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Gilded Flickers (was RE: [CALBIRDS] Bendire's Thrashers in California)

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  • Koonce, Sandy
    Thanks to Dick for the excellent suggestions and directions for finding Crissal and Bendire s Thrashers. I just wanted to add a cautionary note to Dick s
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2008
      Thanks to Dick for the excellent suggestions and directions for finding Crissal and Bendire's Thrashers. I just wanted to add a cautionary note to Dick's description of where to find Gilded Flickers. While the Cima Dome area that Dick describes is certainly the place to look for them, be aware that Red-shafted Flickers breed in this area as well. In fact, a few years ago, a few of us found a mated pair, one adult with reddish wing linings and the other with yellowish wing linings. We could not get close enough to see all the details of the two birds' plumages.

      I personally do not know exactly what a Gilded x Red-shafted Flicker ought to look like and would welcome any comments from anyone with experience identifying them. But I did want to point out that a flicker in this region with yellowish wing linings might in fact be a hybrid and not a pure Gilded, so one should take care and try to see all the plumage details, not just the color of the wing linings. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the flickers on Cima Dome tend to be rather wary, so getting a good look is decidedly non-trivial (even if you have found a candidate to observe, in itself non-trivial).

      One final plea: the East Mojave National Preserve is a beautiful and under-birded area; if you do go, please report your sightings, at the very least to the local listserve, inlandcountybirds@yahoogroups.com.



      Sandy Koonce
      Department of Mathematics
      University of Redlands, Redlands, CA 92373

      -----Original Message-----
      From: CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Richard J. Norton
      Sent: Sun 3/9/2008 3:34 PM
      To: CALBIRDS
      Subject: [CALBIRDS] Bendire's Thrashers in California

      The most difficult to find breeding thrasher in California is the
      Bendire's Thrasher. Bendire's Thrashers are migratory birds that breed
      in a few spots in dry southeastern California deserts, primarily areas
      with Joshua Trees. You will not see them unless you look at the times of
      the year they are present, which is roughly late March through July.
      I've seen them mostly in May and early June. Admittedly, I don't recall
      looking in April or March. They sing in May, and possibly April as well.
      As with other thrashers, they are easiest to find in early morning or
      late in the day.

      The most reliable places to find them are in the Mojave Desert in the
      areas near Baker, Kelso, and Cima. Baker is a town on Route 15, the
      freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. There are motels in Baker to
      facilitate an early morning search.

      From Baker, proceed south on Kelbaker Road about 26 miles to the area
      near Powerline Road, a dirt road that runs along the large power lines.
      Bendire's Thrashers are on either side of Kelbaker Road in this
      vicinity. Another mile or two to the south, you will find an area with
      distinctly different vegetation (I don't know what it is, but it will
      stand out) on the east side of the road. A few years ago, Bendire's
      Thrashers were easy to see in this area. Note that LeConte's Thrashers
      and Northern Mockingbirds are also present.

      Proceed south to Kelso, and turn left or northeast and continue to Cima.
      At Cima, turn left or north onto Cima Road. I've seen Bendire's
      Thrashers along Cima Road from somewhat north of where Powerline Road
      crosses it, north to where the Joshua Trees end.

      If you make this trip in May, you can fairly reliably also see Gilded
      Flickers and Lucy's Warblers, another two non-trivial-to-locate
      California species. I've found Gilded Flickers easiest to find along
      Cima Road north of Cima and dirt roads just to the southeast of Cima.
      They are also along Powerline Road itself, in the first few miles west
      of Cima Road. Lucy's Warblers breed in tamarisk trees along the railroad
      tracks east of Kelso. I've always enjoyed the May trips, which also
      produce birds like Scott's Oriole and Black-throated Sparrow. This trip
      can be made using only paved roads, easily permitting use of a regular car.

      Neither Bendire's Thrashers nor Gilded Flickers are trivial to find. You
      may have to search for a number of hours. One year I found about 6
      Bendire's Thrashers along Cima Road, late one afternoon. The following
      year, mistakenly thinking I had them figured out, planned on seeing them
      again late in the day. It got dark before I found any, and I left
      without one on that year's list.

      I've also seen Bendire's Thrashers in Joshua Tree National Monument, but
      can't remember exactly where.

      Another option is to watch Rare Bird Alerts from coastal Southern
      California during September and October, when a young Bendire's Thrasher
      will sometimes show up for a while. I've seen them in Sycamore Canyon
      and Malibu Creek State Parks, but the last one was in 1999.

      Dick Norton
      Topanga, CA

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