Robert Keiffer <rjkeiffer@...>
18 November 2011 - Late report from last Friday 18th... Cheryl Watson, Geoff Heinecken, Ryan Keiffer, and I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to the high country of Mendocino County. We left Ukiah at about 8:45 AM and headed to Covelo. On Covelo Road we stopped at the Sandbanks cliffs (about milemarker 20.39 or 20.59 ... I don't have my notes with me) and checked out the cliffs ... a known Peregrine nest site. I absolutely did not expect to see the birds at this time of year, especially in the gloomy overcast weather, but after about two minutes of talking a peregrine begin to call from the nearest cliffs. Out flew an adult male peregrine flying to the NE... he circled and flew back past the cliffs from which he emerged and landed on a small point on the side of the cliffs, about ¾ the way to the top. He was still sitting there as we left.
Once in Round Valley, A trip down Fairbanks to Dobie Lane and on produced one more adult Peregrine Falcon perched atop a decadent Valley Oak tree, and three Ferruginous Hawks. A large group of about 30 Savannah Sparrows were observed near a downed tree on the west side of Dobie. Other common species were seen. A group of about 25 Canada Geese were seen in a field to the NW of the casino. 9 Tule Elk were seen just before leaving Round Valley.
Once we left the Black Butte ranger station/campground we saw dramatic changes in the weather. As we reached about 5500' elevation the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and a few snow patches were around. By the time we reached Etsel Ridge it was 32-34 degrees, the wind was blowing, and wind-driven snow was packed onto every possible twig and branch. It was beautiful but visibility was less than 200 feet. We continued on into the winter wonderland all the way to Hull Mountain under the same conditions, with about 1" to 4" of snow on the road. At times it snowed and the temp dropped to 27 degrees. Mtn. Chickadees were heard, one Downy Woodpecker was seen along with a few Varied Thrush, and a couple Steller's Jays. That's it!
A drop down Boardman Ridge off of Hull Mountain (Lake County now) as we re-entered the conifers produced a lone Townsend's Warbler at 2-feet off the ground ...showing a great display of the wing pattern. We ate lunch at 4:00 PM at Lake Pillsbury boat launch campground ... in the first comfortable spot we could find and in balmy weather of about 40 degrees. One adult Bald Eagle was atop a distant nest, and several waterfowl species were on the lake. Oak Titmice were at the campground. A large group of Tule Elk were on the south end of the airstrip, and two lone bulls were near Salmon Creek.
The next big storm will probably close the high elevation route for the winter ... so DO NOT ATTEMPT this route unprepared or without checking road conditions.
Good birding. Bob Keiffer