Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pinnacles and Mercey Hot Springs

I had the distinct pleasure of spending a day with expert birders from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. We went to Pinnacles National Monument and Mercey Hot Springs and enjoyed all the moments in between. Here are a few highlights. (remember you can click the images to view the more detailed, larger versions)
The landscape was highly varied and consistently breathtaking. We had great weather.

I saw my first Prairie Falcon... but it didn't stick around for long.

Here is the Prairie leaving while keeping an eye on us.

At Pinnacles the campground yielded an incessantly vocal Red-shouldered Hawk which was later joined by another. Acorn Woodpeckers, California Quail, Spotted Towhees, Sunning Turkey Vultures, a Bobcat, and the promise of Condors, created a wonderful atmosphere.

Early on, we came across two Golden Eagles feeding on the carcass of a Wild Boar that we surmise had been hit by a car the previous night.

Immense birds... this was a great way to start the day. Later we saw a Soaring Bald Eagle as well.

Here is one of the Golden Eagles flying away with a massively distended crop obscuring its head.

At Mercey Hot Springs, a close encounter with a Great Horned Owl on a nicely exposed branch.

Eventually we found over 15 Long-eared Owls. They were packed into a single tree (notice the tail of another owl behind this one). The day would eventually have 4 species of owl including a Burrowing Owl, and a lovely look at a Short-eared Owl floating over a darkening field that was still populated with White-tailed Kites, Northern Harriers, and an Egret that plucked two gophers from the ground.

A Cassin's Kingbird pursues an insect. (the little black dot)

A roadside stop found us scanning for raptors while the locals scanned us.
(click to view this larger)

Click below for a look at a distant aerial battle between
a Ferruginous Hawk and a Golden Eagle.

Aerial Battle 1
Size Comparison 1
Size Comparison 2

1 comment:

Julie said...

Hi...just wanted to say thanks for sharing your photos. I missed the Pinoche trip (again) this year, but at least I got to see some of the highlights in amazing detail. Thanks again! --Julie