This was our regular six-week class, intended to introduce our resident wintering birds. We toured 5 nearby birding sites and finished up with a great weekend through the Panoche Valley to Los Banos and the Merced Wildlife Refuge.
Weather was a bit gloomy, but we managed to locate a number of the local woodland and grassland birds, including good looks at Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Western Bluebird.
Always good for rails, the shoreline showed the Saturday group great views of Clapper Rail, and nice comparisons of Cackling and Canada Goose. But the Sunday group hit a bonanza, with first ever for the class YELLOW RAIL! The bird returned on Monday so lots of local birders got a look at this rare (for California) bird (photo by Dave Quady).
Ducks and shorebirds were the targets here. Great studies of dowitchers, as well as the smaller peeps.
Our weekend trip was wonderful, with good looks at Golden Eagle, Phainopepla, Lewis's Woodpecker, Ferruginous Hawk , Cassin's Kingbird and Mountain Bluebirds through the valley. It was a multiple owl day, with Burrowing, Long-eared and Great Horned Owls near Mercey Hot Springs. At Los Banos refuge we flushed three American Bittern, and Merced Refuge was spellbinding with thousands of Ross's Geese, White-fronted Geese, Sandhill Cranes, a beautiful Bald Eagle, and numerous White-faced Ibis.