Curve-billed Thrasher, trying to become a resident this past December
photo by Karen Scott

Seldom seen species, as well as earliest, latest, and highest elevations ever, were some of the exciting Inyo County records that were set during the Fall 2012 season. All the data are the result of so many people conducting so many bird surveys and working so hard to follow the protocol and change a personal sighting into a reliable record with evidence that can be reviewed by future researchers. We, and the birds, are indebted to them for pushing the envelope of what we know into the realm of what we don’t know.

Breaking News: the Curve-billed Thrasher, first record ever for Inyo County, has continued since 11 June at Starlite, primarily at Rick & Karen Scott’s residence, through early December. Guy McCaskie, North American Birds editor, said that the bird looked like it wanted to become a resident!

Great-crested Flycatcher, a county first, photo by Debby Parker

Further News is that Jim & Debby Parker found yet another first county record when they crossed paths with a Great-crested Flycatcher in Birchim Canyon 6 September. They immediately got the call out and began taking pictures and although a number of people were there quickly and some spent a couple more days scouring the canyon there were no more views of the bird. While those who ‘missed’ the bird were sad that they didn’t personally get to see the bird in Inyo County, there was an aura of excitement by all that the county snagged another species thanks to the Parkers. We all were thrilled at the convincing images that Debby showed and doubled our efforts to refind the bird…but to no avail. Oh, well, they can’t all be like the thrasher.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, second county record ever, Owens Lake – photo by Bob Steele

Rare Downy X Nuttall’s Hybrid Woodpecker, photo by Kelli Heindel-Levinson

Another great find, the second record ever, was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Owens Lake 30 September when Bob & Susan Steele found and photographed the bird and then called people. When they arrived they also got images and the fact that it remained another day was proven when Debbie House took more images on 1 October. This was a juvenile as was the first one that the Steele’s found and photographed at Owens Lake 26 August 2007. Equally unusual was the second record ever of a Downy X Nuttall’s Woodpecker hybrid that was photographed in the Independence tree lot 28 October by Kelli Heindel-Levinson. Most Nuttall’s hybrids in Inyo County are with Ladder-backed Woodpeckers.

A Canada Warbler was found near Warm Springs Road, southeast of Bishop, 13 October by Carolyn Gann and Larry Nahm. They also got the word out and the others who came, conquered, and collected images for the 9th Inyo County record. Remarkable about this record is that it is the latest of the previous eight records and the first one ever recorded in October.

Bay-breasted Warbler, photo by Debby Parker

The 12th Red Knot record occurred when three birds were found at Owens Lake 16 September by Susan Steele and photographed by Susan and Kelli Heindel-Levinson who found one remaining when she returned a week later. All were juveniles, as they should have been, since adults pass through in July and August with only two birds recorded in spring.

An immature Bay-breasted Warbler, the 18th record, was in Rovana 13 September where it was recorded by Jon Dunn, Jim Parker, and Debby Parker, who was able to get some images. Of the 11 fall records, this is the earliest ever and the first September record. Another 18th record was added when Jim Pike recorded a Least Flycatcher at Surprise Canyon 27–28 September.

Black-throated Blue Warbler at Furnace Creek, photo by Jim Pike

Two Black-throated Blue Warblers were reported this fall becoming the 35th and 36th county records for the species. The first one was an adult female at Furnace Creek Inn 12 September photographed by Jim Pike and was the second earliest fall arrival ever. The other was also a female at China Ranch 14 October recorded by Chris & Rosie Howard that was only the second time the species had been found at China Ranch in October.

The 39th record of a Gray Catbird was at Crystal Spring, Kingston Range in the southeast part of the county, and photographed by Chris & Rosie Howard. Since this was the third record for 14 October, we are considering naming it Catbird Day. At the same location, on the same day, and by the same observers, a Purple Finch, was recorded for the 40th time. It was an immature male practicing the song he will use to woo the females next spring. It, like the catbird, tried to avoid Chris’s camera but identifiable images were obtained to validate that this frequently mis-identified species is a reliable record. The male Prothonotary Warbler recorded at Deep Springs College 3 September by Susan Steele was the second earliest fall arrival ever for the species. The 48th record of a Grasshopper Sparrow was recorded when Curtis Marantz photographed the bird that Andrew Howe found at Furnace Creek Ranch 3 November.

Brown Thrasher, photo by Jim Pike

The 50th record of a Brown Thrasher occurred when Jim Pike photographed the bird 29 September near the Emigrant Ranger Station and the 60th record of a Mountain Plover was recorded on 27 November in southern Bishop when Jim and Debby were able to photograph it and call others who also were able to see and photograph the bird. It lingered through 30 November allowing a number of people viewing opportunities.

Warbling Vireo, a common migrant and summer resident, photographed at Shoshone 3 November by Curtis Marantz for the second latest record ever for that species

How can we ignore the ghostly and graceful White-tailed Kites. Two spent the fall in Bishop and on 3 November three were recorded in the county at the same time…an event that has only occurred once before in the county from December 1994 to March 1996 when a small group was at Fort Independence. Or the Cassin’s Kingbird with 111 records, but on 6 November James & Kay Wilson recorded one near Bishop for the latest record ever. Or the Warbling Vireo, a common migrant and summer resident, that was recorded at Shoshone 3 November by Curtis Marantz for the second latest record ever for that species. Or the House Wren with over 1600 records but none recorded as high as 11,352ft/3461m, which happened when Chris and Rosie Howard noted one near Bishop Pass 4 August.

Inyo County had a truly amazing Fall and as reports were sent in, they were accompanied with notes from the many observers complaining that Fall went by too fast. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen when you are having too much fun?

White-tailed Kites, stunning against the late fall colors this November off Brockman in Bishop

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