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Carrizo Plains Field Trip Report: 12 December, 2011

December 12, 2011

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Luck was ours, as the cold and windy weather of the week before had disappeared, providing us with an absolutely beautiful day: clear, windless, with temperatures beginning in the 40’s and ending in the high 60’s.  As always, the plains were very quiet and peaceful. Wow!

Soda Lake was dry, at it has been for many years. The staff at the nearby Carrizo Plains Education Center told me that even when water is present, there isn’t much for the Sandhill Cranes to eat as there are no longer crops being grown in the nearby fields. When the crops were harvested, the process left lots of grain on the ground. Food for cranes! Alas, no more. You’ll have to go over the hill to the San Joachin Valley, or down to the Imperial Valley to find cranes these days.

We had a very nice variety of raptors, especially falcons. Eagles were notably missing (although we know they’re there).  As always, there were plenty of ground birds: American Pipit, Horned Lark, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Meadowlark, House Finch, and a variety of sparrows, particularly White-crowned SparrowMountain Bluebirds were present, but not abundant. We never saw any large flocks of them as we often do; instead, they were scattered around in small groups of 1-6 birds.

The Burrowing Owl was at the south end of Soda Lake Rd., standing in his hole among the Ground Squirrels. We hadn’t seen any there in 4-5 years, so it was nice to see one out-and-about. Loggerhead Shrikes– a species increasingly difficult to find anywhere – were common, as is usual in the Carrizo in Winter.

We had a long lunch break at the abandoned farmstead, located a couple of miles north of Soda Lake Rd. down a two-track side road. What with doodling and diddling around, it was almost sunset by the time we got to the San Andreas earthquake fault zone, which always amazes those who think they are standing on solid ground in California.  [Chuck Almdale]

Carrizo Plains 12/10/11

Count

Northern Harrier

1

Red-tailed Hawk

20

Ferruginous Hawk

2

American Kestrel

9

Merlin

1

Prairie Falcon

2

Killdeer

1

Mountain Plover

2

Mourning Dove

6

Great Horned Owl

1

Burrowing Owl

1

Say’s Phoebe

3

Loggerhead Shrike

12

Common Raven

40

Horned Lark

200

Mountain Bluebird

30

Northern Mockingbird

1

Le Conte’s Thrasher

1

European Starling

33

American Pipit

1

Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler

100

Brewer’s Sparrow

15

Lark Sparrow

25

Sage Sparrow

25

Savannah Sparrow

55

White-crowned Sparrow

100

Golden-crowned Sparrow

2

Western Meadowlark

27

House Finch

500

Total Species

29

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