Sequoia Audubon Society
                              San Mateo County, California

Field Trip Report

Panoche Valley/Merced County
February 12 and 13, 2011

The Sequoia Audubon trip to Panoche Valley and Merced Wildlife Refuge and environs was blessed with fabulous clear, warm weather. We started Saturday morning at Paicines Reservoir, which, while full of water, had very few birds. We proceeded along Panoche Road finding Barn Owl, Phainopepla, California Thrasher (and lots more) and after a lot of hard work and great spotting by all, Rufous-crowned Sparrow. We were also enjoyed a trio of Ruby-crowned Kinglets – the male had his ruby crest fully fluffed and we were able to watch as he courted the attending females for several minutes.

Cassin's Kingbird - Ron Watson

We stopped for lunch at the Panoche Inn where we were treated to CASSIN’S KINGBIRD sitting in the tree above the picnic tables. From there we searched in vain for Mountain Plover all along the Silver Springs Ranch Road, but were rewarded with nice looks at Mountain Bluebird, Ferruginous Hawk and a Prairie Falcon eating what we believe was a kangaroo rat. We found Chukar on New Idria Road, Rock Wren and Burrowing Owls on Shotgun Pass. Then to Mercey Hot Springs for the Long-eared Owl spectacle.

The group spent the night in Los Banos and some of us enjoyed the plentiful food and wine at the Wool Growers Restaurant.

Sunday morning was COLD – 36 degrees when we reached Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Some of us saw a perched Great-horned Owl at the entrance. We drove the auto tour route checking the ducks, seeing 2 Tundra Swans but being lured by the sound of thousands of geese and cranes we drove right to where they were all sitting next to the road eating the newly cut corn. We sat and watched and retreated to a parking area where we could scope the flocks finding an aberrant totally chocolate brown Lesser Sandhill Crane and at least 3 blue-phase Snow and Ross’ Geese with at least one hybrid. We saw several banded birds that have been reported to USGS for identification. A bright yellow warbler was a great find in the nearby trees. An adult Bald Eagle flew low over the geese and got everyone up and flying. All in all a thrilling morning.

After lunch we drove Santa Fe Grade Road where the best birds were Redhead duck, Peregrine Falcon, Common Moorhen (for a few) and at least 5 Blue-winged Teal. As some of us drove down Gun Club Road toward Hwy 5 we found a small flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds to round out the day.

Leslie Flint
Ginny Marshall
Trip Leaders

The attached is a combined list of birds seen on either/or both days.
Tundra Swan (Merced)
Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross’ Goose
Canada Goose (Paicines)
Green-winged Teal (Merced)
Mallard (both days)
Northern Pintail
Blue-winged Teal (Santa Fe Grade Road)
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Canvasback
Redhead
Bufflehead
Common Merganser (Paicines)
Ruddy Duck (both days)
California Quail
Chukar (Panoche Valley)
Pied-billed Grebe
Clark’s Grebe (Paicines)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
White-faced Ibis (Merced)
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite (seen by some)
Bald Eagle (Merced)
Northern Harrier (both days)
Cooper’s Hawk (Merced)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Merced)
Red-tailed Hawk (abundant both days)
Ferruginous Hawk (Panoche Valley)
American Kestrel (both days)
Peregrine Falcon (Santa Fe Grade)
Prairie Falcon (Panoche Valley – at least 4 sightings)
Virginia Rail (heard Merced)
Sora (heard by some Santa Fe Grade)
Common Moorhen (seen by some Santa Fe Grade)
American Coot
Sandhill Cranes (both Lesser and Greater - thousands)
Black-bellied Plover (Merced)
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt (Merced)
American Avocet (Merced)
Greater Yellowlegs (Santa Fe Grade)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Santa Fe Grade)
Western Sandpiper (Santa Fe Grade)
Least Sandpiper (Merced)
Dunlin (Merced)
Long-billed Dowitcher (Merced)
Common Snipe (Merced)
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Barn Owl (Panoche Road)
Great Horned Owl
Burrowing Owl (top of Shotgun Pass)
Long-eared Owl (Mercey Hot Springs)
Anna’s Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher (Merced)
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Merced)
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Cassin’s Kingbird (Panoche Valley)
Loggerhead Shrike (both days)
Western Scrub-Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow (Merced)
Common Raven (Panoche)
Horned Lark (Panoche)
Oat Titmouse (Panoche Road)
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch (Panoche Road)
Rock Wren (Shotgun Pass)
Canyon Wren (heard only Panoche Road)
Bewick’s Wren
Marsh Wren (Merced)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Panoche Road)
Western Bluebird (Panoche)
Mountain Bluebird (Panoche Valley)
Hermit Thrush
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird (both days)
California Thrasher
American Pipit
Phainopepla (flying Panoche Road)
Yellow Warbler (Merced)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (abundant everywhere)
Common Yellowthroat (mostly heard)
Spotted Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
California Towhee
Vesper Sparrow (seen by a few)
Lark Sparrow (abundant in Panoche this year)
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Merced)
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow (seen by a few at Merced)
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird (both days)
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Gun Club Road)
Brewer’s Blackbird
Purple Finch (Panoche)
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
House Sparrow

121 species


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