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Field Trip Report: Antelope Valley, 8 January, 2011

January 9, 2011

We exited Hwy 14 at on Ave. P (Palmdale Blvd/Rt. 138) and went east.  After a brief stop (where we tried hard to ignore some Rock Doves, Starlings, Brewer’s Blackbirds & House Sparrows), we drove east on Ave. P and turned north onto 10th St. E.  We made several brief stops along the road where we found:
American Kestrel — 1
Eurasian Collared-Doves — 4
Loggerhead Shrike — 1

Mountain Bluebird (D. Paulson)

About 1 block south of Blackbird Lane, we parked and birded along the road before walking into the mixed Joshua Tree and shrub habitat.  There seemed to be Cactus Wrens everywhere.  They were displaying, singing, and perching in full view.  Although the area has been described as a good site for Le Conte’s Thrashers, we neither heard nor saw any Le Conte’s.  However, in addition to at least 8 Cactus Wrens, we found:
Anna’s Hummingbirds – 2
Say’s Phoebes – 2
Northern Mockingbird – 1
Mountain Bluebirds – 6
White-crowned Sparrows — 6
House Finches – a few

We returned to Palmdale Blvd. and drove east to the Desert Aire Golf Course.  A scan of the trees and surrounding area produced only a single Northern Flicker.  From the Country Club, we drove north along the short section of 40th St. E, which turns right and becomes Ave. N.   In this area, we saw:
Say’s Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Horned Larks
– flock of 30 or more

We turned left and drove north on 50th St. E and as we drove, we saw:
Ravens – the first few of many seen during the day
Horned Larks – small flock
Brewer’s Blackbirds– flock

We stopped at the side of 50th St. E just south of Ave. L, to scan the fields in hopes of finding Mountain Plovers.  Unfortunately, the only plovers we could see were Killdeer.  At that site, we saw:
Killdeer – 75+
Northern Harrier — 1
European Starlings
Yellow-rumped Warblers
— 12
Savannah Sparrows — 6

When we reached Ave. K we turned left and drove west a short distance to check the farm fields on either side of the road.  The newly-harrowed field on the south side of the road was not productive but a large mulch dump on the north side of the road produced:
American Pipits – 15
Yellow-rumped Warblers – 4

Singing LeConte’s Thrasher (L.Johnson)

We returned to 50th St. E and went north to Ave K.  We went east on Ave. K for about 1 mile and stopped at Little Rock Wash where we parked and walked south along the east side of the wash.  We did not go down into the wash, preferring instead to remain above it where we could look down into it.  We walked less than ¼ mi. and stopped where the wash curves east and looked down into the wash where we spotted a pair of Le Conte’s Thrashers that had been singing.  After we all had scope views, we walked back to our cars.  In addition to the thrashers, we saw:
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Sage Sparrows
– a few

From there, we continued east on Ave. K and turned north on 70th St. E.  As we went north, we saw a flock of Western Meadowlarks one of the fields we passed.

At Ave. J, we turned east.  As we drove, we saw:
Red-tailed Hawks – 8 or more
Northern Harrier – 1
Horned Larks – several flocks, est. 500+ birds
Savannah Sparrows – 20 or so

We continued east on Ave. J until we crossed 110th St. E.  The farmland on the north side of the road just past this intersection is the area where we have found wintering Ferruginous Hawks in previous years.  Although we were disappointed at first, we finally spotted 2 light morph birds in the farm fields on the north side of Ave. J.  A few moments later, we had good looks at a dark morph juvenile as it flew toward us from the south.  It flew over the road near us and continued north.  As in past years, there were Mountain Plover in the field.  We were, however, limited to scope views of the flock of 40+ birds because they were in the northern part of the field.  Unfortunately, we were not able to view those fields from the north because 110th St. E was closed to traffic between Aves. J & I for road repairs.  Since Saddleback Butte State Park is close by, we decided to have lunch in the park.  As we drove east along Ave. J toward the park, we saw:
Horned Larks – 500+ birds
European Starlings

After lunch, we made our way to the west side of the valley, crossing over Hwy. 14 on Ave. E.  There were large numbers of Horned Larks (300+) along Ave. E.

In a farm field near the corner of Ave. B & 60th St. W we found:
Canada Geese — 6
Tundra Swans — 2
Killdeer – 50

In the same area, we spotted a Ferruginous Hawk. As we were getting into our cars to drive on, we spotted an immature Golden Eagle in flight.  This proved to be the only eagle we saw all day.

From there, we headed north and turned left onto Gaskell Ave. and drove west.  In past years, Gaskell Ave. has been a good area for raptors so it was disappointing to see neither additional eagles nor any falcons.  However, as we drove west, we did find:
Red-tailed Hawks – several, including 1 dark morph bird
American Pipits –100+
Western Meadowlarks – 12
Horned Larks – 100+
Mountain Bluebirds – 12 (beautifully illuminated by the afternoon light)

We stopped along Gaskell near 130th St. W when we noticed several Ferruginous Hawks.  As we scoped the area, we counted 6 or 7 birds in a single farm field, prompting a discussion of the habits of Ferruginous Hawks.  Some time later, I checked the species account in Raptors of Western North America, B. K. Wheeler, 2003, Princeton U.  According to Wheeler, Ferruginous Hawks are wary during the breeding season and pairs are solitary but at other times of year, these birds are relatively tame and somewhat gregarious.  They nest in trees in open country but will build nests on boulders or rock piles in areas that lack trees.  If disturbed, they often abandon their nests.  According to Wheeler, although Ferruginous Hawks perch on the ground as well as various natural and man-made objects, they never perch on wires such as power lines.  They hunt on the wing and from perches.  When perched on the ground, they grab prey such as rodents that emerge from their burrows or tunnels.  They are opportunistic hunters, preying on a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and large insects such as Lubber Grasshoppers.  The large gape is presumed to help prevent overheating, especially in juveniles that spend long hours in hot areas with little shade.

When we left Gaskell Road, we drove south to Lancaster Rd. and started west.  The Poppy Preserve was closed but we turned off on a dirt road south of 190th St. W and drove to the top of the rise.  A brief scan for raptors was not productive so we returned to Lancaster Rd. and drove to Quail Lake.  During the drive, we saw another Northern Harrier.

It was late in the day, the wind had increased and viewing conditions were not ideal at Quail Lake but we did see the following:
Aechmophorus grebes – a few in the distance
Greater Scaup — 1
Lesser Scaup — several
Bufflehead — several
Common Goldeneye – 1
Common Merganser – 3 or 4

After a short time, we drove west to I-5 and returned to Los Angeles.  The trip list shown is shown below.  [I]- Introduced.  [Chuck Almdale]

Antelope Valley Trip List January 8, 2011
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus
Gadwall Anas strepera
American Wigeon Anas americana
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Green-winged Teal Anas crecca
Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
American Coot Fulica americana
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Mountain Plover Charadrius montanus
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
California Gull Larus californicus
Rock Pigeon  [I] Columba livia
Eurasian Collared-Dove  [I] Streptopelia decaocto
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna
Allen’s Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya
Cassin’s Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
Common Raven Corvus corax
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Le Conte’s Thrasher Toxostoma lecontei
European Starling  [I] Sturnus vulgaris
American Pipit Anthus rubescens
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
California Towhee Melozone crissalis
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
Sage Sparrow Amphispiza belli
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
House Sparrow  [I] Passer domesticus
Total Species 67

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