Seedeater on Steward Lane, Big Pine

Observers: Chris Howard
Email: choward@telis.org
Remote Name: 65.244.205.238
Date: 11/10/2005
Time: 02:08 PM -0500

Yesterday morning (9 Nov 2005) I found a small brownish bird with a short, stubby black bill with a noticeably curved culmen at the end of Steward Lane, south of Big Pine. The bird had no breast streaks, back streaks, wing bars, or obvious facial markings. It wagged its longish tail back and forth. My initial gut instinct said seedeater, but its natural occurrence in California is unprecedented. I also considered Varied Bunting, which has been found a couple times in California, including once in Death Valley in November 1977. 

This morning (10 Nov), Rosie and I refound it at 7AM, and when Jon Dunn got there, his initial impression was seedeater. Tom and Jo also got scope views. Jon and I got some digiscopes. We wondered if it was an escaped cage bird. Tom, Jo, and Jon thought it may have been a hatch year male, potentially in supplemental molt, and if so, why would someone have had it caged and released it? The verdict is still out on which species of seedeater it is and how it got to Big Pine. 

To reach this bird, take Stewart Lane (0.5 miles south on Highway 395 from Big Pine) east to the dead-end at the river. Park and walk north to the edge of the parking lot. It was visible in the weedy thicket along old fence and in the grass and weeds between the old fence and river.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge...

Photos Jon L. Dunn
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Photos Chris Howard
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