Saturday, November 26, 2011


Howdy, Birders,
Many birders ask me how to find a CHUKAR. Or, more precisely, "Why can't I find a Chukar?" The best place to look for Chukar in San Benito County is Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road in Panoche Valley.
The method that I use is to drive very slowly through the winding road, but be extremely careful to watch and listen for traffic! At the same time, watch for movement on the grassy slopes. I have found that using the car as a blind works better than walking through the pass. It will help if you have one or two other birders in your car, so that at least one person can pay attention to the traffic. Sometimes, Chukars are simply sitting on top of the rocks. Sometimes, I find them by hearing their chucking sounds before seeing them! They are speedy! Those feet are on the move in the image, below!
Chukars are introduced in the United States from Pakistan. The Chukars at Shotgun Pass breed in this area, making them "countable" for one's bird list. I have seen young Chukars in this pass. They are hunted as a game species at the Panoche Hills and Griswold Hills BLM areas at this time of year. Chukars can also be found in those areas, but are more difficult to see than at Shotgun Pass. Timing can be everything— on Thanksgiving Day, my car was the first car through the pass. We saw two ROCK WRENS, driving very slowly. In the process of slowing for the wrens, we did not know that we had very likely alerted Chukars that were out of our sight. The alarmed Chukars ran right into view for the second car! So, it takes a bit of luck with timing.
Remarkably, Chukars can be greatly camouflaged. There is a Chukar in the image above! All images copyright, Sophie Webb. With a little bit of luck, you'll find a "chuk."
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding


NOVEMBER 24, 2011
From Santa Ana Valley to Panoche Valley, a party of Seven Wild Women enjoyed a fabulous day of food, birding and fellowship. Above image, copyright Jennifer Green, Panoche Valley.
The Rhapsody of Raptors continues at Santa Ana Valley. Above, "Chocolate & Vanilla", dark and light morph FERRUGINOUS HAWKS on Santa Ana Valley Road, San Benito County. For the day, we would find 7 Ferruginous Hawks, 3 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS, 4 WHITE-TAILED KITES and 1 BURROWING OWL. Images above and below copyright, Sophie Webb. Below, a RED-TAILED HAWK takes flight from a gnarly perch. We observed most of the usual grassland species of birds, including many LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES, 5 GOLDEN EAGLES, AMERICAN KESTRELS. Stopping at the Summit Ranch Pond, we found 2 HOODED MERGANSERS.
Upon entering the floor of Panoche Valley, we found 43 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS.
Images, above and below, copyright, Sophie Webb.
SAY'S PHOEBE, below (Sophie Webb), LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES, 2 ROCK WRENS, mixed flocks of WHITE-CROWNED and LARK SPARROWS were peppered throughout the day.
Another dark morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK (Sophie Webb) in Panoche Valley.
Hundreds of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were scattered throughout the valley floor, from McCullough Ranch out to Silver Creek Ranch, Jackass Pass, Shotgun Pass and up to Panoche Hills BLM area. A male Mountain Bluebird, below by Sophie Webb.
Mixed flocks of HOUSE FINCHES and MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS lined the fences, everywhere we looked! (Sophie Webb).
By the day's end, we would tally an astounding 8 PRAIRIE FALCONS, from Santa Ana Valley to Panoche Valley, including one at Paicines Reservoir.
This Prairie Falcon, above and below (Sophie Webb) was at Panoche Valley.
Amongst the many SAVANNAH SPARROWS (below, Sophie Webb) popping up on the fences, we were able to pick out 3 VESPER SPARROWS.
SAVANNAH SPARROW above and PRAIRIE FALCON below, copyright Lisa Hug.
En route to the Panoche Hills we passed through Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road. Two GREATER ROADRUNNERS, two ROCK WRENS and 20 CHUKARS were in the pass proper. One NORTHERN HARRIER was cruising the other side of the pass. The view from Panoche Hills BLM area, below. (Debi Shearwater). Two SAGE SPARROWS were the highlight in these sparsely vegetated hills.
We ended our day with a scrumptious dinner at the Tres Pinos Inn, the perfect place!
The day after Thanksgiving, I was out there, again! Just can't stay away from Santa Ana Valley. I ran into many other birders and photographers watching the raptors. Above, a local family out for an after dinner stroll. I was delighted to meet them!
A female PRAIRIE "richardsonii" MERLIN hunting the fields at Santa Ana Valley Road. Last two images, copyright, Siobhan Ruck.
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding


Howdy, Birders,
Below, please find artist/biologist Sophie Webb's fantastic images of seabirds which she shot on Shearwater Journeys' November 22, 2011 pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay. All images copyright, Sophie Webb. Please do not use without permission. Enjoy!
Shearwaters forever,
Debi Shearwater
Shearwater Journeys