Monday, September 5, 2011

Paramount Ranch, 28th August 2011

Having been requested to plan a weekend by my parents, and have them say "Oh, let's go to x place" as soon as we get into the car, I was not very optimistic about visiting this location, especially as it was effectively as much a tourist destination as Disneyland, which you may know is not remotely nature based.
Paramount Ranch was a filming venue for a number of films and TV shows (even today in 2011), functioning as the stereotypical "Old West Town".

It was supposedly very close to where I was staying, and when we crossed the bridge over the highway and took a very little road up into the hills, we understood this fact (it didn't even take 5 minutes to get there) very clearly. The habitat was not so much the chaparral that I am used to visiting, but more of what is known as "Oak Savannah" which is virtually dry plains with oak trees and the odd shrub. Despite this relatively new habitat (just as dry and hot as chaparral canyon habitats) I did not expect to find anything different here.

Driving past the entrance into the car park I saw what seemed to be ravens perched on the post, but they were bald around the neck, and sitting so still I had to check they were actually real. There were three birds in total, all missing neck feathers, and all with their beaks open a bit (this is something I've noticed a lot in birds around here; assuming its heat that causes this behaviour).

In the car park I saw a Chequered White (a male) and a few California Ground Squirrels.

The entrance was a bridge over a little river, bordered on all sides by riparian tree species. I heard a Yellow Warbler in here but could not locate it. There was nothing on the river here, but I was certain Night Herons made a pass by here. Across the bridge perched on the fence was yet another partly bald Raven.

As we entered the "ranch" itself I heard a familiar call in the only oak tree in the town itself; an Acorn Woodpecker. This specific woodpecker is apparently common in this area but I have never seen or heard one in real life before (I had remembered the call from a recording on a site). After a very thorough search I eventually managed to find it sitting very quietly on a branch. Note that its beak is open not because its calling (I never actually saw it call) but because I am assuming its hot like the Ravens.

At the back of the town were two seperate patches of white-barked Eucalyptus trees. I could have sworn they were imported from Australia, but it seems they are a natural occurence here. A White-breasted Nuthatch was foraging up the tree halfway, then coming down again (Nuthatches are some of the only birds that forage downwards, except for Sittellas and a few other foreign birds I am not aware of no doubt). Trying to get good shots was frustrating, as when I followed it just hopped around the other side of the tree no matter what direction I walked in (this sort of thing is definately meant for a cartoon). I spent about seven minutes chasing it but in the end I gave up, not that I needed a picture anyway. A last look around here found a female Yellow Warbler and a Black Phoebe.

At this point I started hearing a bird call that I have been noticing rather frequently, but never been able to identify. I managed to locate the bird's position in a (especially) dense oak tree, and saw it fly out, but again I could not get a look at it. The call was much like the Least Flycatchers (often described as "que-bec", but it more sounds like "ch-pi") I heard, but never saw (one of the "easiest to see birds", too), in Alberta. The only flycatcher in these parts is the Pacific-slope, but I was not sure from my far off flight shots if this even was a flycatcher. It flew very high for one thing.

The same bird returned a few times, each time in a very high oak tree with way too many leaves. A single wing was the most I saw. If it wasn't for a single House Finch standing in the same area it was , maybe I would have seen it better.

Between then and leaving, I saw a flock of Rock Doves casually fly over the horizon. I had not yet got a picture of this species so I made sure to take a record shot just for the, well, record. Strangely, these birds had peculiar patterning. The primaries and most if not all of the secondares were black, and the remainder pale grey; not a colouration typical, if ever present in Rock Doves. All of the birds in the flock shared this patterning. My suspicions of a certain pigeon species were confirmed when I compared the wing pattern in the photos to that of the Band-tailed Pigeon which it matched perfectly. I was glad to finally pick up this bird.

List courtesy

Period: 8/28/2011
List: 91124
List Status: Published in Atlas
Observer: James Bailey
Notes: Also seen: California Ground Squirrel and male Chequered White.
Species: 12

SpeciesScientific NameCountComment
Anna's HummingbirdCalypte anna1 
Acorn WoodpeckerMelanerpes formicivorus2In large oak tree in center of 'town'.
Nuttall's WoodpeckerPicoides nuttallii1 
Black PhoebeSayornis nigricans  
Western Scrub-JayAphelocoma californica  
American CrowCorvus brachyrhynchos  
Common RavenCorvus corax  
Oak TitmouseBaeolophus inornatus  
White-breasted NuthatchSitta carolinensis1In the white eucalyptus on the northern side (close to the undercover area with many tables where the banjo concert is held).
Yellow WarblerDendroica petechia2Male & female both seen.
House FinchCarpodacus mexicanus  

Band-tailed PigeonPatagioenas fasciata6Single flock over car park. Assumed Rock Dove at first, but colouration on top of wings was wrong.

Band-tailed PigeonPatagioenas fasciata6Single flock over car park. Assumed Rock Dove at first, but colouration on top of wings was wrong.

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