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Antelope Valley Raptor Search Report, Saturday, 12 January 2013

January 15, 2013

It was 30 degrees, sunny and windless when we turned off Hwy 14 at Palmdale Blvd. and drove east.  Our first stop was at an undeveloped area along E10th St. north of Rancho Vista (Ave. Q).  The area was not as productive as it has been in past years but we saw the first raptors of the day: a Northern Harrier that flew by and several Red-tailed Hawks.

Our next stop was on the shoulder of the road by the Desert Aire Golf Club (Ave. P x E40th St.).  A puddle of water on the grass near the edge of the golf course was attracting a mixed flock of passerines including White-crowned Sparrows & House Finches.  In the scrub across the road, we found a small flock of California Quail, a Loggerhead Shrike and more sparrows and finches, including one Golden-crowned Sparrow.

California Quail, Scott Baker

California Quail, S. Baker, 01/12/13

From the Golf Club, we drove north on E40th St.  Just after E40th St. turns right and becomes Ave. N we stopped and scanned the sod fields.  In the distance, we saw a flock of Horned Larks that we estimated at 1,000+ birds.  It was impressive to see the flock in the air and we were disappointed that the strong sun that was making the cold temperature more tolerable for us was also causing heat shimmer that reduced the clarity of the views through our scopes.

Our next stop was along E40th St. just north of Ave. M (Columbia Way).  There were many Brewer’s Blackbirds, some Killdeer, and at least one Say’s Phoebe in the field where a large flock of sheep was grazing.

Killdeer, Scott Baker

Killdeer, S. Baker, 01/12/13

Say's Phoebe, Scott Baker

Say’s Phoebe, S. Baker, 01/12/13

Although there had been Mountain Plovers close to the road one week earlier, the only birds resembling Mountain Plovers that we could see were at the back of the field where they were barely visible.  Our disappointment was quickly forgotten when one of the members of the group spotted a Prairie Falcon perched on a power pole across the road.  We watched it for a time, getting excellent looks at the bird when it was perched and as it flew from one perch to another.

Prairie Falcon, Scott Baker

Prairie Falcon, S. Baker, 01/12/13

Prairie Falcon, Scott Baker

Prairie Falcon, S. Baker, 01/12/13

As we drove north on E40th St we noticed a flock of Western Meadowlarks in the field south of Ave. L.  We turned onto Ave. L where we found 2 Eurasian Collared-Doves, several Savannah Sparrows and a Cooper’s Hawk that was perched in a tree behind a house.

Savannah Sparrow, Scott Baker

Savannah Sparrow, S. Baker, 01/12/13

From there we went east on Ave. K, turned north and drove east on Ave. J.  After we crossed E110th St., we saw several Red-tailed Hawks.  A flock of sheep was grazing in a field on the north side of Ave. J so we went 1 block north to Ave. I so we could look at the field from the north side.  As we turned onto Ave. I we saw a Ferruginous Hawk perched on a power pole beside the road and we stopped our cars so we could get a good look at the bird without flushing it.  As we looked around, we realized that there were numerous raptors in the immediate area so we pulled off the road and got out of our cars.

Ferruginous Hawk, Scott Baker

Ferruginous Hawk, S. Baker, 01/12/13

The viewing conditions could not have been better.  The sky was clear, the vegetation in the fields was short and there were numerous power poles on which raptors could perch.  It was easy to see and compare the general size & shape as well as the field marks of some of the Red-tailed Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks and Common Ravens while they were flying as well as when they were perched.

Ferruginous Hawk chasing a Common Raven, Scott Baker

Common Raven & Ferruginous Hawk, S. Baker, 01/12/13

After a short time, a truck pulled up and the driver got out and walked over to talk with us.  When we explained that we had come to look at the birds, he was genuinely pleased.  He told us that bird numbers seemed low, probably because the past two years had been dry.  He said that the sheep had been brought down from the high country just for the winter.  He told us that Mountain Plovers seem to prefer pasture that has just been grazed so they usually stay close to the sheep.  Unfortunately for us, at that moment the sheep were in the middle of the field so we were only able to see the silhouettes of a few Mountain Plovers in the distance though there were Killdeer, American Pipits, Savannah Sparrows and Western Meadlowlarks in the fields.

After we talked for several minutes, we thanked him and said goodbye.  We started to drive away but stopped when we saw a dark buteo soaring nearby.  It proved to be a stunning dark morph Ferruginous Hawk that flew right over us.

Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk, Scott Baker

Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk, S. Baker, 01/12/13

Our final raptor tally for that site was 4 light & 1 dark morph Ferruginous Hawks, 8 or more Red-tailed Hawks, 3 Norther Harriers and an American Kestrel.

