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Antelope Valley Raptor Search Report: 10 January, 2015

January 13, 2015

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Driving in the Antelope Valley can be hairy: drivers who know where they’re going rocket up behind us as we poop along, scanning for perched raptors and Mountain Plovers standing motionless in barren fields. Pulling off onto a dirt shoulder – if any – can be risky; rain turns the soil into glue which clogs your tire treads, your tires become slicks, and suddenly you’re bogged. We were lucky as the soil was nearly dry after the prior week’s rains.

Cactus Wren pair in a Joshua Tree (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

Cactus Wren pair in a Joshua Tree (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

It was still cool and quiet at our first stop just south of Palmdale Airport (birthplace of many UFO’s) at 10th St. East and Blackbird Lane. [I think the blackbirds referred to are not the feathered sort.] We found a few Sparrows including a singing Black-throated and Golden-crowned, a Northern Flicker, some House Finches, the first of many families of Ravens, and a cooperative family of Cactus Wrens, but no LeConte’s Thrashers. The leafless trees of Desert Aire Golf Course were barren of birds as well, and the settling ponds on 40th St. E. were tumbleweed dry. Not an auspicious beginning.

Savannah Sparrow (note yellow lores) on a rolling irrigator (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

Savannah Sparrow (note yellow lores) on a rolling irrigator (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

As an aside, my recollection is that Crows are nearly non-existent in the valley, but we did see a few hanging around the McDonald’s parking lot were we got coffee (aka rest stop).

Mountain Bluebird in hot pursuit of an insect (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

Mountain Bluebird in hot pursuit of an insect (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

Rounding the bend from 40th onto Ave. N, things picked up. We spotted the first of several sightings of Mountain Bluebirds, then flocks of Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows in the short grass. We couldn’t find any Mountain Plovers around 50th & Ave. L, where they’d been reported – in fact we never did find any anywere. We walked along the edge of Little Rock Wash just south of its intersection with Ave. K, but apparently the pair of LeConte’s Thrashers that used to nest there have moved. The vegetation looked thirsty.

Dark phase Ferruginous Hawk flew directly overhead (J. Waterman 1/10/15)

Dark phase Ferruginous Hawk flew directly overhead (J. Waterman 1/10/15)

 

Dark phase Ferruginous Hawk (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

Dark phase Ferruginous Hawk (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

We hit pay dirt out at 110th St. E and Ave. J, as the reported Ferruginous Hawks were in relative abundance, with a dozen in the air, on the ground, on the irrigation equipment, on phone poles. The reason? Voles! They were picking off any vole who foolishly showed its head. I watched one dark morph Ferruginous Hawk rise from its perch on a rolling irrigator wheel, glide out 75 yards, snatch a vole in its talons and glide back to its wheel. An added treat were more Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows, a few Red-tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier and over 100 pensive-looking Killdeer.

A Stunning Light Phase Ferruginous Hawk (C. Bragg 1/10/15)

A Stunning Light Phase Ferruginous Hawk
(C. Bragg 1/10/15)

By the time we reached Apollo Lake for lunch, it had started to rain. A covered picnic area gave us shelter and a good spot to scan the lake, where we picked up most of the trip’s water birds, including Double-crested Cormorant, 4 species of goose, 7 of duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Ring-billed & California Gulls, a hungry flock of Dark-eyed Junco and the usual Great-tailed Grackles whistling from the lakeside trees. Those who needed to return to L.A. headed home, while the rest of us headed off towards the Poppy Preserve in search of Rough-legged Hawk.

Alas, none were found, but we did see a very nice Prairie Falcon and a few more American Kestrels. Continuing to Holiday Lake we crossed the California Aqueduct and spotted some Common Goldeneyes (Barrow’s Goldeneye are occasionally found among them, or so I’ve heard) and Ring-billed – I mean Ring-necked Ducks. [See the picture below.]

Ring-necked Duck; can you see the ring? (J. Waterman 1/10/15)

Ring-necked Duck: Did you see the ring? Look more closely. At the neck!
(J. Waterman 1/10/15)

Holiday Lake proved to be a desert mirage; I kept thinking I’d found it when it would disappear and reappear elsewhere, always a quarter-mile away. Just when some people were starting to complain – Oh ye of little faith! – I found it. A lot of reeds and not much water, another near-victim of the drought. Many flocks of Blackbirds, mostly Red-winged and a few Tricolored, kept falling and rising in and out of the golden reeds, rustling in the wind. What little water there was held a few ducks. The trees held no owls, although we did find pellets containing tiny skulls and bones.

