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Modoc County

Part 10: Clear Lake Loop

After romping on all these back roads I finally had built up the nerve to do a 60+ mile route into the heart of Modoc NF!  (I needn't had worried about getting stranded back there, either: not only were the roads terrific, but I was surprised by the amount of traffic back there!  And they were all nice people, too.)  I started along CR 73 (Crowder Flat Road according to the AAA map) going north, the habitat at first consisting of what looked like open pine/juniper woodland (the trees were fairly short, and the powers that be were also cutting in there).  Once again, I heard a rough che-bek, much lower and rougher than any Dusky, and I thought, "That's got to be a Hammond's!"  The problem was, there were two of 'em song-battling, and the elevation at that point isn't all that great, so I knew I was in trouble.  Later down the road, though, the mystery was solved:  in zipped a nice gray Empid which slowly dipped his tail, then proceeded to give that same rough che-bek call—I could have smacked myself!  Duh!  Gray Flycatcher!  There were several families along this stretch (especially where the junipers were thick).  As I told a couple of guys who wrote me, grilling yourself on the recordings is one thing, but nothing beats field experience...

  

The beginning of Crowder Flat Road

   

This whole barren area is known as "Devil’s Garden"

    

Habitat that the Gray Flycatchers liked

The general area is also known as Devil's Garden, and I could see why: an awful lot of the habitat is that rocky volcanic stuff with grasses and sage, and just a few trees.  But the Mountain Bluebirds and Rock Wrens loved it, as I also ran into several families of these as well!  Meadowlarks were all over, and Kestrels were numerous, too; at various stops had a few Chippies and individual Brewer's and Vespers.  Also started picking up Ash-throated Flycatchers again.  I took a double-take at the rough rasp of a Caspian Tern; he was undoubtedly on his way to one of the many reservoirs in the area!

      

More scenes and the "lava hill"

                

Rock Wrens (left and center) and Mountain Bluebirds love this open area!

  At one spot the pines did get thick and high, like higher in the mountains, and picked up Hairy Woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch in here, as well as #150 for the county, a couple of Red Crossbills!  (I substituted the Gray Flycatcher for the Hammond's...)  After 20-something miles I turned left onto CR 136 towards Clear Lake, and before long you came to a lot of very barren habitat (mostly ranchlands)!  Every once in awhile the road would cross a stream with a little marshy area, and picked up Western Kingbirds, Barn Swallows, and Red-winged Blackbirds in here.  When I picked up the pines again, they were the type that's similar to what we have in San Diego, as I picked up both Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches there. 

      

Patches of pines along the road held high-altitude species like Red Crossbills

   

   

Springs were plentiful along the route

   

Boles Creek

    

Took a detour up to Blue Mountain Lookout, thinking it was going to be a vista, but it actually was a working lookout with a guy and his dog and a radio, watching for fires!  The dog was barking at me so I decided to find someplace else to get out and listen; the area was very scrubby (like high-altitude chaparral) and had Green-tailed Towhees in here.

  When I finally hit Clear Lake, it was far enough off the road to where I really couldn't make out much (especially that time of day with the heat waves), but was able to discern Canada Goose, White Pelicans, Ring-billed Gulls, and White-faced Ibis at least!  Thankfully there was a little marshy area close to the road that also had geese, plus a couple of Greater Yellowlegs and an avocet.  Back in the rocky, grassy area, a single Horned Lark posed outside the car window, and a Loggerhead Shrike flushed from a roadside bush.  A stop in the junipers near the end yielded probably the same Juniper Titmice I had before when Jip was making that funny noise that sent me back, but by that time it was really hot, so I bagged the rest of the road and headed on home. 

  

On Clear Lake Road we’re back into Mt Shasta country!

                       

Horned Lark in the open fields

   

This is as close to Clear Lake as you could get...

   

...but there were fortunately marshes closer to the road that had birds.

   

    

Doublehead Mountain

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