Greater Sage Grouse weekend, 4/12-13/08

Observers: Mary & NIck Freeman
Date: 04/15/2008
Time: 12:58 AM -0400

Hi Birders. I led my 17th trip for Los Angeles Audubon this past weekend and it was most enjoyable. The temperatures in the valley were very warm! At one time, 90 degrees was recorded on the valley floor! We had the pleasure of observing a first year Bald Eagle on the Sherman Grade heading north on the 395. It was perched on a rock alongside the highway - good eye Nick!! Another was observed swooping fish out of Lake Crowley. We observed over 70, quite possibly 90 male Greater Sage Grouse at the Crowley Lake lek. Fascinating was watching the males march up to the lek in procession. It reminded me of penguins! Added to this spectacle of displaying males was a Short-eared Owl coarsing the flat sagebrush and grasslands close to the lake. What a perfect sight! The grouse displaying and sparring and the owl flying about with the snow covered Sierra in the background - a most perfect sight. The turn off to the hot springs beyond the road to the lek on Benton Crossing we saw Sage Thrashers. They were heard singing at the lek and a Prairie Falcon zipped by at the lek as well. We came across Pinon Jay at the forest on 120 past the Tuffa Towers at Mono Lake. The area north of Bishop and around Crowley Lake was sure dry as was the forest near Mono. We also saw two Caspian Tern as Benton Crossing curves just past the dump site turnoff. Aspendell had a huge flock of Grey-crowned Rosy Finches at Ken's feeders. A number of Red-breasted Sapsuckers were here too. Sharon Ford reports an aberrant Rosy with lots of brown on the head. A female Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco was a treat behind her house as we also watched Rosy Finches bathing in the stream. At Chalfant Valley, we failed to locate the radio tagged Swainson's Hawks but we saw about 20 hawks along the stretch from the north of Bishop to the last green ag field. A pair was observed mating on the telephone pole!! I've attached a digiscoped photo of this pair, the female is the dark morph. They were screaming to the skies as another pair was flying over head - turf wars! A single Golden Eagle was perched in a tree near a ranch. A single female Common Goldeneye was as at Nik & Nik as were a pair of Short-billed Dowitcher. Finally, the Sooty Grouse this time was found waaaaaayyy up behind the pack station at Glacier Lodge, aka Big Pine Creek Canyon. It was pretty sunny and warm here but we were rewarded with a nice booming male. A Golden Eagle was flying above the ridge in the canyon. Always a pleasure visiting this area this time of the year. We have to return back for a quickie trip as our Jeep's water pump broke Saturday morning. Happy Birding! Mary & Nick Freeman, Glendale, CA

PS. Our trip had another owl species, Western Screech Owl. Two participants heard one calling across from the Bishop Elms Motel Saturday night.

Digiscoped pair of Swainson's Hawk from Chalfant Valley taken Sunday morning