Few birders will remember the ramshackle run down buildings of the old Mercey Hot Springs of decades ago. I can recall with terror, encountering a pack of snarling, barking dogs during a visit more than 25 years ago on the Panoche Valley Christmas Bird Count. Dramatic and welcoming changes have taken place at Mercey Hot Springs since the present day owners began rehabilitating the entire facility in 1995.
Today, Mercey Hot Springs offers the visiting birder and bird photographer an array of quality resort type options, including cabins for rent, camp spaces nestled amongst the tamarisk trees and RV sites along a seasonal stream. A swimming pool, 16 outdoor and 3 indoor mineral hot soaking tubs, dry sauna and yoga are also available. Overnighting at Mercey Hot Springs is a fabulous adventure for birders which I highly recommend. Nearby birding sites include Panoche Hills BLM area, Panoche Valley floor itself where many winter specialty birds can be found and New Idria Road and Griswold Hills BLM area. Panoche Valley has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA).
Please note that Mercey Hot Springs is its own eBird Hot Spot in Fresno (not San Benito) County. Panoche Hills BLM area is another eBird Hot Spot in Fresno County. Shotgun Pass and the Panoche Valley floor are eBird Hot Spots in San Benito County.
Mercey Hot Springs might be best known for the roosting LONG-EARED OWLS. Over 30 long-eared owls have sometimes been counted in the tamarisk trees. The current management has, for many years, generously greeted birders and bird photographers, permitting them to pay a cursory $5 fee for the privilege of viewing and photographing these owls.
However, some SLOBs ("selfish, lazy, obnoxious birders" I did not make that up) have tried to sneak in without paying the measly $5 fee! As well, some photographers have set up their equipment on picnic tables in campsites, or walked through occupied campsites, with total disregard for the occupants that have paid for their site. This has resulted in complaints to the management about these disrespectful SLOBs.
The net result is� well, you guessed it� a few SLOBs � a few selfish, lazy, obnoxious birders�messing it up for everyone else! You know who you are!
Quite reluctantly, the management now requires birders to pay the regular $25 day use fee which is good for four consecutive hours on the property which can be used for any combination of soaking, swimming and birding. (But, obviously does not give one the option to walk through Mercey's guest's campsites).
Groups of 10 or more birders may be admitted for a lower fee, if the leader contacts the management, presents the signed release form in advance and presents payment as one sum for the entire group. This is a great opportunity to see and photograph long-eared owls up close but, birders should take great care to not flush the owls. For more information, please contact the management at: info@...
Mercey Hot Springs management has made tremendous and beautiful improvements of the dilapidated facilities of this iconic and historic retreat. They even have a "Green Philosophy." It is up to birders and bird photographers to honor and respect this environment. To learn more about Mercey Hot Springs, visit the web site at:
Do the right thing,
Please feel free to post this notice.
Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
PO Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024
Birding Down Under: SubAntarctic Islands, November 10 - 28, 2014 with Debi
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