Wild Life at the Historic Park

The creek crossing is a terrific spot for Virginia Rail and Sora. Both of these birds are secretive skulkers, most often identified by their calls rather than by sight. The term "thin as a rail" derives from this group of birds, because they are narrow in order to slip through cattails and tules. The park is also a reliable spot for Phainopepla, the only American example of a group of birds called Silky Flycatchers. This bird is glossy black, with a Cardinal-like crest. They often associate themselves with one of their favorite foods -- mistletoe. They frequently fly back and forth from the park to the golf course, with its abundant mistletoe crop. This area is very near the northern terminus of the Phainopepla's usual range, making it an important stop for birders.


Virginia Rail


Sora


Phainopepla

The park is very productive for birders for several reasons: the presence of water in a dry landscape among them. Also, "ecotomes" or "suture zones" are very productive for wildlife. These are areas where markedly different habitats border one another -- even like the edge of a parking lot in a woodland. Species that prefer each type of habitat tend to clump up in these areas. Consider the park, with chaparral spilling down slope to a watered, landscaped area featuring native and non-native plant species. That, in turn, is bordered by freshwater wetlands, which in turn are bordered by gravelly barrens.

Seen either here or nearby are deer, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, an occasional bobcat, and wild pigs.

 

An Excerpt from "Birder's Guide to Northern California"

"Birder's Guide to Northern California", by LoLo and Jim Westrich, published by Gulf Publishing Company.

It could well be said that this park, which lies about 6 miles south of Hollister and near the historic little settlement of Tres Pinos, is one of the best-kept secrets in the state of California. But local birders, who know it well, come often to San Benito County Historical and Recreation Park.

Although plans for enhancement are in the works, none of these include diminishment of the wilderness ambiance that renders the area so attractive now. If and when overnight campsites are developed here, they'll be for environmental camping only.

This is not to say that this day-use park bears no signs of civilization whatever. It does have 25 fine picnic sites, modern restrooms, an interesting and historically significant display of fascinating old farm equipment (put together by the San Benito County Historical Society), and a loop trail from which birding is excellent.

Seen in the park are American Goldfinch, Black Phoebe, Anna's Hummingbird, Steller's Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Wood-Pewee, California Quail, White-crowned Sparrow, Hermit Thrush and California Towhee.

Anyone desiring further information about this park or about the nearby San Justo Reservoir (a good place to see grassland birds and waterfowl) should contact the San Benito County Parks Department, at 3220 Southside Road, Hollister, CA  95023.