Stanislaus County Highlights

Matt Brady

Hello all. Today I spent the whole day birding Stanislaus County. I started at Woodward Reservoir, then drove to Turlock Reservoir by way of Sonora-Willms-Crabtree Roads, then blasted off for the Ceres Water Treatment Plant, and then ended the day at the soon-to-be-famous Recology Plant on Gaffery Rd, near I-5.

Along 26 Mile Rd., on my way to Woodward Reservoir, I stopped to look at a juvenal Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a telephone line at the corner of Dorsey Rd. While the 'Shoulder was nice, I mention this because the fields west of 26 Mile look prime for Longspurs. I didn't see any, but there were plenty of Horned Larks flying around. Scoping from the dam at Woodward Reservoir (off Eastman Rd.), I spied two COMMON GOLDENEYEs and the continuing COMMON LOON. Several HORNED GREBES were floating around, too. The east end of Woodward Res was quite bird-y. Scoping from the bridge, I spotted an adult BALD EAGLE, about a thousand shorebirds (LB Dowitchers, Dunlin, and Leasts), and, mixed in with the 600 or so Canada Geese, two SNOW GEESE - one of which was a Blue Goose.

Driving between Woodward and Turlock was nice. I had my first of five or so FERRUGINOUS HAWKs, as well as an immature GOLDEN EAGLE and another large flock of larks along 28 mile Rd (which is only about two miles long - where are the other 26 miles?). At the bridge over the slough along Sonora Rd I had an impressive mix of raptors, including 25(!) Red-tailed Hawks in two separate kettles, as well as another Golden Eagle and a roosting Barn Owl. A blackbird flock near there had about 2000 TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS.

Along Willms Road I stopped a number of times, and ended up seeing a few (5) MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, several ROCK WRENS, another FERRUGINOUS HAWK and another GOLDEN EAGLE. Also of note were two BURROWING OWLS. While I kept an eye out for these guys, I wasn't searching very thoroughly, so I'll bet there are quite a few more to be found along this road.

At the northern end of Crabtree Rd., where there is a large plowed field on the east side of the road, I encountered another large flock of Horned Larks. I thought I may have heard a McCown's Longspur call once, but scanning for thirty minutes or so failed to confirm what I may or may not have heard. It's worth a look though, as is the flock at the UX Ranch, a little further south, where there is another large Lark flock.

Turlock Res was a bit of a disappointment. The water has receded to the point where it'd be a hike out to get to the waters edge. I didn't spend much time there, but instead spent an hour at the Ceres Water Treatment Plant, just south of the town of Ceres (access is off Morgan Rd; check in at the office; gates close at 3:45). As Harold Reeve mentioned yesterday, there are quite a few BONAPARTE'S GULLs there (I estimated 400), but I didn't find any Little Gulls, unfortunately. Otherwise, the ponds were full of birds, though nothing unusual, except one juvenal GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL.

My last stop of the day was at the Recology Plant at the west end of Gaffery Rd. I had read the reports from last spring, but this was my first visit to this site, and I was astounded by the numbers of gulls there. WESTERN, GLAUCOUS-WINGED, HERRING and THAYER'S were all present in substantial numbers (hundreds for each, except Thayer's), and, as expected, there were thousands of CALIFORNIA GULLS. Unfortunately, I arrived at 4:15, which was just shy of sundown, so I wasn't able to spend much time sorting through the gulls. I did see one individual that looked Kumlien's-ish to me, and several that had some characters of first-cycle Slaty-backed Gulls, but nothing too weird that I was sure of. A final surprise of the day was a juvenal BROWN PELICAN, sitting on the edge of the canal about a quarter mile north of the Recology plant. After the sun went down, all of the gulls left the plant, and flew north, into San Joaquin County. I followed them, and quite a
few sat down on a pond at the gravel/cement plant on Koster Rd., just north of the county line. I was able to find all of the above-mentioned Gull species sitting on the pond, and, after a few minutes, the BROWN PELICAN flew in and joined them. 

All in all, it was a really nice day out and about in Stanislaus County.

Matt Brady
Here and there, CA

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