Since it was nearly lunch time we drove to Apollo Park, which was busy despite the chilly weather.  As usual, we birded while we ate lunch.  In addition to the usual assortment of ducks and geese of questionable ancestry, we saw 2 Ross’s Geese, several Eared Grebes, 8 American White Pelicans, some Northern Shovelers and Hooded Mergansers.  The only passerines we saw were Brewer’s Blackbirds and House Sparrows.

Hooded Merganser, Scott Baker

Hooded Merganser, S. Baker, 01/12/13

American White Pelican, Scott Baker

American White Pelican, S. Baker, 01/12/13

From Apollo Park we drove north on W60th St.  The farm fields were dry and the flocks of passerines were scattered and small but we found a Northern Harrier, a Merlin and a Prairie Falcon.

Merlin, Scott Baker

Merlin, S. Baker, 01/12/13

We turned onto Gaskell Road and drove west.  As in past years, the area was good for raptors.  We saw several Red-tailed Hawks (including 2 that were sparring in flight), 4 light morph Ferruginous Hawks and a few more Prairie Falcons.  Passerine numbers and diversity were lower than in past years but we had good looks at a small flock of American Pipits, a Loggerhead Shrike and some Say’s Phoebes.  A Coyote was hunting in one of the fields.  The best bird was a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk that we first noticed when it was soaring nearby.  As we watched, it came closer and closer and finally flew right over our heads.

Loggerhead Shrike, Scott Baker

Loggerhead Shrike, S. Baker, 01/12/13

At that point we assumed — incorrectly, as it turned out — that we’d seen our last, best raptor of the day so we turned around and started back toward Hwy 14.  As we drove east along Ave. A, we noticed a small, dark bird on a power pole.  It was a very dark male Merlin that remained perched as we stopped to watch it in the afternoon light.  It was the perfect end to an excellent day of raptor watching in the Antelope Valley.

Thanks to everyone who participated and a special “thank you” to Scott Baker for sharing his photos.

Sat, 12 Jan 2013

SMBAS, Antelope Valley

numbers

location

Ross’s Goose

Chen rossii

2

Apollo Pk

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

10

Apollo Pk

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

30

Apollo Pk

Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata

10

Apollo Pk

Bufflehead

Bucephala albeola

2

Apollo Pk

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

6

Apollo Pk

Ruddy Duck

Oxyura jamaicensis

2

Apollo Pk

California Quail

Callipepla californica

9

Av P x E40th

Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

3

Apollo Pk

American White Pelican

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

8

Apollo Pk

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalocrocorax auritus

6

Apollo Pk

Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

1

Apollo Pk

Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus

5

E10th x Rancho Vista; Av I x E110th; W60th x Av B

Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

1

Av L x E40th

Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

50+

widespread

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

10

Av I x E110th; Gaskell Ave

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

15

scattered sites

Merlin

Falco columbarius

3

W60th x Av B; Gaskell Rd; Av A x W100th

Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus

6

 E40th no. of Av M; W60th x Av D; Gaskell Av

American Coot

Fulica americana

40

Apollo Pk

Killdeer

Charadrius vociferus

100

widespread

Mountain Plover

Charadrius montanus

10+

E40th St X Av M (prob); Av I x E110th

Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

10

Apollo Pk

California Gull

Larus californicus

225

E 10th north of Palmdale Blvd; Apollo Pk

Rock Pigeon  [I]

Columba livia

35

Palmdale Blvd; W60th St x Ave D

Eurasian Collared-Dove [I]

Streptopelia decaoto

4

Av L x E4th; Gaskell Rd

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

6

scattered sites

Say’s Phoebe

Sayornis saya

12

scattered sites

Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus

15

scattered sites

American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

4

Palmdale Blvd; E10th x Rancho Vista

Common Raven

Corvus corax

100+

widespread

Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris

1,500+

several sites inc Av N x E40th

Western Bluebird

Sialia currucoides

1

Av P x E40th St

Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos

2

Av P x E40th St; Gaskell

European Starling  [I]

Sturnus vulgaris

25

several sites, inc E40th x Av P

American Pipit

Anthus rubescens

150

Gaskell Rd

Sage Sparrow

Amphispiza belli

2

Av I x E120th St

Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis

75

scattered sites

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

1

E40th north of Av M

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

100

widespread

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia atricapilla

1

Av P x E40th

Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

100

widespread

Brewer’s Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

150

widespread

House Finch

Carpodacus mexicanus

200

widespread

Lesser Goldfinch

Carduelis psaltria

1

Av P x E40th

House Sparrow [I]

Passer domesticus

60

Palmdale Blvd; Apollo Pk

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One Comment
  1. Karen&Doug Kirk permalink
    January 31, 2013 6:08 am

    Wonderfully informative article and pictures. THANKS!!!!

    Karen&Doug Kirk kirkkd@aol.com

    Like

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