Long-eared Owls (68) at Mercy Hot Springs, Panoche Valley 3-4-2007
Today I was treated to an incredible total of 68 Long-eared Owls at Mercey
Hot Springs in Panoche Valley! I'd heard there had been some Long-eareds
around and decided to go check it out. The birds were quite tame, and I was
able to go from tree to tree and count them roosting without flushing them.
A single tree near the registration office had 31 owls! They were nearly
stacked on top of each other, and at one point I had nine in one binocular
field. This truly is an amazing thing to see, and I'd recommend that anyone
who can get out there to take a look at these birds do so sooner than
later. I suspect many are migrants, and they'll be leaving shortly,
although at least some stay and breed. Also of note were 4 Barn Owls, 2
Ferruginous Hawks and 3 Prairie Falcons.
When you arrive at Mercey Hot Springs, pull in and ask permission at the
registration office. They'll ask you for 5 bucks to bird the grounds. They
did complain about some folks parking and birding the grounds without paying
the fee so it's best to try to avoid that! This place is really important
for these owls, and the last thing we want is for birders to give the birds
a bad rap. For my money, seeing 68 Long-eared Owls in one place is well
worth the price of admission.
This place also looks to be a potential goldmine for vagrant landbirds.
They've just installed a new spring with fresh water running. I'll be
checking it out for sure during late spring.
Brian L. Sullivan
eBird Project Leader
Birds of North America Online
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850
North American Birds
American Birding Association
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