Mendo NF -- Days 2 & 3
- Greetings, Mendobirders
Continuing from the previous posting ...
Saturday, 09 July.
The dawn chorus at "Spruce Grove Campground" started at 0459, with American Robin. We got up, made some coffee, and enjoyed THICK-BILLED FOX SPARROW (not yet a valid NCB since we already have Sooty Fox Sparrow for the county), CASSIN'S FINCH, feeding almost under our feet at the portable table, WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER (a male, and the only one we saw on the trip), and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE. The place was proving to be as advertised. Around camp, we also had Red-breasted Sapsucker loudly tapping on a snag -- and being answered by another individual tapping on his territorial perch. There was also a Downy Woodpecker here, with all three Piciformes in view at the same time. (Later, a Northern Flicker appeared, after the other three had departed.)
We hiked around the area and discovered a patch where there was a single firering. Aha! Maybe this was Spruce Grove Campground after all. We retraced our steps and discovered that the "road" continued from where we had parked. But it isn't obvious. And there is a tree about to fall over this road, so how long it will be that one can drive to the firering is anybody's guess.
Taking George Chaniot's directions with us, we drove out and turned south on M1. At Brushy Point, we stopped for Black-chinned Sparrow. No luck. But the birding was replete with expected mountain birds: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Western Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Band-tailed Pigeon, etc. We drove south as far as the large pull-out overlook of Lake Pillsbury. There was still some snow across the road before reaching this pull-out, but easily traversed by a 4-wheel vehicle. Near this pull-out we encountered one of the few other vehicles (and humans) that we saw up on the mountain. The driver asked if we had come from Covelo, then reported that he had come up from Potter Valley, and it was almost impossible, despite having 4-wheel. George describes this part of the road as "only for the intrepid".
We returned to the camp, and relocated it to the grove with the firering. George mentions that Flammulated Owl is "seldom missed" here, so we were keen for dusk to come. Not having a way to play Flammulated Owl calls, we were reduced to listening for an owl to spontaneously call. Regrettably, none did. Oh well, next year. The other big miss was Hammond's Flycatcher.
Sunday, 10 July
We wanted to get out early so that we could take our time birding down M1 to Eel River Campground. Birds were what I would call abundant. In addition, we were treated to a 5' Pacific Gopher Snake crossing the road. I was pretty sure that we were the first vehicle of the day along M1, a goal of ours so that we would have a better chance of seeing grouse and/or quail. And we were rewarded with 4 male MOUNTAIN QUAIL crossing the road. We were able to watch them for 5 minutes or so. This was perhaps a mile north of the junction of M1/M61.
When we reached Grizzly Flat, I remembered that there was something here I wanted to try for. This required going back to the MendoBirds postings. Oh yes, Jerry White's Northern Goshawk on 27 May 2005. So we got out of the car, and played NORTHERN GOSHAWK call. Bam! Immediate response, in fact dueting the playback. Shortly, it flew over us, and since I assume that we didn't appear to be a territorial rival, flew back into the forest on the west side of M1. Sweet!
Down in the oak woodlands (the Valley Oak stretch, not the Oregon White Oaks higher up) -- maybe around 1500', an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER flew across the road and perched, and sang, in one of the oaks.
We stopped at the Eel River Campground because American Dipper and Canyon Wren have been reported here. No luck with these.
On SR-162, we stopped this time at Chaniot's MM 20.33. Even before I could get out of the car, Sharon announced that she "had it". I thought she meant White-throated Swift, since that was what we needed, but no, she meant Peregrine Falcon. It was perched on a small cliff of the reddish rock. I set the scope up, and we enjoyed great looks at the male bird, and heard another, perhaps a begging juvenile.
Stopping again at the Eel River Bridge, we parked on Dos Rios Rd overlooking the bridge and the river. It took us about 10-minutes, but Sharon again announced she "had it", and this time she did mean WHITE-THROATED SWIFT. It took me a couple of minutes to pick it out since there were, oh a hundred or so, Cliff Swallows flying back and forth. Also, I didn't immediately pick it up because I'm accustomed to swifts partitioning the bug-space above the swallows, but this one used the bug-space below the swallows, in fact cruising along water surface at times.
Crossing the road (SR162) to the south side (east end of SR162 bridge), we listened for Canyon and/or Rock Wrens, and searched for dipper. We actually did see, almost certainly, a dipper up river. All black above, wingbeats almost entirely below midline, flying from one rock to behind a larger rock -- not Black Phoebe. Everything pointed to dipper, but as it would be #200, I relegated it to "probable". Hence, we ended with the dreaded 199. But since we are doing a mid-August pelagic out of Noyo, 200 seems doable this year.
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
University of California Berkeley
diomedea at berkeley dot edu