Ollie Kolkman, Jack Booth, Mike Curry and I traveled to Spruce Grove for a delightful camping trip. We chose the route through Potter Valley and up the north side of the Eel River to Lake Pillsbury. At the northeast end of Lake Pillsbury we went up M6 through the Game Refuge to M61 where we cut over to M1 just north of Spruce Grove and then turned south. On the return trip we went past Hull Mt down Boardman Ridge on M1 to Lake Pillsbury. Don't worry - this gets more exciting as it goes on.
At the intersection of M61 and M6 we saw Black-throated Gray Warblers, Purple Finches, Western Wood-Peewee and Cassin's Vireo. Going over M61 we saw Mt Quail, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers with young and Pileated Woodpecker. Note - This was the highest elev any of us had ever seen BG Gnatcatchers.
When we got to Spruce Grove, it was late and we had to make camp. We tried calling Flammulated Owls, one of our main targets, to no avail. In fact we heard no Flammulated Owls for the whole trip for the 2nd year in a row. Alas.
Day 1: birds included White-headed Woodpeckers, Mt Chickadees, Olive-sided Flycatcher, several Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Dusky Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Lincoln Sparrow (thanks Ollie), Hermit Warbler and lots of YR Warblers.
Day 2: Ollie and Mike departed and Jack & I went with them as far as Windy Ridge on M1, at the base of Hull Mt. There we were rewarded by the sight of a NORTHERN GOSHAWK, my 1st in Mendo. It was missing two tail feathers, which should make it easy to spot in the near future. On some maps, this is ID'd as Windy Gap or Windy Pt.
Later, Jack & I went fishing at Sand Creek (a little east of Spruce Grove) and Jack found a Townsend's Solitaire's nest. It was on the ground about 10 feet above the creek, and it had 5 eggs!
That night, Jack & I, went looking for COMMON POORWILLS, another one of our main targets, on M1 between Spruce Grove and Windy Ridge, a total of 4.9 miles with stops at 6 points. At stop #2 (south to north) we heard at least 2 COMMON POORWILLS. At stop #5, we heard one more.
Day 3: We saw many of the same birds as day 1, including Western Tanager, and then we headed south down M1. Our plan was to bird a burned out area of timber 4.5 miles south of Spruce Grove. It is on both sides of M1, at the NW corner of the State Game Refuge with the Yuki Wilderness on the west side of M1. We wanted to look for Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers which have never been seen in Mendocino County, as far as we knew, but they favor burned over forests. The 1st thing we noticed was a lot of Western Bluebirds. Then we found a small colony of PURPLE MARTINS. We saw at least 4 males and 4 females going into cavities. While we were watching them, a woodpecker flew past us and landed. It appeared to be a BLACK - BACKED WOODPECKER. The entire head was black, the wings, tail and back were black. It had no bars on the back. We could see no white in the wings or on the face, but we were too far away to see any. It flew before we could get closer. We knew we had to get photographs and we tried calling it back, but we only got the one look. If anyone goes up there, please have your camera ready. This area is really a different and exciting habitat and it deserves more exploration. The Martins are worth the price of admission.
Continuing down Boardman Ridge into Lake County we had only one Townsend's Solitaire. But, we found a Dusky Flycatcher building a nest. And, at 7 miles south of Spruce Grove, we found another pair of PURPLE MARTINS. They were in a very large snag directly north of the road looking back the way we had come.
What we missed: Flammulated Owl and Hammond's Flycatcher, Townsend's Warbler.
Additional sightings included 3 bears, Monument Plants, Douglas's Wallflower and too many deer to count.