUGINOUS HAWK and GOLDEN EAGLE performing courtship
display flight. At Paicines Reservoir a decent assortment of
waterfowl was present, along with an immature BALD EAGLE. On a
private ranch, one Empid flycatcher was present, possibly a Gray

On January 30th at San Felipe Lake, the Highway 152 call box: a pair,
male/female BALD EAGLES were perched on a willow. One PEREGRINE
FALCON was present. One CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was present. (Please note
that this pullout is a very dangerous area due to traffic. On Lovers
Lane, 9 GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES were present. This represents a high
count for the county, and the first winter record that I am aware of.
At Vista Park Hill in the town of Hollister, one RED-BREASTED
SAPSUCKER and one TOWNSEND'S WARBLER were present. Both were in the
pepper trees near the county buildings. At Bear Valley Fire Station
Pond on Highway 25, south of Pinnacles, 2 YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS
were foraging in a flock of 2700 TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS, 200 Red-
winged Blackbirds and 100 Brewer's Blackbirds. This represents a new
county location for Yellow-headed Blackbird and a first winter record
that I am aware of. Continuing south on Highway 25, at Bitterwater
Dry Lake, 3 WHITE-FRONTED and 2 ROSS'S GEESE were present, along with
86 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS and one adult BALD EAGLE. One Red-tailed Hawk
with jesses and bells was photographed. Large flocks of YELLOW-BILLED
MAGPIES, up to 28, were present along Highway 25. At Hwy 25 and
Coalinga Road, one FERRUGINOUS HAWK was present. On Coalinga Road, at
Laguna BLM area, one RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER was present. At Hernandez
Reservoir, one immature (3 year old) BALD EAGLE summersalted, showing
its talons to a Red-tailed Hawk who was pursuing it. High numbers of
RUDDY DUCKS (280), MALLARDS (380) and AMERICAN WIGEON (220) were
present at the reservoir. Forty Tule Elk were near the road.
Returning home, Kangaroo Rats were observed on Quien Sabe Road. It
rained, off and on, all day.

On January 31st, a visit to the Hollister sewer ponds was very
disappointing, with virtually no shorebirds present, save one Greater
Yellowlegs and Killdeer. At Fremont Peak State Park, best birds were

Elsewhere, in Santa Clara County, 5 TUNDRA SWANS were present on
Bloomfield Road on January 30th.

Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater

San Benito County Birding