Mission Valley field trip

Rough-legged Hawk landingOn the morning of Sunday, December 2nd, when I drove into the UM Field House parking lot, I wondered whether anyone would show up. It was a rainy, windy day and the forecast was to remain that way all day. To my surprise 15 birders met at the parking lot and after assembling at the Cenex Station in Ronan, our group grew to 23 birders. We pondered how to see birds through the fog that had settled in on us. Bob Rost kindly offered his home and attractive set-up of feeding stations for starters. The birding was exciting. We head a Varied Thrush as soon as we arrived and observed Evening Grosbeak, Chestnut-sided Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Steller’s Jay and others. Thank you Bob for sharing your home and bird friendly yard with us.

We then headed to Ninepipe Reservoir, which unlike some years in early December, was wide open. We observed a number of duck species including Mallard, Northern Pintail, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser and Hooded Merganser; and Western Grebe, Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagle. Continuing on we saw a good number of raptors mostly Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks. Several Northern Harriers, more than usual, were seen.

About noon the rain picked up so we headed north to the beautiful home of Dave and Ruth Ann Bunnell. En route we stopped to view a pair of Trumpeter Swans occupying a small pond. Bunnell’s home sits on a knoll overlooking the Mission Valley and Mission Mountains. They didn’t expect to have their house filled with birders but graciously served hot coffee and fresh banana bread to everyone. Their warm hospitality was a welcome break and added immensely to the enjoyment of our day. The weather improved and we headed north to the Pablo area. We stopped to watch a Merlin harass a flock of Rock Doves and starlings. A flock of Eurasian-collard Doves sat in tree nearby. The Merlin seemed happy to stay in this area with so many groceries on hand. We also observed American Kestrel, American Robin and Townsend’s Solitare. In all we tallied 41 species.

by Jim Brown

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