As we transition into winter it is a good time to look back at our recently passed fall and reflect on some of the migrant stars that briefly blessed us with their presence.

It was a good fall for loons with one Red-throated Loon, our rarest with only 6 previous records, at Tinemaha Reservoir on 9 Oct. Also rare is the Pacific Loon so three, 2 at Tinemaha Reservoir and 1 at Intake #2, this fall is exceptional. As expected our Tundra Swans returned on schedule during the first week of Nov with 10 at Tinemaha Reservoir. Bob Hudson, of Independence, found 4 male Ring-necked Ducks at Matlock Lake (10,700′) on 3 Nov to set a new high elevation record for this species. A few Hooded Mergansers were present during November with birds reported from Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley National Park, Klondike Lake and Deep Springs.

Bob Hudson and Andrew and Leah Kirk, also from Independence, continue to observe 2-3 White-tailed Kites in the Fort Independence area. Bald Eagles returned to Inyo on schedule in early Nov at Tinemaha Reservoir. Jim & Debby Parker, of Bishop, had an adult flying over Birchim Canyon near Pleasant Valley Dam. Floyd & Sandy Bero, Bishop, who recently presented a paper at the North American Raptor Association meeting in Minnesota, report an increase in the numbers of Red-shouldered Hawks in the eastern Sierra. A few Merlin and Peregrine Falcons were sighted, most reported from Furnace Creek Ranch and Tinemaha Reservoir.

On 5 October five Sandhill Cranes were photographed at Deep Springs. Two were near Independence in mid Oct (Kirks) and 1 was at Cottonwood Marsh in late Oct (Hudson). The only Mountain Plover was reported from Tinemaha Reservoir 25 Oct.

A few interesting sandpipers made brief appearances with Sanderlings at Owens Lake 6 Sep and Tinemaha Reservoir 28 Sep. Semipalmated Sandpipers were at Owens Lake 6 & 15 Sep. Baird’s Sandpipers were reported from 16 Aug to 27 Oct. Only 2 Pectoral Sandpipers were seen with 1 at Bishop 22 Aug and 1 at Cartago 15 Sep. A rare Red Phalarope was at Keeler 26 Sep.

Two rare species of gulls were found with a Herring Gull at Tinemaha Reservoir 18 Nov and a Sabine’s Gull at Haiwee Reservoir 15 Sep and 1 at Tinemaha Reservoir 9 Oct. A few rare doves were reported with a White-winged Dove at Furnace Creek Ranch 2 Oct, an Inca Dove there 24 October (Richard E. Webster) and 30 Nov, and 2 Ruddy Ground-Doves at Furnace Creek Ranch 21 Oct (Guy McCaskie) and 30 Nov.

Webster found a Burrowing Owl at Panamint Springs 25 Oct. He also found a rare Short-eared Owl at Lee Flat 25 Oct. In mid September a group of 1-7 Long-eared Owls moved back into the tamarisk grove at the northeast corner of Tinemaha Reservoir. A few Anna’s Hummingbirds have persisted into December at the Wilkerson home of Larry & Ruth Blakely and in Big Pine. Woodpeckers of note include several Lewis’ Woodpeckers mostly from the Death Valley area, an Acorn Woodpecker seen there 11 Oct by Mike San Miguel, and a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Tollhouse Springs 29 Oct.

A few Varied Thrushes were seen in the Death Valley area during late October & November. A Gray Catbird was found 2 Oct at Furnace Creek Ranch by Matt Heindel and a Brown Thrasher at Panamint Springs 26 Sep by McCaskie. These two species are from the eastern US.

Orange-crowned Warblers have lingered into December in moderate numbers. Most amazing was the latest Yellow Warbler ever seen in Inyo County! Debby Parker found this bird in north Bishop and notified others who were able to enjoy this record setting bird. It was present, at least, from 6-9 Dec. A very late Nashville Warbler was found at Furnace Creek Ranch 24 Oct by Webster. The Kirks found a tail-less Chestnut-sided Warbler at Ash Creek 22 Oct. Michael A. Patten, California Bird Records Committee secretary, found a Magnolia Warbler at Furnace Creek Ranch 23 Sep and 4 days later McCaskie saw another nearby. A Black-and-white Warbler spent 26 Aug at Deep Springs and a female American Redstart was at Birchim Canyon 30 Sep and 1 Oct (Parkers). A handful of Northern Waterthrushes were scattered at Furnace Creek Ranch, Bishop, Haiwee Reservoir & Glacier Lodge.

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was at Panamint Springs 26 Sep (McCaskie) and another in Big Pine 9 Oct. Hudson had a Clay-colored Sparrow at Cottonwood Marsh 5 Nov and 3 Black-throated Sparrows remained at Scotty’s Castle to the late date of 30 Nov. A very rare Sharp-tailed Sparrow, only the 4th county record, was found at Furnace Creek Ranch 27 Sep by McCaskie. Three Swamp Sparrows were in Death Valley during Oct. About 10 White-throated Sparrows were scattered over the county from 26 Sep and a Harris’ Sparrow was at Furnace Creek Ranch 21 Oct (McCaskie)

A Lapland Longspur was at Stovepipe Wells 30 Nov and about two dozen Chestnut-collared Longspurs were reported from Death Valley, Panamint Valley, Deep Springs and the Owens Valley. The only Bobolinks reported were from Deep Springs. A Lawrence’s Goldfinch was found in Independence 1 & 2 Sep by the Kirks.

So it has been a very interesting ornithological fall for Inyo County. Bring on winter!

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