Common Goldeneyes like the California aqueduct (J. Waterman 1/10/15)

Common Goldeneyes like the California aqueduct (J. Waterman 1/10/15)

Re-crossing the aqueduct yielded more buffleheads, goldeneyes and Ring-necked Ducks plus an unexpected Common Loon. We continued down to Quail Lake and from an overlook scanned the outlet stream. No Barrow’s Goldeneyes, but lots of ducks trying to go to sleep. We headed home.   [Chuck Almdale]

Prior Trip Reports: Jan 2014   Jan 2013   Jan 2012   Jan 2011   Jan 2010
Link to Antelope Valley Birding Locations

Antelope Valley
 Raptor  Search  Trip  Lists
Species 1/10/15 1/11/14 1/12/13 1/14/12 1/8/11 1/9/10
Tundra Bean-Goose 2
Gr. White-fronted Goose 1
Snow Goose 1 2
Ross’s Goose 2 2 2 X
Canada Goose 20 15 10 10 6 X
Gadwall 1 X X
American Wigeon X
Mallard 40 10 30 30 X X
Northern Shoveler 20 30 10 6 X X
Green-winged Teal 20 X X
Redhead 1
Ring-necked Duck 40
Greater Scaup 1
Lesser Scaup 30 1 30 3 X
White-winged Scoter 1
Bufflehead 30 20+ 2 80 3 X
Common Goldeneye 50 2 20 1
Hooded Merganser 6
Common Merganser 4
Red-breasted Merganser 10+
Ruddy Duck 8 40+ 2 30 X X
California Quail 9 110
Common Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2 1 10 X X
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3 5 X
Western Grebe 2 2
Dble-crested Cormorant 80 25 6 2 X
American White Pelican 1 8
Great Blue Heron 1 2 X
Great Egret X
Black-crwnd Night-Heron 1 X
Turkey Vulture X
Golden Eagle 1
Northern Harrier 2 1 5 3 3 X
Cooper’s Hawk 3 1 1 1 X 2
Red-shouldered Hawk X
Red-tailed Hawk 30 30+ 50+ 50+ 12 X
Ferruginous Hawk 15 14 10 8 11 8
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sora 1H
American Coot 200 25 40 40 X X
Killdeer 100 50 100 100 75+ X
Mountain Plover 10+ 70 90 X
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Long-billed Curlew 17 X
Ring-billed Gull 100 5 10 30 X X
California Gull 200 35 225 30 X X
Rock Pigeon 300 35 35 80 X X
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2 4 4 4 X
Mourning Dove 50 1 6 4 X X
Great Horned Owl 1
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 2
Allen’s Hummingbird X
Red-breasted Sapsucker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Northern Flicker 1 1 1 1H
American Kestrel 4 4 15 15 2 6
Merlin 3 1 2
Prairie Falcon 1 1 6 4 1
Black Phoebe 1 X X
Say’s Phoebe 5 8 12 12 3 X
Cassin’s Kingbird X
Loggerhead Shrike 6 2 15 15 2 6
Western Scrub-Jay 2 X
American Crow 5 4 5
Common Raven 100 100+ 100+ 150+ 5 X
Horned Lark 300 600+ 1500+ 1500+ 1400+ X
Rock Wren X
Marsh Wren X
Bewick’s Wren 1H X
Cactus Wren 6 2 8 X
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet X
Mountain Bluebird 40 500+ 1 20 18 100+
Le Conte’s Thrasher 2 1
Sage Thrasher 4
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 1 1
European Starling 500 25 25 45 flocks X
American Pipit 150 150 30 120+
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4 12 16 X
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee X
Brewer’s Sparrow 2
Lark Sparrow X X
Black-throated Sparrow 2
Bell’s Sparrow 2 2 20 2
Savannah Sparrow 10 75 75 50 26 X
Song Sparrow 4 1 1 X
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 200 100 100 300+ 6 X
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 1
Dark-eyed Junco 50 14 X
Red-winged Blackbird 200 60 X X
Tricolored Blackbird 10 500 X
Western Meadowlark 100 100+ 100 80 flocks X
Brewer’s Blackbird 1000 150 150 60 20 X
Great-tailed Grackle 4 X
House Finch 1000 200 200 300+ 3 X
Lesser Goldfinch 1 X
American Goldfinch 4 X
House Sparrow 20 60 60 30 X X
     Total Species   102 58 41 46 60 67 56
X = Present, not counted
+ = more than
flocks = large numbers, not counted
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