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Four hours in Panoche Valley

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  • Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi
    Hi folks, Happy New Year! Here s a belated report from Panoche Valley with avian and mammalian highlights. Inspired by Debra Shearwater s recent report from
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2014
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      Hi folks,

      Happy New Year!
      Here's a belated report from Panoche Valley with avian and mammalian highlights.

      Inspired by Debra Shearwater's recent report from Panoche Valley, we decided to spend the afternoon of December 31, 2013 birding there. 

      Our birding started at noon at Paicines Reservoir where we saw an adult BALD EAGLE on a power pole eating a furry mammal. The bird was too far away to identify the prey. From the fur, it could have been either a squirrel or a rabbit. A few ravens were mobbing the eagle and were within pecking distance of the raptor as they tried valiantly to steal bits of the prey. The water in the reservoir was very low and very far away. American White Pelicans were abundant both in the water and flying in formation overhead.

      At 12:30 PM we entered Panoche Road (San Benito County Road J1) with the goal of returning to Hwy-25 by 4 PM. In the interest of time, we decided to stop only for the birds that were easy to see but not for sparrows etc. that would require searching.

      Our first stop was at mile-marker 5.50 where we spotted a PRAIRIE FALCON perched atop a large oak. This bird was too far away for good photos, but could be seen well with optics. After a few minutes it flew off to hunt in the distant valley.

      Next we stopped at mile-marker 9.14 for the Lewis's Woodpecker. Even before we could park the car, we spotted a COYOTE. Here's a video of this canine:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps7q2a0CMjw

      After a few minutes of searching, we found a solitary LEWIS'S WOODPECKER on a pole. This bird was very active and kept us entertained as it flew between various perches and engaged in tree-pecking as well as fly catching. We ended up spending too much time at this spot, but it paid off. A CALIFORNIA THRASHER came hopping into the open and proceeded to forage under a roadside oak.

      While watching these birds, we noticed a small head with pointy ears spying on us from a distance at ground level. This turned out to be a BOBCAT. It kept staring at us for several minutes before retreating into the vegetation. We shot some video of it which confirmed its identity. Here's a video of this feline:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtAIN7rfe8E

      By this time it was past 2:30 PM already and we had to rush for the Moutain Plovers. However, at mile-marker 13.73, a WILD TURKEY on the opposite hillside made us pause. Here's a video of this colorful bird:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CbWP4cr40Y

      As we drove on towards Panoche, we saw good numbers of the usual suspects such as Yellow-billed Magpie, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Western Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike etc. but didn't stop for them. 

      We reached Norton Road around 3 PM and found lots of MOUNTAIN PLOVERs in good viewing conditions without having to search. These birds were closer to the road than we had expected, which allowed us to shoot some decent video of them:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1axq8wSpc74

      We could only afford to spend 15 minutes admiring the plovers before rushing back home. Although this was my shortest visit to Panoche Valley, it was the most intense.

      For detailed directions, you can find Debra's excellent trip report here:

      --Sidd Ramachandramurthi
      Sunnyvale, CA


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