22 Nov 2014

22 Nov 14 - California: The Final Morning

Having returned to the Californian mainland after seeing Island Scrub Jay, I had a final morning of Birding before having to head off to Los Angeles airport for my flight home. The options were to have another morning around the Ventura coastline, try somewhere nearby or try for Mountain Plover. I decided to have a look for Mountain Plover, but didn't know if they would have arrived in their Californian winter sites yet. In the end, I decided to head off to the Davis Road leading North from the town of Lakeview in the hope of seeing my first Mountain Plovers. This left me with a journey of around two hours to drive back to Los Angeles airport, when I finished Birding. Despite a late arrival at a random motel in San Jacinto, I was up in the cold pre-dawn temperatures to head off & find some early morning breakfast, so I could maximise the morning's Birding.
View along the Davis Road: This is a relatively quiet, but well known, dirt road referenced in an old Lane guide
View along the Davis Road: The Birding is checking the fields & rough ground alongside the dirt road as there are many signs up indicating the land is private
View along the Davis Road: The road also overlooked some farms
There was a selection of Raptors feeding around the more open fields at the Southern end of the Davis Road where the Mountain Plovers winter.
Northern Harrier: Female after a successful hunt
Northern Harrier: Female
Red-shouldered Hawk: It's a pity that this is a harsh crop as it wasn't close
American Kestrel
Black Phoebe: A common species in the Southern US states & many Latin American countries
Mountain Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird
Western Meadowlark
Along the road there was also the San Jacinto Wildlife Area which the Lane guide says is a Birders paradise & where the naturalist may be able to provide up to date information on Mountain Plovers. What it didn't say, but possibly due to me using a mid 90s edition, is it is now a shooting range with hunters trying to stay hidden, by standing in the open in full camo gear. Now I know there is at least one local Poole photographer who knows he can't be seen when he does that in Poole Harbour, so these hunters obviously thought it worked for them as well. Even several hundred metres away it was possible to hear their Duck whistles as they tried to lure Wildfowl to land in front of them, after they had been flushed from one of the many hunters around this small wetland. Unfortunately, this seemed to be the only wetland for some miles & so the Wildfowl didn't have a lot of options, other than to fly out of the area to look for a new sanctuary. Having had no joy with finding any Mountain Plovers, I did try driving into the car park to see if anybody knew about Mountain Plovers. When I managed to get a word in between the main organiser's joy at photographing another hunter with some dead Ducks, it turned out nobody knew anything about Mountain Plovers. The only good news was perhaps that was because they aren't allowed to shoot them. I maintained a check on my bad language on these activities until I was safely driving off the site with the car windows up. With all the other pressures on wildlife these days, having people doing their best to direct wildlife into small remaining areas of habitat, just so mindless idiots can kill them for fun is just crazy.
The San Jacinto Wildlife Area: Now just a sanctuary for people who like to kill wildlife for fun
I can't see anybody in this photo thanks to the magic of camo clothing
Having failed to find any Mountain Plovers in the wintering fields & been unable to get any up to date information, I abandoned the search & drove North for a few more miles along the dirt Davis Road. This road was good for a flocks of New World Sparrows. There were at least two hundred Savannah Sparrows in scattered flocks, with reasonable numbers of White-crowned Sparrows with them. I tried to find something more interesting in with the flocks, but didn't succeed.
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
California Ground Squirrel: It was good to see something that wasn't a New World Sparrow
California Ground Squirrel
The final stop was a quick look at Lake Perris, a large freshwater reservoir a few miles West of the Davis Road. It proved to be a large reservoir with little vegetation around the edges. I didn't see a lot here due to the lack of decent habitat on the reservoir & limited time. All too quickly I had to head for the two hour drive to the airport.
Killdeer: This was the highlight of the quick visit
While I didn't manage to find any Mountain Plovers, the morning's Birding had been enjoyable with a reasonable selection of wintering species seen. It was a shame that I ended up having to grab some quick photos & immediately move on, rather than try & get something more presentable. However, time was not on my side on this occasion & I was keen to cover as much ground as I could in the available time.