On the road from San Jose to Los Banos we started seeing raptors as soon as we got south of town and off the major highways. Our first serious stop was the rest area on highway 152, which yielded the Greater Road Runner we had been looking for in Panoche on the previous day. We also had nice looks through the scope at waterfowl far below on the reservoir.
1000 to 1100
We stopped in Los Banos for a pit stop and then headed toward the Merced National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). We didn't even exit the McDonald's parking lot before seeing over a dozen Cattle Egrets, our second life bird of the day. We spotted quite a few raptors on power poles and other birds on fences while en route to the NWR.
1100 to 1400
We spotted a wonderful Great Horned Owl just as we turned into the Merced NWR on our way to the parking lot. After pausing to look over the water from the parking lot, we slowly wound our way through the auto tour route, using walkie-talkies to relay information back and forth between cars. Although we didn't see the vast flocks of geese and cranes one might hope for, we did see some excellent ducks and raptors.
1400 to 1630
We decided to try our luck at the nearby San Luis NWR, where another auto tour route took us right past a lovely American Bittern. Some stubborn folks tracked a high altitude soaring raptor, which turned out to be a Bald Eagle.
1630 to 1700
We decided to squeeze in one last stop at the San Joaquin dam, where we enjoyed the sunset and scanned our scopes across the water. A restful end to a very full day.
Throughout the day we saw some excellent mammals and farm creatures, including: