NOTE: A 4WD or AWD vehicle with high clearance is an absolute must. With rain predicted for the next six out of the next seven days, it will not be possible to get up to this area, even with 4WD. I would not recommend driving in the dark in this area, under any circumstances.
In the Hernandez Valley, quite a few TULE ELK were crossing the road. It was still dark when we entered the BLM area after crossing the San Benito River (dry). We stopped at Oak Flat campground and clearly heard a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. From there, we continued on R14 and R11 for most of the day. We also headed out to Spanish Lake where Fresno County borders San Benito County. The only THICK-BILLED FOX SPARROW was in the leather oaks/manzanita near the lake.
Birds were very thin. Highlights included: VARIED THRUSH, PYGMY NUTHATCH, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, parties of PINE SISKINS, a male LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH amongst the more common birds. We saw many flocks of PURPLE FINCHES mixed with WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, often feeding on coffeeberries. One flock of about 50 purple finches had a solitary adult male EVENING GROSBEAK. We spent a fair amount of time trying to find the grosbeak after it flew off, but were never successful in relocating it. According to my records, this is the twelfth record of evening grosbeak for San Benito County (only 3 records in eBird). Raptors are always very rare in this area, and the only one we found was a COOPER’S HAWK.
We were very surprised that we did not find any cedar waxwings, red-breasted nuthatches, or red crossbills. The only quail we saw were CALIFORNIA QUAIL, no mountain quail.
By noon things had quieted down a lot. So, we began the rugged trip out to Coalinga Road. Near Hernandez Reservoir, we spotted an adult male BALD EAGLE.
Along Highway 25 we saw several large parties of YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES and a GOLDEN EAGLE feasting on the ground south of Bitterwater Valley. Along the way, we saw one PRAIRIE FALCON.
We dipped into Pinnacles National Park just in time to see a good sized group of CALIFORNIA CONDORS coming in to the evening roost site. Very nice!
It was a lovely day, although very quiet for birds at times. And, I had an awesome birding companion! eBird lists will be loaded soon.
Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
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Hollister, CA 95024
Celebrating 44 Years of Seabirding with Shearwater Journeys
Siberia’s Forgotten Coast & Spoon-billed Sandpiper- 23 June - 6 July 2020
Northeast Passage: Northern Sea Route 27 July - 22 August 2020