Eastern Sierra PRBO Bird-a-thon 2003!

Observers: Leah Culp, River Gates, Sacha Heath, Justin Hite, Chris McCreedy, Chris Tonra
Email: sacha@prbo.org
Remote Name:
Date: 09/26/2003
Time: 03:22:44 PM


Thanks to all of you who contributed to the second annual Eastern Sierra PRBO birdy-o-thon. A recap of events goes as follows: On the afternoon of September 23, Leah Culp, River Gates, Sacha Heath, Justin Hite, Chris McCreedy, and Chris Tonra headed down to the southern Owens Valley. Our destination: Owens Dry Lake, which is not so dry now due to dust mitigation efforts resulting in shallow flooding. We started our birdy-o-thon timers at 0624 p.m. and set our scopes on a handful of American Avocets foraging in the alkali brine. Not as successful as we had hoped for at this, our first stop, we spotted Long-billed Dowitcher, White-faced Ibis, Savannah Sparrow, Western Sandpiper, Marsh Wren and Audubon’s Warbler nonetheless. We then ate some pizza at “We toss ‘em, they’re awesome” in Lone Pine, trying to avoid the “Arnold for Governor” adds on the big screen, and then thankfully sped South to our campsite on Walker Creek. Walker Creek is an amazing spot. This alluvial fan creek pours out of the eastern Sierra escarpment near Olancha Peak and with its Canyon Live Oaks, Water Birch, Joshua Trees and Creosote, offers some unusual bird habitat for the eastern Sierra. We drove the Gold Oldsmobile and the Blue Scoobaroo up the rocky road and flushed a Common Poorwhill. Throughout the night, various birdy-o-thoners awoke to Great-horned and Western Screech Owls and a pair of Acorn Woodpecker served as our pre-dawn alarm clock. We also observed Spotted Towhee, Lesser Goldfinch, Common Raven, Piñon Jay, House Wren, Sage Sparrow, American Kestrel, California Quail, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub-jay, Gambell’s White-crowned Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Canyon Wren. Our drive back down through the sage and over La Aquedúct afforded Brewer’s Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Loggerhead Shrike, European Starling, Barn Swallow and Rock Wren. Our next stop was Cartago Ponds where we were blessed with 40 new species to add to our growing list. Highlights were Pectoral Sandpipers (3!) and Sabine’s Gull. Also seen: Say’s Phoebe, House Finch, Brewer’s Blackbird, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Western Meadowlark, Killdeer, Cliff Swallow, Virginia Rail, Great-blue Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Eared Grebe, Red-necked Phalarope, Horned Lark, Green-winged Teal, Violet-green Swallow, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Black Phoebe, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Wilson’s Snipe, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Sora, Great-tailed Grackle, Mourning Dove, American Widgeon, Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Duck, and Northern Harrier. Our tummies were rumbling by this time, so we headed to Lone Pine, ate a greasy-spoon breakfast and spotted Turkey Vulture, House Sparrow and Cooper’s Hawk while walking back to the car. We jumped the fence at the Lone Pine “riparian park” and were treated with Downy Woodpecker, Bushtit, American Robin, Yellow Warbler, American Pipit, White-throated Swift, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Grosbeak, and Anna’s Hummingbird. Down at the Lower Owens River / Narrow Gauge road crossing, we saw a Belted Kingfisher and American Magpie and then back-tracked to Diaz Lake for Western Grebe, Red-shafted Flickers, Nuttall’s Woodpecker and Nashville Warbler. The increase in elevation was short-lived and soon we were on the shores of Tinemahahahaha Reservoir where we saw many individuals of Redheads, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Ruddy Duck, and Ring-billed Gull. Also, Osprey, Caspian Tern, Bufflehead, Great Egret, Clark’s Grebe, and Bonaparte’s Gull. The nearby riparian and sage allowed for looks at Red-breasted Sapsucker, Black-throated Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a pair of Wood Duck. The highlight was witnessing the courtship dance of the Western Grebe - A first for many present. We got “skunked” only once, and that was when we sought the elusive Burrowing Owl at the wash south of Independence. It was getting pretty hot down in the low country, so we headed up Independence Creek to Seven Pines and from the road saw Rock Dove, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Northern Mockingbird. Townsend’s Warblers (2) were foraging on the big old Jeffrey Pines. Faint from the heat and the Western Grebe shenanigans, we took a dip in the shallow murky reservoir, but never separated for a minute from our bins. Our last stop in Inyo County was at the Bishop Park, where we missed the Red-shouldered Hawk, but saw Western Tanager, Mountain Chickadee, American Crow and Canada Goose. We crossed the Mono County line, spotted a Mountain Bluebird from the road, and headed up to the pines. The Mammoth Ranger Station puddle and nearby Jeffreys supported many-a-fine sighting and we watched 3 White-headed Woodpeckers clown around, along with Clark’s Nutcracker, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill, Pygmy Nuthatch, Oregon Junco, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper and Hairy Woodpecker. At Dead Man Summit rest stop, we watched a White-breasted Nuthatch drink from a water spigot. With an hour-and-a-half left, we cruised into Lee Vining to see a California Gull and then up to Lee Vining Creek and the intake pond four our final three birds of this great adventure. A Townsend’s Solitaire flew overhead, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet scolded from the willows and in the last final moments, the Water Ouzel burst out in song and dipped its way to become our 127th bird!