Carrizo Plain Christmas Bird Count

December 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , , )

Barn Owl at old Goodwin Ranch

I missed the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count with the Morro Coast Audubon Society due to acute bronchitis, so I was happy for the chance to do the one at Carrizo Plain National Monument on Dec. 29.

Barn Owl

I always hope for at least one new bird or one great photograph. I didn’t get my new bird (mountain plover) but I got some stunners of a barn owl. It’s not a bird I’ve seen a lot of, even though they’re quite common.

This was one of a pair the others in my group had seen in a tamarisk tree. The house resident said there are two pairs that normally take up residence in the old barns and granaries, which have fallen into disrepair.

Barn owl

Although the tree is right next to the house, this owl was extremely wary. Every time it flew into the tree and I got a good look at it, it flew out. I hated to keep harassing it, so I ended the game with a few nice images. There was a large nest in the tree as well, though it’s not certain if the nest belonged to the owl. With the plethora of available covered buildings, I doubt it, but they are known to nest in dense trees.


The count circle was divvied up into sections, and I went with four other women, two of whom had done that area before. Even though I had visited Carrizo several times, this was my first CBC there.

Red-tail hawk

We spent quite a bit of time at the ranch, as the birding was pretty good. The resident of the home had a bird feeder frequented by many lark sparrows and house finches, with some white-crowned sparrows thrown in. There were western meadowlarks, mourning doves, horned larks, and a variety of other usual suspects in the area. Even though there was a hill with many ground squirrel type holes, I couldn’t coax out a burrowing owl.

Western meadowlark

Although the morning started in the low 20s, it warmed to the 50s and a few lark sparrows sprinkled the soundscape with their buzzy melodies. Western meadowlarks also felt a tinge of spring in the air and let out a few notes as well. Meadowlarks tend to be more cooperative photo subjects when they are singing.

Western meadowlark

Horned larks

I saw many more horned larks during a Thanksgiving visit. They tend to travel in large flocks of 20-100. This was on the small side.

We also saw 10 Bell’s sparrows on the edge of Soda Lake. The heat waves distorted nearly all photos taken at any distance, so I don’t have one of these guys, but the distinctive feature at a distance was their very long tails which they cocked up like a miniature roadrunner when they scurried along looking for seeds.

I ventured out of our count area while the others returned to tally the results. I wanted to look for the mountain plover, which would be a life bird for me. No luck at the areas they had been seen in the past. But I did find this prairie falcon.

Mountain bluebird

Several mountain bluebirds were also in the area, and this one caught the sunlight just right.

The blue was absolutely neon!

Say’s phoebe

Say’s phoebes were also on the prowl, especially as the insects became more active as the sun warmed the landscape.

The roadrunner (beep beep!) had crossed the road in front of me, ran down a dry wash, and back out the other side at high speed.

Carrizo Ranch

There is a private ranch on the Sprague Hill Road, which offered some ribbons of green (alfalfa?) in the still-brown landscape.

Carrizo Plain National Monument Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 29, 2018
Carrizo Plain National Monument Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 29, 2018

Just a reminder: This is one of the public lands whose employees are either furloughed or working without pay. Shutting down the government is a tyrannical abuse of power and shouts “failure!” to those we sent to represent our best interests. Our natural, cultural and social heritage is too valuable and precious to be used as a pawn in power grabs. Pay attention to who and what you support, or these lands will just be another commodity for corporations to exploit. End of rant.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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  1. Patti said,

    great photos I will be going to Carrizo Plains with LA Audubon early Feb. It will be my first time to the area

  2. Carrizo Plain in November | Cindy McIntyre's Blog said,

    […] you compare the landscape along the Sprague Hill Road with the previous post taken a month later, you’ll see how quickly that rain helped to green up the […]

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