Thursday, January 22, 2009

Local Birding Resources

The weather was mild on Monday. We were down in the South Bay, and went roving towards Saratoga. Not sure what we'd find open on a Monday holiday.

We were in luck for a great booking resource, the Book-Go-Round, a used bookstore benefiting the Saratoga Library. They had a used copy of The Birders Handbook, a volume recommended by the ranger at Baylands in Palo Alto. (It may still be there since we already had a copy. Just a sample of what's to be found there, at greatly under market prices.)

We were aiming for the Picchetti Winery, one of those wonderful secret places tucked around the bustling Bay Area, where you suddenly step back in time. It's an old family operation from the 1890s, set in verdant foothills, with wild peacocks roaming the grounds. And the wine's good; the sort of clean, meant-to-go-with-food quality that makes me think honest winemakers have been at work here. Not just gaming the Wine Spectator's numbering system. What's a local drinkavore?

Taking a wrong turn--we were feeling somewhat random---we wound up on McClellan Avenue, rolling into the foothills. As we passed some tidy red farm buildings, a sign caught my eye. "Turn around, Dear! The Audubon Store is open today too!"

Formally known as The Nature Shop, the store is operated by SCVAS, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. It's not for birders only. There's a grand selection of relevant books and other items in a compact space. And a newly planted garden of native plants at the doorstep.

We found a second deck of cards featuring local birds. We'd found a deck with shorebirds at the Redwood Trading Post in Redwood City; the Nature Shop had the inland birds deck too. The art work on the cards is excellent. We admit to using them as flashcards rather than playing cards. We've had fun sorting the birds by size as we attempt to refine our birding expertise.

When we saw the joker in the shorebird deck was the Night Heron, we knew kindred spirits were at work. Night Herons, at least when we see them in the afternoon, often have the look of someone who craves a cuppa joe and a cigarette to face another day. (The Turkey Vulture is the joker in the inland deck.)

McClellan Ranch is quite an operation on its own. Lots of trails and UC Extension gardens. Nicely signed. Few birds to report for the afternoon -- the winery peacocks were in seclusion molting. Some largish white predator was hovering in midair above 280 in the twilight: perhaps an owl? 280 may be the world's most beautiful freeway, as it proudly signs itself, but it's no place to slow down for drive-by birding.

McClellan Ranch Park
22221 McClellan Road
What is now an 18-acre natural preserve park used to be a horse ranch during the 1930s and 40s. The site houses a nature museum and community garden. Also, preserved on the property are the original ranch house, milk barn livestock barn, a replica of the Baer's Blacksmith Shop that was originally located at De Anza and Stevens Creek Boulevards, and the old water tower from the Parish Ranch which is now the site of Memorial Park.