Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

East of the Sierras in California

After a breakfast at the only eatery in Big Pine that opened early, we drove up Big Pine Creek to a grove of Jefferies Pines, those pines whose bark smells like vanilla.  This is the location where Gene Cardiff showed me my life Blue Grouse, now the Sooty Grouse.  After a brief period of re-orienting, we headed up a trail that led to a nice grove of pines.  We did some serious scanning of limbs, but no grouse was seen or heard.  We came back to town, packed up, and checked out of our motel.  We grabbed the pieces of a picnic lunch and drove east up the road to Westgard Pass.  We passed our intended stop and had to turn around and go back down the hill to Tollhouse Spring.  There was an amateur herpetolist, Gary Nafis, there who has a fine California herp website.  Gary told us he'd heard Chukars not too long before we arrived.  We told him that's why we stopped and that's what we were interested in seeing.  Very soon after, they called and it wasn't long before we had about nine birds up on the rocky hillside, calling and jumping around.  It was a welcome sight (web photo).  We then drove on up the road to the Bristlecone Pine grove and a fine view of the Sierras across the Owens Valley while we finished our picnic lunch.  Then it was on to Lee Vining, the gateway to Yosemite NP, where our early arrival there helped us secure a room for the night in this tourist spot.  After some computer work and a shower, we had dinner in one of three places to eat.  Lee Vining is also on Mono Lake, a large basin fed by fresh water, but which is losing depth through evaporation and because Los Angeles is withdrawing water at a faster pace than the replenishment rate.  We went down to the lake which is a major breeding site for California Gulls, Wilson's Phalaropes, and some Eared Grebes.  It is a major fall stopover location for over a million Eared Grebes.  Quite a spectacle!  After the sun went down, we went looking for Poorwills again.  But this time we succeeded in hearing several and seeing a couple on the road (web photo).  We headed back to the motel much happier than last night.  Tomorrow we cross through Yosemite NP looking for Sooty Grouse starting from the Tioga Pass entrance.  The two new birds today brought the total to 640.


  1. Hey Bob - Yosemite is the only place I've seen Sooty Grouse. It was on the east slope, well to the east of the Chevron Meadows area, but before you get to where you can see the Mono basin (not much for directions! that was 20 years ago). Fond memories of that hike and others - Williamson's Sapsucker is such a beautiful bird. Good luck today, guys!!

  2. Hey Bob - I looked down the list of 'missing' birds and noted that White Wagtail is not yet checked off. Didn't you guys see a few of those on your first day or so at Gambell? Most of the 'missing' birds are still in play (not sure about Kittlitz's Murrelet or Whiskered Auklet in fall, but I assume they're possible). In 1996, I actually missed Blue-winged Warbler in the state - they migrate out fairly early in fall, and I hadn't gotten one in spring or summer. Have you seen/heard one yet? It hasn't been checked off. Maybe Dr. Spahr could call one up in his neighborhood when you get back! Henslow's Sparrows are easy through early July around the arsenal in Dublin, Va., but you have to get special permission.