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Central CA Part 11: Merced & San Luis NWRs

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  • MiriamEagl@aol.com
    24 OCT 02 This had to be one of the most glorious days of the trip! I planned to do all three driving loops described in the BBB for the Merced NWR complex,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2002
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      24 OCT 02

      This had to be one of the most glorious days of the trip! I planned to do
      all three driving loops described in the BBB for the Merced NWR complex, but
      only had time to thoroughly do Merced and San Luis. But what a place! I had
      visited Merced before, but it was miserable and rainy, yet today was bright
      and sunny, although nippy. At the info kiosk had Greater Yellowlegs, stilts,
      and dowitchers noisily feeding away, and in the background you could hear the
      Sandhill Cranes calling! Crawling around the auto tour gave great looks at
      all kinds of ducks (mostly Mallard, Gadwall, Shovelers, and Pintail), and
      more snipe than I think I've ever seen in one place; there had to be at least
      30 birds scattered all over the marsh! Pipits liked this stuff, too, along
      with the Killdeer. The real treat was an American Bittern right next to the
      road! He took off just as I snapped him, but what a look!

      Basically I got out every mile or so to scan: harriers were all over, and at
      one stop there were just tons of Tree Swallows swooping around and fluttering
      all over these little dead trees in the middle of the marsh. Had a token
      female Green-winged Teal swim warily by (told by her vestige of a buffy
      side-butt patch), and great looks at several White-fronted Geese in the sun.
      A few Snows were in, but way in the middle of the marsh, along with a small
      group of White Pelicans. There were some beautiful Cinnamon Teal hidden
      away, and had both Virginia Rails and Soras in good numbers, too, although I
      never actually saw any (BTW, you know the old trick of clapping your hands to
      get the rails to vocalize? I discovered that slamming the hatchback door
      works just as well...)

      They have a little loop trail called the Meadowlark Trail, so I hiked that;
      it takes you through a tiny little grove of willows that had lots of American
      Goldfinches (they were all over both refuges, actually) and an Orange-crowned
      Warbler that came in to pishing. Also had several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, one
      who actually showed me his ruby crown! A female Yellowthroat popped up, but
      the best bird was one that I unfortunately didn't get the greatest look at
      before I spooked it: a hiding Short-eared Owl! About all I could catch was
      the fact that it WAS a stripey owl, but way too slender for a Great Horned,
      with those dangly legs I've often seen on owls as they take off.

      Got the token pheasant in the grassy area on the way out, and a Coyote sat in
      amongst the cattle! A lone Sandhill Crane stood in the middle of the field
      bugling, and then suddenly started dancing! That was great, although odd, as
      there was no one there to dance for (except me)!

      Headed on over to San Luis, picking up more White-faced Ibis and Long-billed
      Curlews in some flooded fields (you wonder why those two like hanging around
      together so much, kinda like Marbled Godwits and Willets...). This place was
      much more quiet (and dry for that matter; several of the marshes were no more
      than alkaline pits), but saw a family of White-tailed Kites on several
      occasions, as well as tons more harriers. Finally picked up a Cooper's Hawk
      for the trip, although I also had a Sharpie that was giving a flock of
      Bushtits fits. This area had a nature trail, too (two, in fact), taking you
      through much heavier willow riparian areas. The one at the start of the auto
      tour was pretty quiet (got some California Quail in here), but the Winton
      Marsh Trail was great, with more trees to check out: got a flock of magpies
      on this one! It takes you around more wetland area as well, where I kicked
      up a couple of night herons. This was a good way to see the sparrows up
      close and personal, too: mostly Whiteys, Savannahs, and Songs, but there was
      the occasional Golden-crowned in with them, including a stunning adult. The
      riparian areas were quite extensive in this refuge, so there were a lot more
      woodpeckers, mainly Nuttall's and Flickers. Spotted Towhees liked these
      areas as well, along with the House Wrens.

      They have a second auto tour called the Tule Elk tour, which takes you around
      the enclosure they have for the elk. There's also a side road for fishing
      access, and I checked this out as well, hoping there might be a Burrowing Owl
      out in the fields where all the ground squirrels were. Got a Say's Phoebe
      instead; Blacks were all over. Did get to see the Elk: there were one or two
      males with huge racks surrounded by his harem of females lazing in the field.
      Also had a mom raccoon and her baby in the mammal department.

      That was about all I had time for, but I decided to go ahead and finish
      driving the loop, since I was staying in Los Banos. The loop takes you up to
      highway 140 and then over to Santa Fe Grade; little did I know this was a
      bumpy one-laner through the wetlands! It basically goes through several gun
      club properties, but you CAN stop and peek into the marshes (be sure you're
      pulled WAY over, though; it may be skinny, but big ol' pickups still barrel
      through there). I couldn't help myself, and ended up stopping for Tricolored
      Blackbirds, and more duck flocks which added American Wigeon, Blue-winged
      Teal, and Ruddy Duck to the day list.

      Finally made it into Los Banos for the night, and discovered to my delight
      that there's a Baskin-Robbins right next to the Best Western! :-) Bird List:

      Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
      Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
      American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
      Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
      Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
      Great Egret Ardea alba
      Snowy Egret Egretta thula
      Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
      AMERICAN BITTERN Botaurus lentiginosus
      White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi
      GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE Anser albifrons
      SNOW GOOSE Chen caerulescens
      American Wigeon Anas americana
      Gadwall Anas strepera
      GREEN-WINGED TEAL Anas carolinensis
      Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
      NORTHERN PINTAIL Anas acuta
      BLUE-WINGED TEAL Anas discors
      Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera
      Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
      Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
      Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
      White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
      Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
      Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
      COOPER'S HAWK Accipiter cooperii
      Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus
      Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
      American Kestrel Falco sparverius
      California Quail Callipepla californica
      RING-NECKED PHEASANT Phasianus colchicus
      SANDHILL CRANE Grus canadensis
      VIRGINIA RAIL Rallus limicola
      SORA Porzana carolina
      Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
      American Coot Fulica americana
      BLACK-NECKED STILT Himantopus mexicanus
      Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
      WILSON'S SNIPE Gallinago gallinago
      LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER Limnodromus scolopaceus
      Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
      Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
      Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
      DUNLIN Calidris alpina
      Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
      Rock Dove Columba livia
      Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
      SHORT-EARED OWL Asio flammeus
      Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
      Nuttall's Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii
      Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
      Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
      Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
      Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
      TREE SWALLOW Tachycineta bicolor
      American Pipit Anthus rubescens
      Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
      House Wren Troglodytes aedon
      Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
      Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
      American Robin Turdus migratorius
      Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
      Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
      Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
      Yellow-billed Magpie Pica nuttalli
      American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
      Common Raven Corvus corax
      European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
      House Sparrow Passer domesticus
      House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
      American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
      Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata
      Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
      Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
      Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
      Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
      Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
      White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
      Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
      Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
      TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD Agelaius tricolor
      Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
      BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD Molothrus ater

      83 SPECIES
      So Far: 171 SPECIES

      Mary Beth Stowe
      San Diego, CA
      MiriamEagl@...
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