I posted the following last weekend re: my Jan. 25-26 trip, but somehow it
didn't get there! Sorry!
Hi Calbirders and interested Friends,
My trip to Carrizo and nearby areas was interesting both for the things we
(my wife and 5 friends/ 2 vehicles) saw and the things we missed. First, I want
to thank the many folks who responded to my RFI on Calbirds; your info and
suggestions were very helpful!
Also want to mention that although the effects of prolonged drought were
quite apparent, the work that the BLM and Nature Conservancy has done to restore
and "clean up" the area is remarkable and made for an enjoyable experience,
despite the seasonal dormancy, the very cold weather and the thick fogs in
mornings and evenings in some areas. This was my first visit in 6 years, and
some of my observations may be no surprise to more recent visitors. Also that
my birding etiquette cautions that follow may appear redundant to most birders
who respect them already.
Highlights included the following:
1 LONG-EARED OWL and 2 CHUKAR at the KCL Campground. The owl was in the
second clump of eucalyptus from the entrance. There is little cover in the area,
so approach with caution. If the owl is flushed, I fear it may leave the area
entirely. Note that the old barn there and many other old buildings are fenced
off to provide secure habitat for owls and bats, and should be respected as
such. Likewise, since the chukar (who were on the ground near the entrance)
are hunted, and since we noticed lots of hunters in the plain (not sure what
the laws and seasons are, and thus whether the hunters were compliant), birders
should keep propriety in mind.
Other highlights included:
MOUNTAIN PLOVER: At least nine, at the water tank on Simmler halfway between
Soda Lake and Elkhorn Rds. They are quite distant but present as I was told.
Scope north from the tank just east of the fenceline.
SHORT-EARED OWL: We saw 5-7 birds in the area on Simmler between Soda Lake
(which has no water) and the pond on the south which has some water. We
think some hunters "helped" flush them for us. It was an amazing sight to see
this many of these birds at once! Lots of sage sparrows here and even a wigeon
and greater yellowlegs in a pond in similar alkali saltbush scrub habitat
along 7-mile Rd., but couldn't find any sage thrashers and heard of no reports
Golden Eagles: At least 2, possibly 3. An adult was feeding on a dead
coyote at a ranch on 58 east of 7 Mile Road. A group of Tule Elk was on the hill
overlooking the site, and at a different time a merlin was in one of the dead
trees there. The other eagle(s) were near the California Valley Lodge in CA
City and near the schoolhouse on 58 west of Soda Lake Rd. Also in this area
was a huge flock of blackbirds in which I was surprised to see tricolors as well
Prairie falcon: one well east from 7 Mile Road on 58.
Ferruginous Hawks: 3, all in the ag. fields west of Soda Lake Road
Burrowing Owl: one, briefly, on one of the mounds in the extensive CA
ground squirrel colonies on Soda Lake Rd., North of 7-mile Rd, across from an old
tractor sitting on the east side of the Rd., on the north side of a bright
yellow mobile home. Have burrowing owls declined in the area?
We didn't go see the Barn Owl that roosts in Painted Rock, which is a one
mile drive and three-quarters mile walk from the nature center.
An interesting stop was at Pozo Rd., the old area described in the ABA guide
for Lewis' Woodpeckers and Yellow-billed Magpies. Saw neither (suspect they
are no longer commonly seen there) but had a good assortment of other
woodpeckers (Nuttall's, RB Sapsucker, Acorn) , a large covey of CA Quail and a Wild
Turkey, among other species.
Missed the Sandhill Cranes who have been apparently mostly leaving the Plain
to feed over near Taft and Maricopa during the day and roosting various places
in the valley at Plain. Also missed the Rough-legged hawk(s) and Bald
Eagle(s) that are presumably still around.
Mountain Bluebirds, Lark Sparrows and Horned Larks are numerous, and we saw a
flock of over 1000 house finches, acting like, well, other birds that flock
in huge groups. Hadn't seen them do this before, though.
LeConte's Thrashers were present and up for brief singing episodes at the
usual spot on Petroleum Rd. between Maricopa and Taft, as described in the ABA
There is a farmhouse on a wooded slope on the north side of Highway 58, east
of the Carrizo plain, where there are live oaks and juniper as well as scrub
vegetation. It was interesting to see birds like Ca thrasher, western bluebird
and spotted and CA towhees so close to the Carrizo.
Other interesting mammals, besides coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbits, and
Western cottontails were the endangered San Joaquin Valley antelope squirrel
(south of visitor center on east side of Soda Lake Rd.) and a grey fox (parking
lot in restaurant in Taft!) The Pronghorn have been seen in the fields south
of the visitor center, but we missed them.
Any questions or comments, please contact me at my other email,
Martin Byhower, 2309 W. 247th St. Lomita, CA 90717-1505
Instructor, Chadwick School
Habitat Restoration Specialist
Director, BIRDING SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA private guide service
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