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Part 9: Fandango Pass

Headed up to the start of Fandango pre-dawn the next day, and the deer I nearly nailed the day before brought her two kids along this time (Jip's brakes and horn are in great shape)...  Had another Barn Owl beat across the road as well!  At the start of the road, Nighthawks were booming and batting around, and again, the views going up the steep climb were awesome!  A couple of young Sage Thrashers squabbled with each other, and a Spotted Towhee did his raspberry.  I was surprised at how quickly I reached the actual pass (there's an historical marker there, and learned that "Lassen" was a person!), and it looked like the road was gonna descend into ranchland pretty quickly, so wanting to stay in the high stuff as long as possible, I took every side road I could (that was decent) in search of mountain birds. 


View of Surprise Valley going up the hill


Fandango Valley

  The first road went north to Shank Spring (I believe it was; it wasn't on the map), and one thing I've noticed that the map does not show you: the stupendous views you get from some of these roads!  Bird-wise there was nothing out of the ordinary: the usual Western Tanagers, Green-tailed Towhees, Steller's Jays, and the like, but a couple of Townsend's Solitaires put on a show by singing and then chasing each other!  (The sign also said the spring was two miles down the road; it was more like six...)  The road ended at private property, where it looked like they were doing some serious logging.


"Shank Spring Road" (aka Forest Road 46N53) and view of the Valley from said road...

  Back on the main road (which is a terrific road; they evidently keep this one open in the winter), it quickly dipped down into open ranchland that was the "pinyon sage" I saw a lot of around there.  Both Brewer's and Vesper Sparrows showed up here, along with a pair of magpies who came "rowing" right at me; what a show!  Shortly came upon another good road (47N72) that was actually paved for the first few miles and climbed at a pretty good angle, but it also got back into the pines.  Shortly after the road turned to dirt again, I hit pay dirt as it were: a Williamson's Sapsucker flew into a tree next to the road!  Great looks!


More open sage along Fandango Road before heading up another side road (47N72)


Williamson's Sapsucker (left) and Western Tanager (right)

During one of the stops a couple of creepy-looking guys went by in a pickup, and for the first time I was a little uncomfortable on these back roads, but everything was fine (I have no idea where they went, because the road—at least the good part—dead ends after about nine miles).  About halfway along this road is a small parking area at a cattle guard which is the jumping off point for the Highgrade Trail.  I hiked a little of what I thought was the trail, but according to the map could have been a very bad jeep trail (something with tires had indeed gone down it, but they were gutsy...).  A little ways down was an open meadow with an upset Lazuli Bunting, and in the woods had either kinglets or creepers; I couldn't really tell which (had some kinglets for sure later on the road).  But a whole family of chickadees "attacked" me on the way back to the car, along with one female Red-breasted Nuthatch!  Gawked at the view of Goose Lake before getting back in the car, and heard Mountain Quail while I was shooting the scenery.


View of Goose Lake from the Highgrade Trailhead, and the Highgrade Trail itself

Critters along the trail...


L-R:  Least Chipmunk, Flame Skimmer (?), and Mountain Chickadees


Left and center:  Red-breasted Nuthatches  Right:  Discreet Police Car Moth (Gnophaela discreta)


Scenes from the trailhead and the road



Mt Vida from the south side

  Had the day's only Hermit Thrushes at the end of the road; there was another "trail" there which I was tempted to hike, but if that's where my "friends" had gone I wanted to leave well enough alone and get back to the main road.  Not too far past the ranger station there was another good dirt road that went off to the left (CR 133C), so consulting the map, I saw where it gave me about six more miles of dirt road to explore (the road was paved to 395 beyond the ranger station), so I took that, picking up a cute little White-breasted Nuthatch whanging on a tree.  Came to what looked like a familiar confusing intersection; turns out I was back where I had taken CR 47 to Lassen Creek the day before!  So I took the other road, going through more pinyon sage, and had more glorious views of Goose Lake as the road inched closer to US 395.  At one overlook I could actually make out some ibis, geese, and a Great Blue Heron down below!


Scenes along Willow Ranch Road (CR 133C)



View of Goose Lake


Approximate spot where Goose Lake picture (above) was taken

Down at the bottom it wasn't long to Davis Creek, which is the turnoff for the Goose Lake Causeway.  That was a wonderful drive: it turns to dirt right at the causeway, and in addition to the scores of ibis and geese (the lake is well-named), there were also plenty of avocets with their fuzzy babies (one parent was giving a Raven a fit), a large group of White Pelicans, plus several Clark's Grebes; interestingly, that was the dominant grebe here!  Beyond the lake was a ranch with more pinyon sage, and the main road continued parallel to the lake, which was wonderful; at several spots were some small marshes which had coots, Mallards, Gadwall, and the only Western Grebe of the whole drive!  Had Horned Larks in some of the open area, and some pewees were fighting at one spot; hearing what sounded like a Black Phoebe got me out of the car quick—turned out it was probably one of the young pewees making a very phoebe-like tew!  A family of Mountain Bluebirds flopped around at another spot, and heard the only Lark Sparrow of the day along here.  At a big rock heard a song that had me clueless; it almost sounded like a cross between a Rock and Canyon Wren!  (It went, "Chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-cheeeewwwww", with the "chew" part dropping dramatically...)  It was probably some youngster trying out his song...  Close to the turnaround point I had a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher buzzing at me.


Goose Lake from ground level



Birds that hang out here...


L-R:  The lake’s namesake (Canada Geese), baby Avocet, and Mom (?)


Clark's ’s Grebe and Mallard families


White Pelicans from the causeway, and Goose Lake Road on the other side of the causeway


Scenes along Goose Lake Road






Snapshot through the car window of a spontaneous forest fire; evidently these things can pop up days after a lightning strike!

Headed back to Alturas after that, noticing a pretty good forest fire in the distance; the flagger along the highway said it was around the Devil's Garden area, which is close to where I was planning on heading tomorrow; hope the road is open! 

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