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Central CA Part 13: Little Panoche & Pinnacles NM

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  • MiriamEagl@aol.com
    28 OCT 02 Covered three counties today by making a quick stop at Little Panoche Reservoir, then heading over to Pinnacles National Monument. Panoche was good
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2002
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      28 OCT 02

      Covered three counties today by making a quick stop at Little Panoche
      Reservoir, then heading over to Pinnacles National Monument. Panoche was
      good for adding a few water birds to the day list, and unlike the last time I
      was there with my non-birding friend (who said, as I was filling out the
      registration form, "Is that a pheasant?" when said pheasant turned out to be
      a very tame Chukar...) I managed to get all the way down to the water level
      where there was some vegetation. You have to park and walk in, and the trail
      takes you over the dam where you get a great overview of the lake: there were
      mostly Coots, but also several Ruddy Ducks, a Western Grebe, a couple of
      Pied-bills, a California Gull, an American Wigeon wheezing unseen somewhere,
      and even a Moorhen. Down at the water level I was able to pick out a couple
      young night herons, plus Marsh Wren, Yellowthroat, and Song Sparrow in the
      marsh-dickey-bird department. A pipit flew past, and Butterbutts were all
      over. Alas, no Chukar this time.

      Headed over the picturesque Panoche Road to highway 25, and took that south
      to the east entrance to Pinnacles (unfortunately it's one of those "you can't
      get there from here" scenarios and you have to zigzag quite a bit). More
      rolling oak savannah was a treat (plus the magpies), and I don't think I've
      ever run across (and almost run over) so many flocks of California Quail in
      my life! It seemed like every time I came around a curve there was another
      covey rushing to get out of the way!

      The eastern part of Pinnacles has wonderful riparian habitat along Chalone
      and Bear Creeks, and I hiked three trails that went along them, the first
      being accessed from the aptly named "Chalone Creek Area". Mule Deer
      (including a male with a nice rack) fed in the parking area along with the
      juncos, titmice, and Scrub Jays. I took a little bit of the Old Pinnacles
      Trail that went along the dry creekbed, which is very wide at this point. It
      was pretty quiet (except for a curious Bewick's Wren), but the scenery was
      gorgeous.

      Headed up to the Visitors Center after that, where I hiked a little of the
      Bear Gulch Trail. This was a terrific little walk through the woods
      (reminded me a little of Madera Canyon in Arizona), the best bird being a
      female Varied Thrush! This trail parallels the main road, and opens up
      periodically; at the resting spot near a little bridge had a very cooperative
      Wrentit come in, and on the way back both Golden-crowned and Sooty Fox
      Sparrows popped up and down from the trail to the bushes, along with the
      omnipresent juncos.

      Last time I was here I had tried both the Condor Gulch Trail and the start of
      the Rim Trail, and both got scratched off my list as too much work ;-) so I
      took the leg of the Bear Gulch Trail that went from the end of the road back
      towards the Visitor's Center; it goes right through the picnic area, but
      fortunately no one else was there, so the place was actually quite birdy. A
      California Thrasher fed and called pretty much in the open, and two "acorn
      trees" at the resting spot had lots of pairs of Acorn Woodpeckers conversing
      back and forth. A Hutton's Vireo called in here as well. This is also a
      great area to actually SEE a Canyon Wren, as twice the little bugger sat
      right up on a rock (while I was changing film, naturally), but I found out
      that they aren't quite as responsive to pishing as their cousins the Rock
      Wrens, unfortunately! The Steller's Jays were only too eager to come out and
      have their pictures taken, though...

      I debated about taking the Brickmore Road over to the west side, but I saw
      that it was dirt and curvy, and might take awhile, so I opted to take 25 all
      the way down to King City Road and then up G15, also known as Metz Road. 25
      was absolutely gorgeous (besides picking up a Prairie Falcon along the way),
      so I'm glad I took it, but time-wise it probably would have been just as fast
      to take the dirt road: I think it took me about an hour and a half just to
      get to the west entrance! But this is certainly worth seeing, too, and in
      some ways is prettier than the east side: here you see the stupendous rock
      formations, even though the surrounding habitat is mostly chaparral with a
      few scattered oaks.

      I had taken the High Peaks Trail last time (or at least part of it) so I
      decided to try the North Wilderness Trail this time, as all trails on this
      side start from the same parking lot. Again, you have to go through the
      picnic area, but again it was empty, and the trail is nice and flat, taking
      you through scattered oaks. The most interesting bird along this trail was a
      Hairy Woodpecker (we only get them in the high mountains back home), but a
      new trip bird, White-throated Swifts, chattered overhead as well, and a
      Flicker alternately waffled and "cleah"ed behind me at the resting spot.

      I still had a little bit of time, so decided to hike the High Peaks Trail
      again, which went through more densely wooded area with huge boulders. Last
      time I had a mess of Fox Sparrows, and while they weren't numerous this time,
      I still had a good look at a Sooty Fox who didn't think I could see him in
      the undergrowth; boy, they know how to crouch still and keep an eye on you!
      The resting spot gave great views of the peaks, formed by volcanic activity
      along the San Andreas Fault I found out later. Just for grins I think it
      would be fun to do a tour along the entire length of the Fault some day (and
      hope it doesn't decide to move while you're doing it)!

      Headed in to King City after that. Bird List:

      Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
      Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
      Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
      American Wigeon Anas americana
      Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
      Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
      Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
      American Kestrel Falco sparverius
      Prairie Falcon Falco mexicanus
      California Quail Callipepla californica
      Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
      American Coot Fulica americana
      Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
      California Gull Larus californicus
      Rock Dove Columba livia
      WHITE-THROATED SWIFT Aeronautes saxatalis
      Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
      Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
      Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
      Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
      Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
      American Pipit Anthus rubescens
      Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
      Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus
      Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
      Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
      Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
      California Thrasher Toxostoma redivivum
      Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius
      Wrentit Chamaea fasciata
      Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
      Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus
      White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
      Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
      Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
      Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
      Yellow-billed Magpie Pica nuttalli
      American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
      Common Raven Corvus corax
      European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
      Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
      House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
      Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
      American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
      Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
      Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
      Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
      California Towhee Pipilo crissalis
      Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
      Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
      White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
      Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
      Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
      Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
      Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus

      55 SPECIES
      So Far: 180 SPECIES

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