[Originally appeared in the Sierra Wave newsletter, Vol. 28, No. 1, Sept-Oct 2009 – click here for original with photos]
Many of the older birders said they could not remember a spring like this one for decades, while the younger ones experienced for the first time an abundance of rare birds that were being seen on an almost daily basis. They had heard tales about how-itused- to-be but couldn’t really imagine the magnitude described based on their experiences with what they knew as a “normal” spring. This past spring made believers out of most of them as they ran from one rare bird to another!
A “good” spring can be loosely defined as one with a handful of birds not seen on a regular basis in the county and maybe one species so rare in the state that it requires review by the California Bird Records Committee. This spring produced 41 species that are considered rare (seen in very small numbers at least 7 out of 10 years) or casual (seen 6 or less out of 10 years) and four birds that are so rare in the State they are undergoing review before the records are added to the California list. Thirty of the species were photographed and the rest were adequately documented to convince those who didn’t see the bird that it could not have been anything else.
Those awaiting official acceptance by the CBRC are a photographed (MF, JLD, T&JH) Glossy Ibis at Nik & Nik Gravel Works, north Bishop, 19 April (JLD); a photographed Yellow-throated Warbler at Bishop 30 April (J&DP); a photographed (RJS) immature Mississippi Kite at Mesquite Springs, DVNP, 23 May (VH); and a photographed (RJS, CBH) White-eyed Vireo at Aspendell 31 May (B&SS). The Glossy Ibis will be the first record ever for Inyo County while the Yellow-throated Warbler will be the 8th, the Mississippi Kite the 18th, and the White-eyed Vireo the 4th.
There also was a surprising number of species unexpected in spring in Inyo that were recorded. One Pacific Loon at Owens Lake 25 May (KHL) was the 2nd spring record ever. One Arctic Tern at Owens Lake 30 May-1 June (WDS) was the 2nd spring record ever. Two Lapland Longspurs at Owens Lake 18 Apr (B&SS) was the 3rd spring record ever. One Red-necked Grebe at Klondike Lake 29 Apr-2 May (T&JH) was the 5th record ever. One Heermann’s Gull at Klondike Lake (T&JH) was the 5th record ever.
The list of rare species, not unexpected but always a pleasant surprise, was lengthy. A Common Moorhen was at Buckley Ponds, Bishop (J&DP); a Herring Gull at Owens Lake (JLD); Least Terns at Klondike Lake (DJH), Tinemaha Reservoir (RJS), and Grimshaw Lake, near Tecopa (SG); Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling & a few Baird’s Sandpipers at Owens Lake (JLD, B&SS); Band-tailed Pigeon at Aspendell (B&SS); White-winged Doves at Furnace Creek Ranch, DVNP, (C&RH), Bishop (J&DP), and Pearsonville (L&CL); Black Swift near Big Pine (NJO); White-headed Woodpecker at Pine Creek (J&DP); Cassin’s Kingbird at Bishop (JLD), a species seldom reported in the last few years; Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Death Valley Junction (SG); immature Northern Shrike near Bishop (J&DP); Tennessee Warbler in Bishop (C&RH); three Black-andwhite Warblers at China Ranch (DJH), Bishop (J&DP), and Deep Springs (B&SS); two American Redstarts at Deep Springs (KHL) and Bishop (J&DP), a singing male Prothonotary Warbler at Birchim (J&DP); two Northern Waterthrushes at Deep Springs (C&RH); Harris’s Sparrow at Big Pine (T&JH); one Dark-eyed “Pinksided” Junco at Big Pine (T&JH); six Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and 12 Indigo Buntings from mid to late May; a Dickcissel at Mesquite Springs (PC); male Bobolink at Death Valley Junction (PC); Bronzed Cowbird at China Ranch (JEP); four Evening Grosbeaks at Big Pine (T&JH); two Bell’s Vireos at Big Pine (T&JH) and Wyman Canyon (fide KHL, T&JH); and six Summer Tanagers!
A cursory look at the distribution maps of these species in your field guide will illustrate just how amazing this spring was. It is one that those who took part in will never forget and they will share their stories over and over. Nothing like redemption for us oldtimers!
Cited observers: Peter Colasanti, Jon L. Dunn, Mary Freeman, Steve Glover, Tom & Jo Heindel, Debbie J. House, Chris B. & Rosie Howard, Vern Howe, Kelli H. Levinson, Leslie & Cindy Lieurance, Nancy J. Overholtz, Jim & Debby A. Parker, Jim E. Pike, Bob (R.J.) & Susan Steele, W. Dave Shuford and 17 others who shared in this exciting avian event.Tags: dove, flycatcher, grebe, grosbeak, gulls, junco, kingbird, longspur, loon, pigeon, sandpiper, sparrow, thrush, vireo, warbler