Field Trip: Sierra Valley

Date: Saturday January 04, 2014

Time: 7:00 AM

Trip Report added 1/6/2014 (NSAS Event)


Leader: Bruce Webb

Trip Report: Sat., Jan.4/2014 was filled with white snowy fields and the sierras in the background. Napa Solano Audubon's field trip was in Sierra ville, and 17 participants took in the wide open spaces with almost constant sightings of bald or golden eagles and rough-legged and redtail hawks. Both hawk species were in several color morphs, so we had a great time with the i.d. for each bird.

One highlight was a prairie falcon aggressively diving at a redtail. The falcon left after the altercation but we found him later perched on a pole at the roadside and we all got close views of the facial markings, and then he flew and we got the under wing "dark armpits" as well.

Another highlight was 6 bald eagles clustered in a snowy field, when one of them caught something...we guessed a ground squirrel. The eagles started jostling each other to try to steal the food, while another story was playing out about 100 feet away...a coyote was approaching the eagles in an interesting way; he ran forward a little, backtracked. turned to each side with short dashes , but not getting any closer to the eagles. We were wondering if he would brave the 6 huge beaks and 12 talons. It was suggested that he was doing the "I Think I Can, I Think I Can" warm ups. He finally ran right into the eagle group, and they dispersed, leaving a few scraps for the coyote and the ravens. The bird with the remaining food landed nearby and covered the food with her wings, mantling it, as the coyote approached.

Several Townsend's Solitaires were life birds for some of us.We looked for Northern Shrike, also a potential life bird for some, but we will have to return to this beautiful area for that sighting.

This was a great trip with an extremely knowledgeable guide, Bruce Webb!

Pre-trip Description:

From Truckee we will carpool north on Hwy 89 to enter the spectacular Sierra Valley at the town of Sierraville. In contrast to our summer visit to Sierra Valley when nesting birds were the attraction, we will start the New Year with panoramas of mountains and closeup views of wintering raptors. Sierra Valley a huge valley at approximately 5,000 ft elevation with vast tracts of pastureland and expanses of tall sagebrush is known for large numbers of wintering raptors.

Species targets: Golden and Bald eagles, Prairie Falcon, Merlin (we will study each one), Rough-legged, and Ferruginous Hawks in their various color morphs. If like last winter, possibly Northern Shrike. Interesting finch flocks can be found enroute. Since part of the time will be spent in sagebrush country, many Great Basin birds and mammals are possible.

Car pool departs from Sweeney's Sports at 7 a.m.

Dress warmly, knit caps, and gloves. We will spend brief periods of time out of the vehicles to set up spotting scopes for astounding views of the raptors and mammals we will encounter. We will return to Napa is before 8PM,or later if we choose to have dinner in Sierraville/Truckee.

In the event of inclement weather we may choose to bird Yolo Basin Wildlife Area and environs, abandoning plans to travel to Sierra Valley.

Directions: We will meet the field trip leader Bruce Web at 9:30 a.m. at the Safeway parking lot at 11290 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA. Here folks can take a break from driving and grab a snack or pick up a sandwich for lunch on the road. Starbucks coffee and restrooms are here before we drive 25 miles to Sierraville at the south end of the Sierra Valley. (Note: plans to stop at the Davis Park n Ride have been cancelled)

submitted on December 04, 2013, at 05:58 PM PST

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