Sage & Blue Grouse & more

Observers: Mary Freeman
Remote Name:
Date: 04/10/2006
Time: 10:18 AM -0400


Hi everyone I led my Owens Valley trip for the 15th year for Los Angeles Audubon Society this past weekend and what a memorable weekend we had! We saw 104 Greater Sage Grouse on the Crowley Lake lek. The usual road in has very deep snow. We came across two guys in a 4x4 Wrrangler and said the entry way now was the road before the swimming pool and it meanders past the corrals which puts you back to the road to the lek parking area. This would be going eastbound from 395 on Benton Crossing Road. Very, very few females on the lek. A wonderful show. Highway 120 east from the south Tufa Towers was closed so we missed the woodpecker species in the Jeffrey Pine forest. We even asked a CHP officer at the parking lot about the gate and said had he a key, he could have let us enter. He was taken by our mission. Saturday morning we had a lovely flock of Grey-crowned Rosy Finches at Aspendell and for the second time in 15 years, Evening Grosbeak! They were concentrated at Ken's house (the former Wallace home). At Nik & Nik springs we had Bank Swallow. In Chalfant Valley, the Swainson's Hawks put on a spectacular show. We had six birds in the sky. All birds were displaying in the skies over the highway. They were stooping and showing off their feet to one another! One pair, one of the birds was on a pole calling (a weaker and abbreviated Red-tailed Hawk-like scream) with the other overhead making aerial displays and calling which to me was like a Grey Hawk's call. One Swainson's sat on a fence pole yards from the highway and a few participants had excellent photos of the bird . Ferruginous Hawk are still in the area. We also had Prairie Falcon. Sunday we had a single visual Blue Grouse at the base of the south side of the canyon directly across the Upper Sage Flat campground entrance. We parked along the road and walked cross the stream bridge to the base of the hill. Another great show! Then at Tollhouse Springs, the Chukars put on a show for us. Two birds (couldn't sex them) had the most violent fight! One bird hopped on the other bird pulling out neck feathers and both were on the backs at time kicking each other with more feather ripping. One bird (maybe the dominant bird of the group?) pushed the other over rocks which sent it tumbling and falling over the rocks. This went on for almost 30 minutes. Why the bird bullied the other and why that bird never flew away, we were puzzled and shocked at the violent behavior! At MP 31 on the Westgaard Pass road, we had even more Evening Grosbeaks and Juniper Titmouse and Pinon Jays. The weather was just perfect, great group, spectacular scenery and fantastic birds. A great way to celebrate 15 years of leading this trip! We had a triplist of 104 species. Happy Birding! Mary & Nick Freeman