Weird Junco and 12 Tunra Swans

Observers: River Gates and Leah Culp
Email: rgates@prbo.org
Remote Name: 209.221.223.151
Date: 11/22/2003
Time: 04:05:21 PM

Sighting

This morning Leah and I headed out to the Mill/Wilson Deltas to complete this year's fall area searches for PRBO (whew, it is cold in the mornings). It is surely getting quiet around here and soon the snows (hopefully) will drive down the Short-eared Owls and Northern Shrikes. On the frozen shores of the Mill Creek Delta, River spied a curious junco hoping around with Song Sparrows and American Pipits. I got a decent look at it although it was avoiding me by slowing moving away as I advanced to get a closer look and the bird was somewhat backlit by the low winter sun. It was all slate gray, with the only white being on the lower belly, undertail coverts and infrequently flashing in the wind indistinct white wing bars. It was a large junco slightly larger in size than a nearby Song Sparrow. I am leaning towards identifying it as a White-winged Junco, but either didn't notice a black face mask or it wasn't there and it was a rare Slate-colored Junco with wingbars (see Sibley). Slate-colored are more regular visitors to the Basin but I think it was a White-winged. It is not mentioned in Gaines, so I was curious if anyone knows how likely White-wings are in eastern California? Oh yeah, we also saw and heard 12 huge and magnificent Tundra Swans, calling frequently in a distinctive high pitched honks and whines.