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Antelope Valley Raptor Search, 11 January 2014

January 14, 2014

The weather was perfect when we turned off the 14 Fwy at Palmdale Blvd.  It was clear, calm and warm (50 F) but the effects of the drought were evident.  Red-tailed Hawks were absent from the power poles along Ave P as we drove east toward our first stop, the Desert Aire Golf Club.  In past years, we have seen many hawks perched on the poles along that road.  When we stopped to scan the grounds of the golf club, we saw no sprinklers in use and the ground looked very dry.  We saw a handful of birds, including 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a few European Starlings and a Say’s Phoebe.  We heard some Yellow-rumped Warblers and House Finches.

From the golf club, we drove north on 40th St East, stopping just after the road turns right and becomes Ave N.  There were many Horned Larks on the sod farm on the south side of the road as well as the undeveloped land on the north side.  There were a few Western Meadowlarks and an American Kestrel was perched on a power pole.

We continued east and turned north on 50th St East, slowing to scan an irrigated field where we saw a few White-crowned Sparrows and House Finches.  After we crossed Ave L, we stopped to scan the fields on both sides of the road.  We had good scope views of a perched Red-tailed Hawk before it flew off and we saw Savannah Sparrows, a Song Sparrow, some Western Meadowlarks and House Finches.

Red-tailed Hawk, Loi Nyugen

Red-tailed Hawk, Loi Nyugen

We doubled back to Ave L and went west to 40th St East.  We turned south and stopped just before we reached Ave M.  In past years, both the undeveloped land on the west side and the farmland on the east side of this road have been productive.  This year, most of the birds we saw were on the cultivated land.  There we found a many Killdeer, a large flock of Mountain Bluebirds, several Say’s Phoebes, many Savannah Sparrows and some White-crowned Sparrows.  A flock of Horned Larks that we estimated to be more than 200 birds flew overhead and landed in the fallow hay field.  We could see 2 Red-tailed Hawks perched on distant farm buildings.  We scanned in all directions but did not see any other raptors but we saw a solar farm that had been built at the corner of Ave M & 40th St East.  As the day went on, we saw more solar farms in various stages of construction.

Solar farm, Schotte

Solar farm, Schotte

We turned our cars around and started north once again.  As we made our way toward Ave J & 110th St East, we saw very few birds other than Common Ravens, which were widespread.  After we crossed 110th St East on Ave J we scanned the farmland on the north side of the road and stopped when we saw 2 Ferruginous Hawks.  Our initial views (looking north from Ave J) were poor; the birds were in the center of the fields, well-away from the road so we decided to go around the block so we could look into the fields from the north side.  As we drove toward the corner of Ave J & 110th St East, we stopped when we noticed a Ferruginous Hawk perched in a tree close to the road.  The views were excellent.

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

After the hawk flew off, we drove around the corner and went north on 110th St East.  Fortunately, the car windows were open so we were able to hear a Ladder-backed Woodpecker calling from the trees beside the road.  We pulled over, got out of our cars and began looking for the birds.  Thanks to many sharp eyes and ears, we found it; it was a female.

We got back into our cars, drove to the corner, turned east onto Ave I and stopped mid-way along the block.  Unfortunately, we were no closer to the Ferruginous Hawks we’d seen from Ave J but there were many other birds in the fields on both side of the road.  There were Killdeer, Horned Larks, Mountain Bluebirds, European Starlings, American Pipits, Savannah Sparrows and Brewer’s Blackbirds.  There were several Red-tailed Hawks, a few Say’s Phoebes and, at the end of the block, one participant saw a Loggerhead Shrike.  We did not find any Mountain Plovers.

Although we counted 4 Ferruginous Hawks at that site, the only one we’d seen well was the hawk that had been perched at the corner of Ave J & 110th St East.  We discussed our options and decided to go to the west side of the valley since raptors have been common there in past years.  Since it was nearing lunch time, we started toward Apollo Park.  As we drove north on 110th St East we stopped to check a field where sheep were grazing.  We found blackbirds but no Mountain Plovers.

Blackbirds with sheep, Mei Kwan

Blackbirds with sheep, Mei Kwan

We saw very few birds other than Common Ravens between that stop and Apollo Park.  As we drove, we passed a few Red-tailed Hawks and 2 Eurasian Collared-Doves but we saw no large flocks of larks, pipits or sparrows, perhaps because the uncultivated land was so dry.

Apollo Park was very birdy so we scanned the lake and surrounding vegetation while we had lunch.  It was an ideal day for a picnic.  The temperature was 61 F and the breeze was light.  There were lots of waterfowl on the lake, including Snow, Ross’s and Canada Geese, Mallards (and assorted hybrids), Northern Shovelers, one scaup, Bufflehead and Ruddy Ducks.  We saw one American White Pelican, some Double-crested Cormorants, the usual complement of American Coots, some Ring-billed & California Gulls and a Cooper’s Hawk flew directly overhead.  There were very few passerines in the park.

