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38007/30/13: Birds Moving Including Big Surprise

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  • Bob Barnes
    Jul 30, 2013

      Neil Hayward, a birder from Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on a Big
      Year in 2013. His nemesis bird for this Big Year (and all prior years
      for that matter) is Mountain Quail. I told him we had a close to100%
      probability of hearing this species and a good chance of seeing one
      by traveling Piute Mountain Road From Kelso Valley Road west well up
      into the Piute Mountains which border the south side of the Kern
      River Valley here in Kern County. We spent over five hours
      (6:20am-11:29am) searching without success - none seen, none heard.

      No Mountain Quail for Neil. But, we did have some interesting finds
      including one huge surprise for me.

      In the isolated cottonwood and willow habitat at Tunnel Spring along
      Kelso Valley Road c. 1 mile south of Piute Mountain Road, Neil found
      a GRAY FLYCATCHER well below in elevation and three plus air miles
      from the nearest breeding/nesting habitat.

      A PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER working its way southeast through the
      pinyon pine forest alongside Piute Mountain Road 3.5-4 mile west of
      Kelso Valley Road was a mild surprise and assumed to be a fall
      migrant through the area.

      We counted a flock of forty-five PINYON JAYs from alongside Piute
      Mountain Road, again about 3.5-4 miles west of Kelso Valley Road. It
      took several minutes for this strung out flock to pass our counting
      point in groups of 1-6 individuals at a time.

      The huge surprise was a PILEATED WOODPECKER heard calling numerous
      times from open Jeffrey pine woodland off the southwest side of the
      one mile plus stretch of Piute Mountain Road between Claraville and
      the turn-off to French Meadow and Weldon Meadow. This location is
      18-19 miles southeast of the current southernmost known California
      range of this species at Evans Flat in the Greenhorn Mountains.
      Perhaps this was a post-breeding/nesting season individual or ? For
      historians, maybe it was on its way to Malibu! :)

      We first heard the Pileated Woodpecker from farther up Piute Mountain
      Road from where we stopped yet again to listen and look for Mountain
      Quail. After it called several times, we played a recorded
      vocalization two to three times (single calls, not a series) over a
      few minutes to try and bring it into view. It responded or at least
      continued calling voluntarily. But, it did not move closer. After a
      few minutes we decided to move up the road one hundred plus
      meters/yards to try and get closer which in hindsight was likely a
      mistake as when we got to the up the-road-location, it was calling
      from the direction and distance of where we had just been down the
      road! Patience is a virtue which clearly was not exercised in this
      case as we/I did not wait long enough for it to reach the prior spot
      where the first recording was played. Yikes! Of course, we drove back
      down to the original spot and listened there for a few minutes with
      no calls forthcoming from the Pileated Woodpecker. We played one or
      two more single calls (not a series) with no response. This bird had
      moved on or was staying silent in the area. We left this area to
      continue searching for Mountain Quail without knowledge of the age or
      gender of this Pileated Woodpecker unless only males call.

      May many Mountain Quail be in your and Neil Hayward's future and may
      many Pileated Woodpecker visuals come before you, too!


      Continued Happy & Productive Birding,

      Bob Barnes, Ridgecrest, Kern County, California

      Cell: 760-382-1260