Friday, March 18, 2016

Wildflower Birding

Beautiful and descriptive are the names of California Spring Wildflowers - Tidy tip - Goldfields - Buttercup - Baby blue-eyes.

At 9:00 this morning joined three friends for a ride into the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo County - destination Shell Creek (above) and Bitterwater Road, areas know for beautiful displays of spring wildflowers.  

After a beautiful ride through the countryside we arrived at Shell Creek.  Goldfields and precious Tidy Tips (above) carpeted both sides of the road.  Along the edge of the road, Buttercup, Baby blue-eyes, and tiny white Popcorn Flowers.   

Perched by a water trough were White-crowned Sparrow and Say's Phoebe.  Counted 5 Raven. Always a treat to see Ravens, as they are rare along the coast.  Two were involved in nest building - Meadowlark sang continually. 
Bitterwater Road is located between Hwy 58 and Hwy 46.  It is rural except for a huge solar farm.  The wildflowers were about 1/2 way (20 miles) between 58 and 46.  Mustard the primary flower; was spectacular.  We pulled off the road for photos and lunch. (above) A small bird was singing a song I did not recognize.  It was a Horned Lark, only the second time I had seen this little beauty. 
We were getting ready to leave when a pair of raptors were sighted soaring on the thermals.  In a few moments one flew directly over our heads.  It was close enough to get a good look at, even without binoculars.   Oh my gosh it was a Ferruginous Hawk!
  (Photo by local wildlife photographer, Roger Zachary.)
The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is the largest of the North American Buteos* and is often mistaken for an Eagle due to its size and behavior; it is known as a most efficient hunter.  For example, the hawk will stand on the ground at a rodent burrow after initially locating it from the air.  As the burrowing animal reaches the surface, the hawk rises into the air and pounces upon it even while the animal is still underneath the earth. 

*Buteo - a bird of prey of a group distinguished by broad wings that are used for soaring.

As we headed home we were in total agreement that our Wildflower Birding day had been perfect.  We did stop one more time to photo the Black Angus Cattle feeding in a field of flowers.