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Modoc County

Part 7: South Warners

Headed south before dawn the next morning and started with the short road to Emerson Camp and the trail by the same name.  More beautiful woodland had both Steller's and Scrub Jays, plus Spotted Towhees doing the raspberry (which I guess answers my question).  The trail was lovely and had a young Red-breasted Sapsucker close by!

      

Barn Swallows at the spa before heading up Emerson Road

 

     

Looking back into Surprise Valley

       

Early morning along Emerson Trail

                                               

A young Red-breasted Sapsucker and Yellow-rumped Warbler are spotted coming back down (in better light, now that the sun’s up…)

    

  The next road was more fascinating by far, as it went through totally different habitat!  This was County Road 42 (Patterson Mill Road according to the AAA map) which started in wide open sage scrub (I almost expected a Sage Grouse to jump out at any moment), and climbing the hill picked up Lark Sparrow, Rock Wren, a family of Kestrels, magpies, and a new trip bird: a singing Black-throated Sparrow!  A little pond on someone's property had a Great Blue Heron and a Ruddy Duck, besides many Red-winged Blackbirds.  Heard first and then saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes flapping lazily over the alkaline lake in the distance!  These red thistles added a splash of color here and there, and the Rufous Hummers loved them!

      

Heading up Patterson Mill Road with South Alkali Lake and someone’s farm pond

   

       

Before you hit the start of the trees you may run into Pronghorn!

    

  Once in the higher elevation I started picking up the usual high-elevation stuff, and at one stop I heard a song I felt comfortable calling a Nashville Warbler: it was way too sweet for Butterbutt or any of the other expected warblers up there.  I once again heard what sounded like both Dusky and Hammond's Flycatchers (at two different spots); I was willing to be set straight by those who know better, but I was sure picking up that Least Flycatcher-like che-bek as part of the song as opposed to the see-leep!

  

Scenes heading up the mountain

   

   

   

    

Sworinger Reservoir

Found a trailhead for East Creek which wasn't marked on the map, but it was a great little trail (aside from having to share it with a cow) that paralleled a lovely meadow.  MacGillivray's Warblers were singing at the start, but the most action was at the resting spot: an Orange-crowned Warbler came in, and a Lazuli Bunting had a little battle with some Pine Siskins, but some young warblers came in that I really didn’t have a clue as to what they were: pattern and color-wise they most resembled Orangecrowns (rather olive above and yellowish below with the hint of a supercilium), but not only were the bills too thick, but they were making a rather bunting-like pik!  The only other warbler even near the place was a Mac, and that call would make sense, but they looked nothing like the illustrations I could find; no broken eyering, no nothing!  [Update: after looking at the pictures you can just make out the broken eyerings, so I feel comfortable calling them young Macs, although they still look like Orangecrowns...] 

  

Meadow near East Creek Trail

  

East Creek Trail

                         

Young mystery warblers that looked like Orangecrowns but sounded like MacGillivray’s!

I was a bit turned around, thinking I had reached Patterson Meadow already, but after stumbling upon another well-marked forest road that was on the map, I realized I had a ways to go before the turnaround point (as gorgeous as Blue Lake is supposed to be, I really wanted to stay within Modoc Co.), so headed onward into a burned area, where I stopped to listen, and sure enough, off in the distance was a rattling Black-backed Woodpecker!  But unfortunately he was way too far away to spot.  Continuing on I actually came to Patterson Meadow, which was beautiful with both Brewer's and White-crowned Sparrows (both were singing), and at the campground I actually wound up parking at the "guard gates"; I saw another Subaru at a trailhead so started down this dirt path thinking, "If they could get there, I can get there!"  Was stopped by a small creek that had cut a several inch canyon in the path, so I parked by the shacks (where I picked up Tree Swallows for the day) and walked up; turns out there's another road I missed that goes into the campground and to the trailhead, and that’s what they took... 

  

Patterson Meadow

   

       

Presently you run into a burned area, presumably from the "Blue Fire"

                                                                                    

"Jip" and the guard shack at Patterson Campground, along with a female Western Tanager and a Chipping Sparrow

Anyway, headed up the Summit Trail, went through the gate, and didn't get far before I heard a close pik plus some pretty exuberant rapping, and sure enough, a female Blackback was hammering away at a fallen tree up the slope!  I normally don't like to leave the trail but I did for this one, and she allowed me to practically sit on her while she whanged away at the bark!  What looks!

 

Summit Trail

             

Female Black-backed Woodpecker; look carefully and you’ll see she only has three toes, which is characteristic of this group of woodpeckers!

  There was another trailhead up the road for East Creek once again, so I drove in there, picking up Brown Creepers at the parking area.  This whole area was devastated by the "Blue Fire" (don't know when it took place, but the charred trees look a lot like our pines that were destroyed by the Cedar Fire), and while it looked pretty bleak, the place was full of juncos, Cassin's Finches, a family of Mountain Bluebirds, and a few Lazuli Buntings (not surprisingly as they invaded our forests after the fires).  In the non-burned area got a family of Mountain Chickadees upset at me, which in turn brought in Western Tanagers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Chipping Sparrows, a Downy Woodpecker (hard to get used to seeing them in high elevations when we only get them in willow riparian areas in San Diego), and Pine Siskins!  Closer to the parking area some White-headed Woodpeckers called in the distance, and a couple of Lesser Goldfinches chased each other.

      

Aftermath of the Blue Fire and unburned portion of the East Creek Trail

       

...but unfortunately, the trail doesn’t stay that way!

            

Mountain Chickadee, Downy Woodpeckers. and one last view of Patterson Meadow before heading down...

  I was ready to hit the valley after that, so we barreled back down the road (and what a view going back down!!).  The map showed a "wildlife viewing area" east of Eagleville, but as I headed out into blistering desert that rivaled Clark Lake (those in San Diego will understand) with the TVs circling overhead, I started thinking that there was probably no access to the lake the map showed!  So I headed back, and the only thing I could find was an area of tules along County Road 38 that had some hiding Yellow-headed Blackbirds and singing Marsh Wrens. 

       

Desolate desert along Hays Canyon Road gives way to Cambron Marsh

  It was really too hot to do any more birding, so I decided to take a drive up to Fort Bidwell to time the drive to the start of the dirt road going up into Oregon that I planned on exploring the next day; Guy had mentioned that the habitat up there looked good for Yellow Rail, and past the town I did see some areas that looked like good wet, grassy areas, but I have to be realistic...  Did pick up a Golden Eagle over the upper lake, however, and flushed a Sage Thrasher near town.

  After heading back and getting iced up and gassed up, I crawled along the causeway to the hotel to pad the list, and at first I thought it was gonna be a dud as all I was seeing were families of Mallards and a few Killdeer!  But at the east end I hit the jackpot: a little "island" had avocets, Willets, and a handful of Marbled Godwits, along with the Wilson's Phalarope from the other day!  A Semipalmated Plover flew over while I was digiscoping, and hearing some stuff behind me, discovered a group of Long-billed Curlews on the other side of the causeway!  On the next little island a couple of Snowy Plovers fought each other, and a Spotted Sandpiper with his spots bobbed along.  I had just packed up the scope when a flock of peeps came wheeling in; all Westerns, but a new trip bird!

Shorebirds along the causeway...

                                      

Left:  Snowy Plover.  Center and right:  Willet (spreading its wings) and Avocets          

                                     

L-R:  Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpipers

Headed in to the hotel, picking up the resident gang of Canada Geese while I was at it...

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