38007/30/13: Birds Moving Including Big Surprise
- Jul 30, 2013Hi:
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