The ranch is actually a bird and wildlife sanctuary, with an emphasis on providing nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds such as Western Bluebird, House Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Oak Titmouse, Steller's Jay, and Mountain Chickadee. Our docent was Cin Greyraven, a local biology teacher. She guided us around the property, and as she did her nest box survey, she would show us the baby birds (or eggs) inside. It was quite a treat to be able to see this hidden world of birds.
"Bear Paw Ranch is San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society's 70 acre nature sanctuary, thanks to a generous benefactor. Bear Paw Ranch is at 38801 Valley of the Falls Drive, nestled on the north slope of scenic Mill Creek Canyon at 4,500 feet elevation, surrounded by the towering peaks of the San Bernardino National Forest. A diverse array of habitats provides excellent birding and educational opportunities. Along the creek, alluvial scrub intergrades with alders, sycamores, ash and willows. On the bluff, scrub-oak and chaparral mingle with huge old Coulter pines, black oak and incense cedar." (from San Bernardino Audubon web page)
She explained that handling the birds or eggs will not cause the parents to reject them; birds do not have a highly acute sense of smell. Though it was obvious that some of the parents were upset at us bothering their babies, we would watch them enter the nest box right after we left with food for the chicks.
There was a birdhouse near the front entrance of the ranger's house that had been taken over by a House Wren, and we saw the parents coming and going with food--mostly 1/2-inch long green worms. Around the eaves of the house were numerous hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water (4:1 ratio of water to sugar--the liquid DOES NOT need to be red, and in fact there is some recent controversy that the red dye in the commercial nectar may be harmful to hummingbirds). The feeders were attracting a large number of hummers, mostly Anna's but also a few Black-chinned hummingbirds.
And at the corner of the house was a sign that read "Rattlesnake Crossing"--and lo and behold, there was a Western Diamondback curled up in the grass right below it!
I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story...
Entrance with mountains in background
Feeding station with many customers!
Ash-throated Flycatcher eggs
Western Bluebird hatchling--only a few days old
Western Bluebird babies
Steller's Jay close to fledge (ready to leave the nest)
Nest Box used by Mountain Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee babies
Mountain Chickadee adult with lunch--a yummy spider!
It was a fun morning for the kids and a great morning of birding for me. My complete bird list for this location:
That's 24 species in an hour and a half of birding!