Posted by: atowhee | March 27, 2008

Emigrant Lake, Day #2 and Bob gets his 100th



Bob Black and I were at Emigrant Lake Tuesday morning, where I’d birded in the drizzle Monday.  We got mild, calm weather, no rain.  Even some scattered bursts of sunshine through heavy, dark clouds hanging over the Siskiyou slopes to the south.  The top of Mount Ashland was behind curtains of fog and snow. But down around 2220-feet the birds were busy and thus were we.

 Our goal: to get three more birds for Bob in Jackson County this month.  Then he’d have seen 100 species for March.  I thought we had two in the bag.  One was actually found fairly early in the day.  Monday there’d been six Western Grebe on the lake.  Tuesday’s mild weather brought out more skullers and rowers.  Before 9:30 A.M. we did find the lone brave grebe still facing the boaters.  Bob’s first county bird of the day.

We struck out on Spotted Sandpipers. But a grassy slope with oaks about every twenty feet was alive.  Small flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a couple dozen Juncos, Scrub-jays, Crows, White-breasted Nuthatch pair, Oak Titmouse Pair, Lesser Goldfinch, Spotted Towhee, Robin, Starling, Acorn Woodpeckers chasing away Lewis’s that are only around for the winter, Western Bluebirds, an Orange-crowned Warbler hiding inside a manzanita.  Nothing surprising, all birds Bob already had for the month.  The only Swallows were Tree, though an early Barn or Northern Rough-wing would have added to Bob’s total.  It was not to be.  We did stop to watch an Osprey have his raw fish for breakfast.  A pair of crows and another Osprey also watched.  On the lakeshore a Great Blue Heron was hunting for his own smaller fish.

We moved from the amusement park to the wilder part of Emigtrant Lake around the old pioneer cemetery.  Plenty of ducks, already on Bob’s list.  No sandpipers.  Around we went to the brushy shoreline of the south end where feeder streams enter the resevoir from the mountains to the south.  More mergansers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Crows, Red-winged Blackbirds.  The morning was half over and we’d scored only one new species.  We were in an apparent birdless wilderness of rampant rose tangles and brush, with creekside trees about 200 yards away.  Then far off to our east we heard the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk. 

Had Bob already seen Red-shoulder this month? 

No, he shook his head.

Let’s go find him.

We drove east along Highway 66.  The hawk had gone silence.  I expected him to be along the creek and its tall leafless trees but he wasn’t visible.  We agreed to go back down to the lake by a nearby road then check again for the hawk on our way home.  Halfway down Green Springs Spur from the highway we stopped to look over a dense flock of farmyard birds.  I was secretly hoping for an off-course Tricolored or even a Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Nope. There among the Brewer’s Blackbirds and Starlings, a Brown-headed Cowbird.  They’re largely absent here until early April.  And a new bird for Bob’s list. A native American, but an interloper here on the Pacific Coast. Down at the lake, not much.  A pair of Mallards, far-off views of the same ducks we’d seen from the cemetery overlook.  Then through the scope a small brown figure popped to the surface.  Eared Grebe, new bird #3 for the month and the day.  Bob was smiling now.

Looking south from the Spur road we noticed a group of stick nests in one tall tree, Blue Heron nests.  So we decided to try to locate that tree back over by Highway 66, now due south of us.  It was a heronry on private land according to a neighbor who spoke with us.  The herons passed over his house all day long.  The nest tree was south of Highway 66 near 5700 Highweay 66. We finally found the tree with the heron nests, but while we were looking, bird of the day:  the Red-shouldered Hawk swept up from one of the dense trees by the road, circled and screamed, screamed and circled.  Off to our left the Kites were mating on a cedar branch.  A pair of Bufflehead bobbed up and down in a tiny pond next to the road.  The sunlight came through the Red-shoulder’s wings, pale crescents at the base of the dark primaries seemed to glow white. The black and white bands on the fanned tail were distinct.  Bob’s fourth, and best, new bird of the day.  The Red-shouldered Hawk is neither abundant nor a common breeding bird in Jackson County.  We left hoping both the buteo and the kites will be successful nesters, as Bob had been successful in his quest for 100 in March when winter officially turns to spring.

Location:     Emigrant Lake
Observation date:     3/25/08
Notes:     Bob Black and I found a heronry south of Highway 66 at south end of Emigrant Lake, between 7500 and 7528 Highway 66.  Several nests.  The Kites appeared to be mating south of the lake as well.  The Red-shouldered Hawk was crying above Highway 66 at south end as well. The swallows, TVs and Band-tailed Pigeons appeared to be migrating north.
Number of species:     52
Canada Goose     47
Wood Duck     8
Gadwall     2
Mallard     120
Green-winged Teal     22
Ring-necked Duck     1
Lesser Scaup     4
Bufflehead     12
Common Merganser     11
Eared Grebe     1
Western Grebe     1
Great Blue Heron     10
Turkey Vulture     37
Osprey     2
White-tailed Kite     2
Accipiter sp.     1
Red-shouldered Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     6
American Kestrel     1
American Coot     40
Killdeer     3
Ring-billed Gull     2
Band-tailed Pigeon     38
Mourning Dove     8
Anna’s Hummingbird     1
Lewis’s Woodpecker     6
Acorn Woodpecker     27
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     9
Western Scrub-Jay     26
American Crow     30
Common Raven     4
Tree Swallow     50
Oak Titmouse     8
White-breasted Nuthatch     5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     3
Western Bluebird     11
Hermit Thrush     1
American Robin     8
European Starling     55
Orange-crowned Warbler     1
Yellow-rumped Warbler     7
Spotted Towhee     5
California Towhee     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     2
Dark-eyed Junco     28
Red-winged Blackbird     25
Western Meadowlark     4
Brewer’s Blackbird     60
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Purple Finch     5
House Finch     3
Lesser Goldfinch     7

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