The weekend trip was spectacular weather. We met at Paicines Reservoir, and almost immediately found two Bald Eagles, as well as a variety of ducks. Black-crowned Night Herons were scattered about the nearby bushes, and Common Mergansers flew low across the water.
As we progressed into the valley, it seemed birds were hard to find. But a stop at the 23 mile cattle pens turned out to be quite spectacular, with Lewis's Woodpecker showing off in the large oak tree, a pair of Golden Eagles high over the ridge line, and a Greater Roadrunner slipping down the gully. A variety of raptors overhead included a nice Prairie Falcon, and several young Red-tailed Hawks playing in the thermals.
After lunch at the always scenic Panoche Valley Inn, we cruised the valley, finding a beautiful Ferruginous Hawk overhead, and a Merlin perched along Panoche Road. A stop for Chukar was unsuccessful, but Mercey Hot Springs was spectacular with numerous Long-eared Owls, and Rusty found a pair of Burrowing Owls and some striking Horned Larks shortly thereafter.
The second day was cooler, and our walk around Los Baņos refuge didn't yield the hoped-for Bittern, although we did see a number of White-faced Ibis and lots of Northern Harriers. Continuing on to Merced Refuge, our initial disappointment at the lack of large waterfowl was assuaged as thousands of Ross's and Snow Geese suddenly descended on the fields, and Sandhill Cranes and White-fronted Geese cruised overhead. A pair of White-tailed Kites perched in the field, adding to the snowy appearance of the scene. It was a good ending to a great weekend.
Photos by Bob Lewis