As happens every season, some birds arrive exactly as expected and, happily, some very unexpected birds arrive to add warmth and excitement to our cool months.

The only Pacific Loon of the fall was at Owens Lake 22 Oct while Common Loon was scarce although one at Ruwau Lake, 11,044, on 20 Oct set a new County high elevation record. This was the best year ever for scoters with nine Surf Scoters found throughout the Owens Valley and two White-wing Scoters at Tinemaha Reservoir and Furnace Creek Ranch (FCR). This scoter movement was part of a big picture of their movement throughout the western states. Two Long-tailed Ducks (Oldsquaw) were found. The one seen at FCR on 1 Nov was the first ever reported in Death Valley National Park and the other was found at Tinemaha Reservoir 30 Nov to 1 Dec.

A White-tailed Kite near Blackrock 10 Oct was a surprise. An immature Bald Eagle at FCR 2 Nov was exciting as there are only a few records from there. A Northern Goshawk at South Fork Bishop Creek 2 Sep and an adult Broad-winged Hawk at FCR 1 Nov were unexpected. Nine Merlin and seven Peregrine Falcons caused heart rates to race as fast as they did.

An adult and immature Common Moorhen spent the fall at FCR. Shorebirds provided many stimulating moments when Mountain Plovers were at Blackrock 10 Oct and Owens Lake 11 Oct, Ruddy Turnstones at Owens Lake 28-30 Aug and 23 Sep, many Sanderlings including an amazing 11 at Owens Lake 23 Sep, a Stilt Sandpiper near Independence 25 Aug was the 5th record ever, and two Red Phalaropes at Owens Lake 28 Aug and FCR 11 Oct. Most stunning was a juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger at Owens Lake 19-21 Aug only the 3rd record for the County.

A White-winged Dove spent most of Aug into Sep in Big Pine and a male and female Ruddy Ground-Dove were at FCR. A rarely seen Short-eared Owl was at Owens Lake 22 Oct. Three juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found at Big Pine 19 Oct, FCR 4-7 Oct and 3 Nov. An Eastern Phoebe was at FCR 12 Nov and a Western Kingbird there 6 Oct was the latest ever for Inyo. Two Northern Shrikes appeared at Bishop 28 Oct to present and FCR on 3 Nov.

A Bells Vireo was found in Bishop 4-7 Dec an amazing sighting since the last report for the Owens Valley was in 1976. A Red-eyed Vireo was in Birchim Canyon 21-25 Aug. Two Purple Martins were seen, one at Owens Lake 28 Aug and the other at North Haiwee Reservoir 21 Sep. Remarkable were the Barn Swallows that have lingered into Dec. Five Winter Wrens and three Varied Thrushes brightened the fall. A Gray Catbird was at Birchim Canyon 27 Oct and a Brown Thrasher was at Shoshone 28 Sep. Several Northern Parula were at Birchim Canyon from mid Aug into Sep. Five Palm Warblers were reported after 11 Oct. Among the rare (but expected in very small numbers) warblers were reports of 1 Blackpoll, 2 Black-and-white, 4 American Redstarts and 4 Northern Waterthrushes. Two very rare warblers also joined the crowd, a Mourning Warbler at Birchim Canyon 22 Aug and a Canada Warbler at North Haiwee Reservoir 8 Sep.

Many exciting sparrows were found with up to 4 American Tree Sparrows at FCR 1-30 Nov and up to 3 Clay-colored Sparrows there 29 Sep 5 Nov. However, the sparrow of the fall was a Le Contes Sparrow at FCR 6 Oct. There were the expected reports of 6 Swamp Sparrows, 10 White-throated Sparrows and 1 Harriss Sparrow. Five Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found in FCR and the Owens Valley along with a Painted Bunting in Bishop 5-6 Sep and a male Dickcissel at FCR 29 Sep. Blackbirds added excitement with a Bobolink at Independence 29 Sep, 2 Rusty Blackbirds at Death Valley in early Nov and a very rare Common Grackle at Panamint Springs 3 Nov. Rarely seen Purple Finches were in Rovana 20 Oct, China Ranch 2 Nov and FCR 2-5 Nov. A female Lawrences Goldfinch was at FCR 6 Oct and a male there 11-12 Oct while six colorful Evening Grosbeaks were at Aspendell 12 Oct.

All these reports are the result of many hours of hard work on the part of a number of observers: Rosie Beach, Todd Easterla, Rick Fridell, Jon Dunn, Debbie House, Chris Howard, Bob Hudson, Andrew & Leah Kirk, Guy McCaskie, Todd McGrath, Jim & Debby Parker, Jim Pike, Mike & Nancy Prather, Chris Rintoul, Miko Ruhlen, Zed Ruhlen, Mike San Miguel, Susan Steele, Kevin Wheeler, Kerry Wilcox, and James & Kay Wilson.

Now its time to don our woolens and search for the special expected and unexpected winter birds that will be here!

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