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TEH, TRI, MEN & LAK 8/01

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  • creagrus@montereybay.com
    APOLOGIES Apologies for the multiple postings to those who subscribe widely. Apologies to those on local listservs for posting this broader account that
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20 8:43 PM
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      APOLOGIES
      Apologies for the multiple postings to those who subscribe widely.
      Apologies to those on local listservs for posting this broader account
      that includes areas outside your county. Apologies to those who want
      only a list of birds and will be offended by mention of chipmunks.
      Apologies to those who wish more regular reports. We tend to go
      "county birding" only 3 times a year: on Rita's summer break, again
      sometime between Thanksgiving & Xmas, and then on Easter break. The
      rest of the time when we want to look at birds we tend to stay in
      Monterey County. It is great that there are those living closer to
      small interior counties who can really add substance to the "county
      listing" group regularly (and some with VERY impressive results) but
      given where we live and our schedules, this is all we choose to do.
      Also apologies for the longish report. For all these reason, please
      feel free to hit "delete" now.

      AND NOW THE STORY
      During Rita Carratello's August break we undertook a six-day
      1332 miles loop through northern California, mostly spending time in
      counties we had rarely birded. It was planned as a "camping trip" but
      it was so hot and miserable inland that we never broke out the new
      tent (but please don't tell anyone our "secret"), staying instead in
      air-conditioned motels or (once) with friends. As per requested, we
      will break this into paragraphs by county.

      YOLO
      Late on Tuesday, 8/14, heading north from some shopping stops
      in Berkeley, we were near the north end of I-505 when Rita noted a
      large kettle of hawks. We pulled over to the freeway edge and were
      dazzled by swarms of foraging SWAINSON'S HAWKS. At one point I counted
      90 in the air over a 180 degree search, and there were surely many
      more. They were actively picking grasshoppers out of the air with
      their feet and eating them on the wing. Almost all were light morph
      birds, mostly adults. I have never seen a sight like this in
      California.
      Also from the freeway were a flight of ~30 WHITE-FACED IBIS.

      TEHAMA
      Neither of us had many birds in Tehama so it was a goal to
      reach a hundred here. We opted to try Black Butte Reservoir for
      shorebirds late on the 14th, stay in Red Bluff, and do the eastern
      part of the county on the 15th. Heading north from Orland in stifling
      heat we found a pond drying out just north of Black Butte Resv. Dam
      (and thus just inside TEH) opposite an arched sign that read "Farm
      Sanctuary" and had mailbox 19100 (and others). It was actually two
      ponds connected by a small muddy channel that was crossed not without
      difficulty. That having been accomplished we found that the pond had
      scattered SPOTTED SANDPIPER among Killdeers, ~80 LEAST and 6 WESTERN
      SANDPIPER (5 juv., 1 ad.), and one juvenal SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (a
      standard scaly-backed juv without any rusty edgings, thick blob-tipped
      bill but bill length suggested a female, characteristic facial
      pattern, longish primary projection, etc.). [We didn't know its status
      at the time -- except that it was rare here -- but now I see that
      there are no records listed for TEH on Sterling's county spreadsheet;
      this may be first county record.] Rita spotted a lone adult dowitcher
      in very worn alternate plumage that proved to have an ambiguous tail
      pattern and which we might have misidentified had it not decided to
      fly and give standard "tu-tu-tu" calls of SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER
      several times.
      We then drove to the end of Burris Creek Road at the other end
      of the reservoir but had nothing new in the way of shorebirds. There
      was a LEWIS'S WOODPECKER that flew from TEH into GLE thus killing two
      counties with one bird. Also watched a Coyote hunting in a drying
      riverbed, flushing a GREEN HERON enroute.

