Saw-Whet Owl, Sabine's Gull, and good Sierra birds

Observers: Justin Hite
Email: jmh58@cornell.edu
Remote Name: 65.241.2.134
Date: 09/15/2006
Time: 05:15 PM -0400

At dusk on 9/9 on Harkless Flat in the Inyo Mountains I heard what I'm almost positive was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl. It was a quickly repeating series of hoots, faster than a Pygmy-Owl's call and slower than the trill of a Lesser Nighthawk, and just like the Saw-Whet's I've heard in the Bay Area before. I was at the end of the Forest Service road 10S134 (also called Z2027 on some maps) in the southwestern part of Harkless Flat, at an elevation of 7,500'. It was calling from up on a slope in a small canyon covered in some of the most beautiful old-growth Pinyon Pines and sprawling giant Utah Junipers. Also, more recently, there's been fun birding in the Mono Basin and at the Deadman Summit area. On 9/13 I was in the big Jeffery Pine forests and Red Fir forests above Deadman Pass. About a quarter mile in on 2S10 from Deadman Summit there was a good looking male Williamson's Sapsucker, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and an immature Black-throated Gray Warbler. Further up, at Hartley Springs, there were at least 200 Red Crossbills destroying sappy green Red Fir cones. There was also a second Olive-sided Flycatcher at Hartley and three fighting White-headed Woodpeckers. And there were several mixed species flocks throughout this area with all three Nuthatches, both Kinglets, Mountain Bluebirds, Townsend's Solitaire, and swarms of Audubon's Warblers and Mountain Chickadees. Then on 9/14, there was an adult Sabine's Gull at the Rush Creek delta, mostly hanging out in the little cove just to the east of the river mouth. It's a really good looking bird, with only a tiny bit of the pale head feathers molting in above the eyes. It's fearless you can get right up to it without spooking it. Also 10 Caspian Terns and 4 Marbled Godwit loafing with about a thousand California Gulls at the delta, and several hundred Red-necked Phalaropes (no Wilson's) foraging in the crazy wind swept water with a few Eared Grebes. Earlier in the morning there was a single Lincoln's Sparrow at Old Marina skulking in the willows with dozens of non-skulking Orange-crowned and Audubon's Warblers. And today at about noon I saw a Prairie Falcon fly up Lee Vining canyon while drinking coffe at Latte Da.

Photos Justin Hite