Today I went to Rock River Road in Tuolumne County to look for the Sage Thrasher that John Harris found there yesterday. No luck with that, but I did add American Crow for the county and I had an adult Bald Eagle fly over while I was looking for the thrasher. After I left there I headed to Fields Road off of La Grange Road in Merced County, thinking that since there have been so many Brewer's Sparrows seen in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties in the last few days that I might have enough good luck to add that species to my Merced County list. When I got to Fields Road I found that a gate has been installed on either side of La Grange Road. I have birded this road before and I do not remember if there was a gate on the east side of La Grange Road but there definitely was not one on the west side. The gate was open, however, so, though I know I should not have, I went through and birded the road all the way to the west end. Just before I reached the west end I found a single BREWER'S SPARROW with a large group of Savannah Sparrows and a couple of White-crowns. I then drove the rest of the way through and found a closed locked gate at the far end. I turned around and quickly drove back, and was lucky to find the other gate still open so I could get out. I do not recommend attempting to do what I did, you might not be as lucky and could possibly end up spending the night in your car.
After I left Fields Road I headed for S Waltz Road to look for a roadrunner that John Harris had heard calling from over the Mariposa County line recently. I spent close to an hour near the spot where John had heard it but all I heard were cows, kingbirds and the occasional Mourning Dove. On my way in, though, I found a SAGE THRASHER on S Waltz, just east of N Cunningham Road. The thrasher was still in the same area when I left.
I then decided to make the trek across the county to try for the Solitary Sandpiper that was reported on County Birds by Jim Lomax two days ago. I made haste down Santa Fe Grade to Wilson Road and turned right. I drove 1,200 feet on Wilson and spotted the SOLITARY SANDPIPER in a large puddle on the west side of the road. I Stopped and raised my camera and it flew off, over the small berm and dropped out of sight. I turned around and went back to see if I could re-find it but could not, so I turned back around and drove back to where I had originally seen it. It was back! So I drove past it, pulled off the road and walked back. I tried to be stealthy and attempted a photo through some reeds but as I raised my camera the bird once again took off. This time it flew north as if it had decided at that moment to finish its migration. It circled twice and then slowly made its decent into a pond on the east side of Santa Fe Grade and out of sight for good. I gave up on it and started for home. I made a brief stop at the old coral 1.8 miles north of Wilson Road to look for LESSER NIGHTHAWKS (this is on the east side of the road where all the old junk trailers are stored, if you drive along Santa Fe Grade you can't miss it). I was rewarded with three roosting near the NE corner of the coral. I also added my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a male, nectoring at thistles just south of 140 and another adult Bald Eagle.
As always, happy birding, stay safe, stay sane and may the light be with you,
Ralph Baker, Riverbank