      We mostly followed Steve Glover's big footprints on the 15th,
      starting at the Salmon Viewing area on the Sacramento River in Red
      Bluff. A small garden behind the nature center was attracting hordes
      of imm. Selasphorus hummingbirds; surely the vast majority -- if not
      all -- were RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS at this date & locale. A good many
      common species were "county birds" here but I'll mention the calling
      BLUE GROSBEAK. We also spent a couple hours along Jellys Ferry Road in
      the lowlands before it got hot -- including the fine-looking riparian
      mentioned by Bruce Deuel in his write-up of Tehama birding spots which
      had another singing BLUE GROSBEAK -- but came up with almost no new
      birds. The ponds and marshes near the north end of the road had
      only mallards and a BELTED KINGFISHER (and an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER
      on a fenceline) but not even a coot!
      Much of the rest of the morning was taken up along Hwy 36 to
      Lassen Nat'l Park. What a difference a month makes! Glover had singing
      chats and RC Sparrow at specific sites in the lowlands; now, in mid-
      August, nothing was vocalizing. Nor did we have a lot more luck when
      we hit the pines. We did work a portion of the original road at ~MP
      78.4 (one can hop a fence from a pull-out to find the hidden road)
      which had MT. QUAIL, MT. CHICKADEE, CASSIN'S VIREO, BLACK-THR GRAY
      WARBLER, and a few others. The ponds at MP 81.8 were barren. Just
      before them the Battle Creek campground had PYGMY & RED-BR NUTHATCH
      plus my lifer ALLEN'S CHIPMUNK (a largish gray chipmunk which is a
      recent split in the "Townsend's" group).
      After lunch in Mineral we blindly followed Glover's lead and
      stopped at the turn-off to Lassen park from Hwy 36. True to his word,
      the climax pine forest here -- at mid-day -- DUSKY FLYCATCHER, WHITE-
      HEADED WOODPECKER, and HERMIT WARBLER, plus (yip,yip,yip) another
      lifer chipmunk: the little Yellow-pine Chipmunk. We must have driven
      right past Bluff Falls (mentioned by Bruce Deuel) but we saw no sign
      before hitting the entrance kiosk. Just beyond is the chalet and
      nearly the "last chance" for Tehama County.... and we were still short
      a handful of birds. But willow thickets here (and also just below
      at a pull-off for Brokeoff Mt.) yielded up birds one by one: NASHVILLE
      & MacGILLIVRAY'S & ORANGE-CROWN WARBLERS, LINCOLN'S & FOX SPARROW
      (Rita only), GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE. Also lots of PINE SISKINS in
      vicinity, heard an EVENING GROSBEAK, had a few CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS and
      a swirling flock (with Lassen Peak as a backdrop) of BARN SWALLOW,
      VAUX'S SWIFT and two locally-rare WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS. From here the
      road goes into Shasta Co. for a short turn around a fumerole, and then
      back into Tehama for a final quarter-mile or so. Here we eked out a
      HOUSE WREN, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER feeding three fledglings,
      another Yellow-pine Chipmunk (I think), and CASSIN'S FINCH, putting us
      just over the 100 mark....
      As we had a dinner appointment in Redding, we flew through
      Lassen Park but did remark on how odd it was to see Mt. Lassen without
      any snow. We stayed with Stuart & Sally Keith in Redding and were
      treated to much hospitality, including blueberry pancakes next morning
      on the deck, watching more intriguing Selasphoruses.

