Date: 6/4/18 2:42 pm From: Lars Per Norgren <larspernorgren...> Subject: [obol] Blue-gray Gnatcatcher close to Summer Lake, and some good firebirds as well
I recall folks relying on the road up to Winter Rim for ticking BGGC some years back, then the Mountain Mahogany woodland burned. One scrap of the forest survived, and the trees are doughty old specimens indeed. While conducting point counts for the Lake County 2020 blitz I put in some time by these trees Friday. It was the doldrums of mid-afternoon, but only 60 degrees. A warbling vireo was my only reward. I returned Sunday morning 2 and a half hours earlier, with temperatures 10-15 degrees warmer than Friday afternoon. I heard a Gnatcatcher as soon as I parked the car, and in short order got the best looks of a BGGC in my life.
The road bears the Forest Service code 2901 I believe, but far more prominent is the sign “Fremont Viewpoint 18 miles”. Drive past milepost 1(standard green/white reflector sign, not FS brown and white) until you are almost to the FS boundary, a cattle guard and standard “Fremont NF” sign in wood, painted brown. Just downhill from this cattle guard is a deadman’s curve, rip rapped with volcanic boulders. The BGGC was in the mtn. mahoganies closest to the road, i.e. downhill, affording good looks into the canopy. I clambered down the rocks and look at the bird from below.
Further up the road it makes a sweeping curve to the west and a burn of the same or different age has filled in with brush, mostly slick-leafed Ceanothus(C. velutinus). This is densely populated with Green Towhees, Thick-billed Fox Sparrows, and Lark Sparrows. There are also Spotted Towhees here, a much more difficult species to find than on the Westside. One SPTO was flycatching throughout my visit, flying 4-5m straight up. I was most grateful that he made himself so conspicuous. The spots on Lake County SPTO seem twice as big as the ones on Mt Tabor. Thick-billed Fox Sparrow is an Equity Lifer. When the AOS elevates it to full species, ka-ching for the listers. Or at the least it will equalize the loss that lumping occasions with something else.
Lewis’ Woodpeckers were widespread in the burned area east of the road here, both on the wing and perched. For the many folks that entertain the notion that California Scrub Jays are a human commensal obligate: The species was well established at Picture Rock Pass, a few miles north of this burn back in the early 70s. Yesterday I saw one at length in the partly burned Ponderosa Pines and White Firs uphill from the sparrow brush. I made my last detection of Scrub Jay at milepost 4, easily 1000 feet above Hwy 31.
Oddly, a Scrub Jay was yanking away along our south property line in the Coast Range this morning. This is only the 8th detection there in 26 years, and the first outside of autumn when juvies are expected to be dispersing.
I can’t vouch for road conditions on NF 2901 beyond mp 5, but expect they are excellent all the way to Fremont Viewpoint, as long as gravel doesn’t worry you. The view will surely mollify non-birding passengers, and the potential species include Sooty Grouse, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Black-backed Woodpecker. Lars