Sunday, January 10, 2010

Panoche Valley Birding - San Benito County

I really enjoyed the Santa Clara Valley Audubon's birding field trip to Panoche Valley, California on Saturday, January 9th. The morning drive was very foggy so I left early, and just south of Hollister on California Highway 25, the fog cleared and the early morning sky was ablaze in color!
Fiery Dawn along California Hwy 25 on way to Panoche Valley

This birding location is one of my favorite SCVAS field trips, and long-time leader Clay Kempf knew all the best places to find the birds. The highlight for me personally was to finally see MOUNTAIN PLOVERS in the Panoche Valley... after 5 years of trying!

We all saw a flock of 85 Mountain Plovers flying fast east of Panoche Road in the southern edge of Panoche Valley. The flock stayed far away from the road, at least 500 yards away. I had my 500mm telephoto lens with the 1.4x teleconverter... for 700mm equivalent... and I was able to get several photos of the flock in flight. (CLICK photo to view larger size)

85 Mountain Plovers on flight - Panoche Valley

Mountain Plovers in Panoche Valley

Other highlights of the trip were MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, LARK SPARROW, SAVANNAH SPARROW, AMERICAN PIPIT, and many of the usual species.

Lark Sparrow

The big miss for me is still the CHUKAR... which I have never ever seen in Panoche Valley... after now 5 years of trying. I have been told it does exist...! Really???

A SLIDESHOW of many more photos from this Panoche Valley field trip is available on my Blog Page and my BirdingPix website. Enjoy!