      TRINITY
      Some unexpected things about Trinity County: (1) Wrentits are
      common and widespread; we had birds from Lewiston all the way across
      southern TRI to Ruth Lake; (2) House Finches are very hard to find
      (only a handful near Hayfork); (3) by mid-August lots of breeding
      birds have pulled out -- only one BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and no Lazuli
      Buntings were in any of the prime-looking habitats; ditto Pac-slope &
      Ash-throated Fly (only heard one of the latter on Deerlick Springs
      Rd.); but WESTERN TANAGERS were everywhere (presumably much
      post-breeding dispersal); and (4) exceedingly common birds were ACORN
      WOODPECKER and LESSER GOLDFINCH (in happy contrast, STARLING and HOUSE
      SPARROW were rare & local in towns!).
      After the late breakfast in Redding we started TRI in late
      morning near Lewiston. Unlike Tehama where we had many directions from
      Glover & Deuel, here we had almost nothing. I had failed to look up
      past "CL" reports and therefore we were just "winging it" and looking
      for habitats. We decided to go to Lewiston Lake because it was
      mentioned in John Kemper's "Where to Go Birding in Northern
      California" book. A burned area near Lewiston had WESTERN BLUEBIRD
      and HAIRY WOODPECKER. A marshy pond on Rush Cr. Road just northwest of
      Lewiston had WOOD DUCK, PB GREBE, BELTED KINGFISHER, BLACK PHOEBE
      (another surprisingly widespread species through southern TRI), and
      adjacent oaks had OAK TITMOUSE.
      Then to Lewiston Lake which we reached mid-day. According to
      Kemper this lake is constantly maintained at the same level for water
      management purposes, and that is why permanent reedbed marshes have
      developed at the north end. About the first marsh one comes to has a
      sign showing binoculars. One turns in here (this is just before
      Lakeview Terrace Lodge or some such name on the other
      side of the road) and one can picnic on a picnic table at the edge of
      the marsh at a sign saying "Wildlife Viewing Area." So we viewed the
      wildlife: lots of COMMON MERGANSERS, MALLARD with young, COOTS, a
      calling VIRGINIA RAIL, and overhead were OSPREY and BALD EAGLE. In
      flowers right next to the table we watched a feeding fem/imm-type
      CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (a surprise). A few steps south and right at the
      marsh edge is an alder/willow thicket. At first we went over to get
      looks at singing WRENTITS and found that the thicket had migrants
      in it: YELLOW WARBLER, WARBLING VIREO, a surprising YELLOW-BREASTED
      CHAT, a mystery Empid [nearby we would see two WILLOW FLYCATCHERS, and
      two more WILLOW FLYCATCHERS were here the next day, but I digress],
      and Rita spotted a bird deep in the very southern tip of the thicket
      that proved to be -- much to our surprise -- a GRAY CATBIRD! We did
      realize this was a first county record but we'd forgotten to bring
      anyone's phone number. But we had the Keiths' number so called them on
      the cell phone (it worked here, amazingly) and asked Sally to email
      John Hunter for us. We found a Styrofoam lid at roadside and placed a
      rock on top to mark the spot. Later I discovered the S.F. Bird Box
      phone number in the car and left a message that evening. The Catbird
      looked to be fresh-plumaged to me, suggesting a bird-of-the-year. I
      suspect it to be an early migrant, perhaps from its breeding grounds
      as near as NE Oregon. I have posted my field sketch and notes on line
      at http://montereybay.com/creagrus/CAlistGRCA.html .
      Just a bit farther north along the lake are more reedy spots.
      One of these had the Willow Flys plus COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, another
      CHAT (!), and a fledgling MARSH WREN. I was previously unaware that
      Marsh Wren nested in TRI.
      Trinity Lake (Lake Claire Engel) was quite low with lots of
      dead shoreline and very few birds. However, where streams come into
      the lake CALIFORNIA GULLS gather as if looking for spawning salmon.
      The Stuart Arm had lots of them (many juv. CALIF) plus SPOTTED
      SANDPIPER, KILLDEER, LEAST SANDPIPER, and two juv. RING-BILLED GULLS.
      It was near here that Rita saw a PILEATED WOODPECKER in flight on our
      return later that afternoon (I missed that but heard one the
      next day across Lewiston Lake). After lunch at Trinity Center we went
      in search of shorebird habitat (I had recalled posts by John Hunter in
      years past of shorebirds at Trinity Center but had no directions
      beyond that). The map showed a creek running into the lake that might
      be seen from either the airport vicinity or the other side. We tried
      the airport first and could see all the cars and a flock of gulls at
      the boat-launching ramp on the other side. So we crossed the bridge
      north of town, took the first right (North Creek Cutoff or words like
      that), which brought us to the boat-launch spot. Here we could walk to
      the shoreline gull flock to view them and shorebirds: many LEAST &
      WESTERN, 2 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 4 SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, and 3 juv.
      BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS. Also two CLIFF SWALLOWS and a BLACK PHOEBE (at the
      time thought that was a good bird.... how little did I know).
      It was just sooo HOT that camping sounded like a struggle.
      Also we thought maybe we should be at the Catbird spot the next
      morning to help the hordes of desperate county twitchers. So we headed
      back to Lewiston at 5 pm to grab a motel room. Surely that would be
      easy on a Thursday night..... We barely managed to get the last room
      in town!

