Birds of the Sweetwater Mountains

Observers: Chris McCreedy and Justin Hite
Verification: sierra
Remote Name:
Date: 09/22/2006
Time: 01:27 PM -0400


On the 19th and 20th, Justin and I traversed the Sweetwater Mountains, doing route inventories. The Sweetwaters are stunning, as is the fact that you can actually drive to the top of Patterson, the tallest peak of the range (over 11,500 feet above sea level). The sight of a spaghetti of dirt bike tracks across the alpine fields was saddening The vast majority of the tundra-tracks are illegal, and only established in the last five or six years. But the expedition was big fun, and we saw a few interesting birds. We had an Enid Michael-esque sighting: Within 100 feet of Patterson's summit, we found a Lewis's Woodpecker flapping overhead. After all of these years, I finally saw my first Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. And an interesting sighting: among the Oregon Juncos and Rosy-Finches, we saw a lone, gray-flanked junco with a black face and rufous back. Its call was slightly different than the Oregons, more Savannah Sparrow in tone. We were surprised, we didn't really expect to find a Gray-headed Junco up there. But Sibley's western guide does in fact have a small, disjunct breeding blob mapped for this section of California. Cool - I wonder how he came by that information, who found them out here.