Mariposa, Fresno, and Madera continuing goodies

Bruce Mast

Good morning birders,
I returned last night from a weekend of birding with my brother around Mariposa, Fresno, and Madera counties, with a toe dip into Merced.

Mariposa County, Saturday, 1/23
There's a nice assemblage of ducks in the Merced River between Lake McSwaim and Hornitos Road, including a pair of GREATER SCAUP and a female LESSER SCAUP. (There was also a cluster of LESSER SCAUP down river on the Merced County side of Hornitos). Full checklists for Lake McSwaim and Merced River here:

We checked the blackbird flock at Merced Falls Road and Barrett Cove Road for TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS. Most of the birds in the flock are Bicolored Red-winged Blackbirds but there were a number of birds with red and yellow epaulets, plus a handful with long narrow white stirpes on their folded wings. Checklist with the exact location at

Lake Mclure at Barrett Cove is extremely low and we could not find a single bird on the water, much less a rare loon or grebe. We also checked several farm ponds where David Suddjian used to report dabbling ducks back in the day. They are all empty mudholes. We drove up to Old Toll Road looking for Thrasher and Bell's Sparrow habitat but that area is still recovering from recent fire.

Descending White Rock Road, we encountered a large Savannah Sparrow flock with 4 VESPER SPARROWS at the dropped pin on this checklist.

Further down at the pond, there was still enough water to support a GREATER YELLOWLEGS and 4 LEAST SANDPIPERS. We picked out a BALD EAGLE perched on the ground atop a distant hillĀ  to the north.

At the Merced-Mariposa county line, my brother picked out a distant PRAIRIE FALCON perched on a rock outcrop. I use the Earthmate app, which shows our GPS coordinates on a topo map with county lines, so we were able to confirm the bird was in Mariposa County.

On the Merced side of the line, we found a beautiful dark morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK.

Fresno County, Sunday, 1-24-21
Our only stop was on Rolinda Avenue to check on a couple COMMON GROUND DOVES found by Gary Woods on the 19th. We found the pair along the canal to the west, within 100 yards of the road. We first spotted them perched on the vineyard wires and then they dropped down to the dirt road on the north side of the canal. I expected to find them in the company of lots of Mourning Doves but they were by themselves.

Madera County, Sunday, 1-24-21
We next headed up to Road 8 to look for the female VERMILION FLYCATCHER found by Brian Sullivan on 1-18. We searched fruitlessly for about an hour but I checked again on the way home around 4 pm and turned up the bird. I first found her perched atop a tree in the orchard across the pasture. She then dropped down to the far fenceline. She moved south towards the house and I lost track of her.
Best information for birding the site is Gary Woods' checklist from 1-20.

Moving over to Madera Water Treatment Plant, we spent some quality time picking through the Canada Goose flock until we found a CACKLING GOOSE. My brother also found a leucistic Ruddy Duck with an all-white head. Odd looking bird. A PEREGRINE FALCON buzzed the waterfowl a couple times but came up empty.

We spent the afternoon at Sycamore Island, where we easily tracked down a recently reported CASSIN'S KINGBIRD on the wire to the north of the dirt road along the westernmost pond (about here: 36.855149, -119.832055). I later found a Cassin's Kingbird about here: 36.857518, -119.822356. So either the bird wanders or there are two. Other goodies included a Common Merganser, Spotted Sandpiper, and a Marsh Wren.

Bird on,

Bruce Mast

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