When we left the park we went west to 60th St West and turned north.  We saw very few birds along that road.  The fields were dry and the power poles were bare.  When we reached Gaskell Ave we turned west.  As we drove west along Gaskell the wind picked up but so did the birding.  We spent time on both Gaskell & Ave A in the area west of 90th St West.  We found Killdeer, larks, pipits, Mountain Bluebirds, sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, blackbirds, Western Meadowlarks, House Finches and we finally got a good look at a perched Loggerhead Shrike.

Loggerhead Shrike, Mei Kwan

Loggerhead Shrike, Mei Kwan

Best of all, it seemed as if there were raptors everywhere.

Ferruginous Hawks on the ground, Mei Kwan

Ferruginous Hawks on the ground, Mei Kwan

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

Ferruginous Hawk, Loi Nguyen

We found at least 10 Ferruginous Hawks, including a stunning dark morph bird that gave us excellent views as it soared nearby.  At one point when we were driving, a male Northern Harrier flew right past us.  We immediately turned the cars around and tried to follow it.  We spotted it and, as it turned out, a Prairie Falcon had also noticed the harrier and was harassing it.  We stopped to watch the agile falcon diving at the harrier which seemed almost lumbering in its flight as it sought to evade the falcon.  The tussle ended with the harrier flying off, seemingly unharmed, and the falcon on the ground eating some small prey item.

With that as a grand finale, some of the group decided to start back to LA while others chose to visit Quail Lake before going home.  To reach Quail Lake, we went south on 140th St West toward Rt 138, stopping once to look at some Horned Larks that were close to the road.

Horned Larks

A Harlan’s Hawk had recently been reported from 140th St West but we did not see it.

It was warm but windy by the time we reached Quail Lake so we didn’t spend much time scoping the birds on the lake.  However, we were able to see Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks and at least one Horned Grebe.  There were 2 Common Goldeneyes in the outlet channel

A few general impressions: we saw fewer species and, with the exception of Mountain Bluebirds, fewer individuals of those species than in past years; most of the birds we saw were on cultivated rather than undeveloped land.

The counts in the table below undoubtedly underestimate the numbers of ground birds (larks, pipits & sparrows) because the vegetation in the fallow alfalfa fields was tall enough that the birds were very hard to see.

It was a great day, thanks to all who participated.  A special thanks to Loi and Mei for generously sharing their photos with us.

Sat, 11 Jan 2014

SMBAS

Numbers Antelope Valley Location

Snow Goose

Chen caerulescens

2

Apollo Pk

Ross’s Goose

Chen rossii

2

Apollo Pk

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

15

Apollo Pk

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

10

Apollo Pk

Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata

30

Apollo Pk

Scaup sp.

Aythya sp.

1

Apollo Pk

Bufflehead

Bucephala albeola

20+

Apollo Pk; Quail Lake

Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

2

Quail Lake

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

10+

Quail Lake

Ruddy Duck

Oxyura jamaicensis

40+

Apollo Pk; Quail Lake

Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

1

Apollo Pk

Horned Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

1

Quail Lake

American White Pelican

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

1

Apollo Pk

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalocrocorax auritus

25

Apollo Pk

Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus

1

Gaskell/Ave A west of 90th St W

Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

1

Flew over Apollo Pk

Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

30+

widespread

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

14

Av I x E110th; Gaskell/Ave A w. of 90th St W

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

4

scattered sites

Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus

1

Gaskell/Ave A west of 90th St W

American Coot

Fulica americana

25

Apollo Pk

Killdeer

Charadrius vociferus

50

several sites

Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

5

Apollo Pk

California Gull

Larus californicus

35

Palmdale; Apollo Pk

Rock Pigeon  [I]

Columba livia

35

Palmdale

Eurasian Collared-Dove [I]

Streptopelia decaoto

2

Av G east of Hwy 14

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

1

Av J east of 90th St E

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Picoides scalaris

1

Av P golf course area

Say’s Phoebe

Sayornis saya

8

scattered sites

Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus

2

Av I x 120th St E; Gaskell Av

Common Raven

Corvus corax

100+

widespread

Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris

600+

several sites

Mountain Bluebird

Sialia currucoides

500+

several sites

European Starling  [I]

Sturnus vulgaris

25

scattered sites

American Pipit

Anthus rubescens

150

Gaskell Rd

Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis

75

scattered sites

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

1

E40th north of Av M

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

100

scattered sites

Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

100+

scattered sites

Brewer’s Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

150

scattered sites

House Finch

Carpodacus mexicanus

200

scattered sites

House Sparrow [I]

Passer domesticus

60

Palmdale; Apollo Pk

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One Comment
  1. Mary Prismon permalink
    January 29, 2014 9:54 am

    Wonderful report, Cindy! Mary

    Like

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