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Central CA Part 12: San Luis Reservoir

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  • MiriamEagl@aol.com
    Again, sorry for the double posting, but I got in late yesterday and turned right around and headed for the symphony... 25 OCT 02 I didn t think there would be
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2 1:43 PM
      Again, sorry for the double posting, but I got in late yesterday and turned
      right around and headed for the symphony...

      25 OCT 02

      I didn't think there would be much to San Luis Reservoir, as I have fleeting
      memories of stopping here on the way to Contra Costa County one year, but it
      turns out that I had quickly birded a small part, and there was MUCH more to
      explore! I started at the Basalt Area before the crack of dawn (didn't take
      me long to get there, even after a nice sit-down breakfast) and again was
      amazed at how low the lake was. This time I got my facts straight: they do
      indeed use these reservoirs pretty much for irrigating the San Joaquin
      Valley, so they regularly get pretty low this time of year. There were
      plenty of fishermen out, though, and what few birds were around were high in
      variety: several California Gulls hung out on a spit, but there was a also a
      token Herring, and even more surprisingly an adult Western! A big flock of
      Common Mergansers competed for the fish, and two Great Blue Herons made
      chests at each other almost like grackles, their bills pointed in the air,
      wings down and tails up!

      I followed various dirt roads along the edge, and at one point I stopped
      short of where a bunch of fishermen had parked so I wouldn't encroach on
      where they had set up on the point. I got out to scan and noticed a HUGE
      fish flopping in the little finger of water next to me, and the next thing I
      knew I heard whoopin' and hollerin', and everybody made their way over to
      where *I* was, throwin' their lines in like crazy! I thought that was pretty
      funny... (There was an Eared Grebe in the middle of all that; I was hoping
      he wasn't gonna get snagged by accident in the frenzy!) One of the roads
      went to the top of one of the grassy hills (had a beautiful pair of Harriers
      up here), and I had a lovely view of the area, with a Rock Wren and Horned
      Larks to keep me company!

      At the boat launch I decided to walk around the perimeter of the parking lot
      and bird the trees (the bulk of the habitat around the reservoir is hilly
      savannah, so any man-made "forests" around there are attractive to the
      landbirds). Got the usual kinglets, Black Phoebes, Butterbutts, etc., but
      the big surprise was a Barn Owl I inadvertanly spooked! That got the
      Mockingbirds going when he landed in the pine close to them, but soon they
      forgot about the owl and started fighting each other...

      Next I went down to the Basalt campground and walked around. To my utter
      delight, a big flock of Yellow-billed Magpies had discovered a treasure trove
      of some kind of pine nut, and they were constantly coming and going,
      literally stuffing their faces with these things and flying off to store
      them, I imagine. Gads, they're gorgeous! Other dickeys in the area included
      Hermit Thrush, Spotted Towhee, and the usual ubiquitous Butterbutts and

      Got a map at headquarters, then headed over to O'Neil Forebay across the
      highway. This was the area I was whizzed through that May, and I remember it
      being so-so (best bird was a lingering Ferruginous Hawk), but THIS time the
      place was PACKED with birds! (And the water level was sky-high, too!) The
      rafts were mostly Coots, but lots of Ruddy Ducks were intermingled with them,
      and again I crawled along the shoreline, scanning every once in awhile. On
      the rocky shoreline close to highway 33 were a few Least Sandpipers in with
      the Brewer's Blackbirds and Killdeer, and more California Gulls wheeled about
      the outflow there. Double-crested Cormorants liked the high tension wire
      structures as perches, much more so than the raptors! Beyond the rafts of
      coots were both Clark's and Western Grebes, several Bufflehead, and thanks to
      stopping at various places along the shoreline, I was able to pick out other
      ducks either by themselves or intermingled with the coots, including Redhead,
      Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and the real treat, a male Common Goldeneye!
      A flock of eight Surf Scoters was a surprise, and four scaup (two pair) at
      fairly close range convinced me they were Greater: the head shape of all four
      of them were so un-Lesser to me as to almost look "blocky", and the two
      females had white smudges of their cheeks. The nail of the one male I could
      see spread fully across the width of the bill head on, and one of the females
      was very obliging and spread her wing as she was preening, showing a white
      stripe going well into the primaries! I've had so many Greater Scaup turn
      into Lessers before my eyes that I tend to be overly cautious, but these guys
      seemed to have all the right field marks.

      Headed across the way to San Luis Creek, scanning every flock I could. They
      have a couple of beaches here with more groves of Eucs, so I parked in the
      farthest parking lot and walked down the paved path through the heavily
      wooded picnic area to the beach, and then back up again. I imagine this
      place would be jumping in the spring (and mobbed in summer; today I had the
      whole place to myself), but today the Butterbutts owned the joint; one pine
      actually had a Hutton's Vireo come in, and a lonely Lark Sparrow sang in
      another, but there really wasn't much variety today. Had a group of Snowy
      Egrets on the beach, and another female Common Merganser, but for the most
      part things are really skittish here. Had Nuttall's Woodpecker and Flicker
      on the way back to the car, and a squealing Red-tailed Hawk on top of one of
      the many poles.

      Ran out of time after that, but I did want to make a quick swing by the
      Meadows Area, which was a lovely part of the forebay with marshy area along
      the shore (actually, several areas along the shore had marshes and willows,
      complete with Marsh Wrens and Song Sparrows). Added Shoveler in amongst the
      mob, and a scolding House Wren in the willows. The Pied-billed Grebes liked
      to bob close to shore, and there were a few Greater Yellowlegs as well. Had
      good studies of both Clark's and Western Grebes, and even one that was
      probably something in between!

      Didn't have time to explore Dinosaur Point (that's in a different county,
      anyway...) so I headed back to Los Banos after that. Bird List:

      Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
      Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
      Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
      Clark's Grebe Aechmophorus clarkii
      Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
      Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
      Great Egret Ardea alba
      Snowy Egret Egretta thula
      Gadwall Anas strepera
      Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
      Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
      Redhead Aythya americana
      RING-NECKED DUCK Aythya collaris
      GREATER SCAUP Aythya marila
      LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis
      Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata
      COMMON GOLDENEYE Bucephala clangula
      Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
      COMMON MERGANSER Mergus merganser
      Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
      White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
      Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
      Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
      American Kestrel Falco sparverius
      American Coot Fulica americana
      Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
      Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
      Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
      Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
      California Gull Larus californicus
      Western Gull Larus occidentalis
      HERRING GULL Larus argentatus
      Rock Dove Columba livia
      Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
      BARN OWL Tyto alba
      Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna
      Nuttall's Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii
      Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
      Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
      Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
      Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
      American Pipit Anthus rubescens
      Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
      Rock Wren Salpinctes obsoletus
      House Wren Troglodytes aedon
      Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
      Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
      Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
      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
      Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
      House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
      American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
      Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
      Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
      LARK SPARROW Chondestes grammacus
      (This isn't new, since I had it at Carrizo, but I evidently forgot to
      list it...)
      Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
      Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
      White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
      Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
      Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
      Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
      Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus

      69 SPECIES
      So Far: 179 SPECIES

      Mary Beth Stowe
      San Diego, CA
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