Date: 1/25/19 7:38 pm
From: Florence Sanchez via Groups.Io <sanchezucsb11=<yahoo.com...>
Subject: [sbcobirding] Armour Ranch Road and Happy Canyon
I birded both areas this morning, apparently not quite at the same time as Wim, but I found the humongous Starling flock for sure and I would not fault his estimate.  I didn't even try.  
When I first arrived, there were almost no birds visible except for one Horned Lark near the fence on the north side of the road that kept calling repeatedly.  But after a while, the Western Meadowlarks started sounding off and I found more Horned Larks in the field on the south side of the road, and that's where most of the action continued to be.  I checked out every sparrow that popped up on the fence, but they were all Savannahs.  The Mountain Bluebirds took a while to locate, but I found the flock well out in the south field, working in a little swale,   After I walked east along the roadside to the top of the rise, I found I could see them better.  Because not all of the flock was ever visible at once, I did not try to estimate the flock size, but at one point, at least 25 Bluebirds were briefly up in the air.  Most were Mountain Bluebirds, but I detected the rusty breast of Western Bluebirds in there as well.  No significant raptor activity at this spot while I was there--just a couple of perched Red-tails in the back of the south field and a hovering male American Kestrel.
Moving on to Happy Canyon Road, I had a Loggerhead Shrike on the fence of the first ranch after turning on to Happy Canyon.  I parked at the intersection with Alisos Road, and as I exited the car I saw an apparent White-tailed Kite flying toward me. I put up my binoculars just as a Prairie Falcon came from out of nowhere and made a strong pass at the Kite.  The Kite circled higher in an apparent attempt to avoid the Falcon and when it did so, I could see prey in its talons. The Falcon made another vicious swipe at the Kite, forcing it to drop the prey.  The Falcon did a quick barrel roll, picked the prey out of mid-air, and flew off with it, leaving the poor Kite to start all over again.  All this took less that 30 seconds.   If I'd been a minute later, I would have missed the show completely.  It was impressive!  I didn't find much else of interest there or at Rancho Felicia, so called it a morning and headed home.
Florence Sanchez

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