      Next morning (8/17) after a bit of predawn owling without
      success, we tried Lewiston Lake again. Mary Smith Campground had RED-
      TAILED & RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, plus a nice red Sonoma Chipmunk (most be
      near the north end of their range), and nearby brushy habitat produced
      BEWICK'S WREN, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, and what we presume to be a
      RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (imm.). At our now-famous "Wildlife Viewing Area"
      the GRAY CATBIRD was still present. Yes, still present. But
      inexplicably the hordes of birders had not arrived...... Our only new
      bird here today was a DOWNY WOODPECKER.
      The rest of the day is mostly a blur of turn after winding
      turn through conifers, hill, and dale on endless roads with numbers
      like "3" and "36". The day became hotter and hotter and county birds
      very few. At the highest summit on Hwy 36 east of Hayfork (3660') we
      took a dirt road from the summit sign north up through chaparral to a
      locked gate at the edge of the pines. Here was an OLIVE-SIDED
      FLYCATCHER, sev. MT CHICKADEES, a BLACK-THR GRAY W, and a nice
      male RED CROSSBILL perched and then flying giving loud calls. Down
      into the valley that gets to Hayfork were fields with VAUX'S SWIFT
      overhead. Easley Reservoir, just north of Hayfork, looked good on the
      map and was actually a very nice county park but the water had only
      COOTS and fakiforme ducks (must be good in winter, though). The pond
      just southwest of town shown on the DeLorme was dry but the willows
      held AMERICAN GOLDFINCH; farther south & west we tried some riparian
      and came up with BROWN CREEPER. But that was it for Trinity. Ruth Lake
      had a nice lunch stop but no new birds (another RED-SHOULDERED HAWK,
      though). Rita & I left Trinity in the low 90s. It was four more
      interminable hours to Ft. Bragg for the night. I had a boat trip the
      next day.

      MENDOCINO
      I'd never done a Ft. Bragg pelagic so this seemed like a
      chance for some county birds. It was a rough trip in Beaufort 5-6
      conditions much of the day but I did manage to see the basic Mendo
      pelagics: BF ALBATROSS, N FULMAR, DR PETREL, SOOTY & PINK-FOOT &
      BULLER'S SHEARWATER, SABINE'S GULL. Missed several others (i.e., Ashy
      St-Petrel, Cassin's Auklet) as it was too rough to move around much.
      [Hey, wait a minute... could you go back a couple birds? DR
      PETREL? As in DARK-RUMPED PETREL? Well, yes actually. I drew a sketch
      and wrote field notes directly on returning to shore & before checking
      any literature. These are now on line at
      http://montereybay.com/creagrus/CAlistDRPE.html . But do recognize
      that we all suffered for this bird. It was a miserable trip -- a
      miserable and sick trip for some -- and we were cold and wet. You
      wouldn't have wanted to be there. And yes, it was a new state bird for
      me. Thanks for asking.]
      In the meantime Rita had enjoyed a nice sunny day ashore and
      tallied some 21 county tics including some summering HARLEQUIN DUCKS.
      She took me back to the spot -- north side of the Virgin Cr. mouth --
      the next morning. But today the fog was rolling in, reducing
      visibility rapidly, and I felt lucky to see two female-type HARLEQUIN
      DUCKS diving in the surf (we heard there were 8 summering here) plus
      the basic shorebirds like W TATTLER, SURFBIRD, BL TURNSTONE, SEMI &
      SNOWY PLOVER, and a GREATER YELLOWLEGS. [We ran into some birders
      (perhaps from out of state?) who said they had had a "Thayer's Gull"
      but none were in the small flock; I wonder if juv. CALIF GULL might
      confuse folks who are not used to that bright plumage and black-billed
      aspect? There was one of them there.]

      LAKE
      We aimed the drive home to route through Lake County and visit
      the Kelsey Creek mouth at Clear Lake State Park. Jerry White (who was
      on the pelagic trip) told us that many good shorebirds and Least
      Bitterns were there. It is a fine spot reached by entering the park
      (paying the $2 fee) and going to the large parking lot at the boat
      launch area on Kelsey Creek. At the NE corner is a single scraggly
      pine tree and from it one can find the trail through the riparian
      thickets (and over an active Yellow Jacket nest) and then through the
      tules to a small mudflat surrounded by reed beds. A sandbar is visible
      just beyond. It had 49 WHITE PELICANS, a CAL GULL roost with 2 CASPIAN
      and a lone FORSTER'S TERN, and a good number of LEAST & WESTERN
      SANDPIPERS. Four juv. SHORT-BILLED were with a dozen adult LONG-BILLED
      DOWITCHERS. [Note -- it was at this very spot some 20 years ago that
      I, with Donna Dittmann, discovered Lake County's first Short-billed
      Dowitcher. Also the first Sanderling for the county. The access and
      mudflats were a lot different then but the birds seem similar!]. New
      for me today were three MARBLED GODWIT, and for Rita there was SEMI
      PLOVER, plus VIRGINIA RAIL feeding at reed-edge, plus an adult SORA
      and juv., and we heard one of the LEAST BITTERNS that has summered
      here giving "quok" calls.
      And thus we end this tale, complete with a state bird, dozens
      and dozens of county tics, two first county records, and some damn
      good blueberry pancakes....

      Don Roberson
      Pacific Grove CA
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