Friday, 20 February 2015

California day six - Monterey to Pixley NWR

It was another dull morning, with the low cloud hugging the the coastline. A few Heermann's and Mew Gulls were noted at Fisherman's Wharf, along with ringed Brown Pelicans, while a couple of Black Turnstones were on the rocks at Point Pinos. With the gulls (and light) not cooperating, we headed to the outskirts of Monterey to Lagunita Mirada Park. A Red-naped Sapsucker had been found here a couple of days ago - and as this was a species I'd not seen before - it was nice to easily stroll up and see it. I imagine it had been present a while before its discovery, given the copious amounts of sap ridden holes present. A rather dull Varied Thrush was present briefly too.
Red-naped Sapsucker Monterey, California
Today was always going to be a day of travel, heading south so as to be able to go birding tomorrow before the late evening flight back to London. A check of Soap Lake didn't produce the Tundra Swan reported yesterday evening, and so we headed southeast three hours to the barren landscape at Pixley NWR. I always think of California as windswept beaches and upmarket housing, but if you head inland a couple of hours it's for sure a different, more greyer and deprived world. The Sandhill Cranes didn't mind it though, and we probably saw in excess of a thousand birds grazing the fields and dancing around in front of us. It was really good value.

Sandhill Cranes Pixley NWR, California
The real reason we'd made this detour was to see a Harris' Sparrow - a species I'd wanted to see for a long time, and pretty tricky to catch up with (or non-existent) in all the states I'd been to before. There hadn't been any news the previous day, but within twenty or so minutes of scanning through White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows in a scrubby area near the viewing platform it wasn't a major surprise when I located it. And it turned out to perform nicely too.

Harris' Sparrow Pixley NWR, California
The whole reserve was bird filled, putting to shame our reserves on just the scale of birds present. Among the large numbers of Pintail and Shoveler, a few Northern Harriers cruised over, a Great Horned Owl perched up in a distant bush and a group of fifty or so Snow Geese (including a handful of blue morphs) flew over. Standard stuff such as Black-necked Stilts and Killdeer were also present, while driving out of the reserve alongside loads of Sandhill Cranes was pretty special too.

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