It seems that each fall report starts by stating that some spectacular birds were seen and this recent fall is no exception. The fall season for birds extends primarily from August through November when most of the birds are heading south but a few begin in Jun (e.g. shorebirds) and finish in Dec (e.g. hawks and warblers).
This fall was noteworthy as three species new to the county list were found, a few very rare species were seen, a sprinkling of rare species as well as an invasion into the lowlands of mountains species rounded out the exciting season.
On 14 Aug, Judy Wickman and Mike Prather of Lone Pine and Bob Hudson of Independence were conducting one of their regular shorebird surveys on Owens Lake near Keeler when they discovered a Pacific Golden-Plover, the first ever for the county. Many observers saw and photographed the bird thanks to Judy and her cell phone.
One month later to the day, 14 Sep, Jon Dunn of Rovana, was leading a birding tour at the same location and discovered Inyo County’s first ever Western Gull. This is a strictly coastal species usually seen within a few miles of shore but this juvenile wandered far inland. The bird remained through the month and many were able to see and photograph it.
On 2 Oct, Noah Hamm from Bishop found a different looking plover at the Bishop Sewer Ponds. He and Chris Howard identified it as an American Golden-Plover a species long overdue for the county as this species has been found north and south of Inyo. It remained into the next day and most local birders had great views of this beautiful juvenile.
All three of these sightings were accepted as scientific records because the initial observers followed the protocol necessary to meet the higher standards by calling other observers, writing descriptions, and photographing the birds. A century from now there will be no doubt in researchers minds as to the authenticity and correctness of the identification.
On 12 Sep, Jo Heindel found an immature male Ruff at Owens Lake near Keeler, the 2nd ever recorded in Inyo. It remained for six days to the delight of many. A Field Sparrow was reported from Furnace Creek Ranch in Oct and, if accepted, could become the 2nd county record. This is a one observer only sighting which makes acceptance a little more difficult. Hopefully the documentation will be excellent. On 14 Oct, Jerry Zatorsky and Chris Howard both of Bishop found the only Pacific Loon for the fall at North Haiwee Reservoir. Recently the species has proven to be of annual occurrence with one or two found each fall. Two Red Knots were reported with one at Tinemaha Reservoir 27 Aug found by Chris Howard and Rosie Beach and one at Keeler 24 Sep found by Judy Wickman, Bob Hudson, and Mike Prather. It was a good fall for the rare Sabine’s Gull with seven reported because in some years we have no reports. On 15 Sep at Deep Springs College Jon Dunn found a Least Flycatcher, the first in a decade for the county, and a Prothonotary Warbler. On 9 Oct, Jo Heindel found a Philadelphia Vireo at China Ranch that was later refound by a group of birders visiting from northwest CA. On 3 Oct, Debby Parker from Bishop, Judy Wickman, and Bob Hudson found a Blackpoll Warbler at North Haiwee Reservoir. During a nine-day period in late August, five Painted Buntings, 4 females and 1 male, were reported with two together in a Big Pine backyard!
And, finally, it has been an exceptional fall for mountain species moving into the lowlands. Observers from all over the Owens Valley are reporting Mountain Chickadees, Steller’s Jays, Western Scrub-Jays, Pine Siskins and Cassin’s Finches at their feeders.Tags: finch, flycatcher, gulls, hawk, loon, owl, plover, sparrow, vireo, warbler