Monday, September 12, 2016

Mountain Quail at Columns of the Giants

We took a short trip up the Stanislaus River this afternoon, taking a short hike to the Columns of the Giants. The columns are volcanic in nature, similar to Devil's Postpile, or the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. Along the way, we spotted a new bird (to me). It was fairly large, moving through the underbrush. I thought immediately of California Quail, but I thought maybe we were a bit high for them (a check of the e-bird map confirmed this).
It was only a moment before I realized that I had encountered a covey of at least a dozen of them. Later, I was able to identify them as Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus). Like the California Quail, it is a bird of the far western United States, with a range from northern Baja to the Canadian border and only barely extending into Idaho. Their habitat includes shrubby vegetation in mountainous areas. It has not been reported in my home area in the Great Valley.
They crept slowly up the granite boulders above the trail, and several kept an eye on us from the top of the small ridge. Then they disappeared into the trees, but called out for a while longer. We moved on up the trail.

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