Tundra Swan enjoying the hot springs
Photo by Georg Schampusria

Another Winter season has passed and we are now watching spring migration, one of the most interesting and exciting seasons of the year. OK, each season has its own interesting and exciting avian events! Now that the book is closed on the Winter season, it is always interesting to review what happened with the perspective allowed by looking backwards.

Rough-legged Hawk, photo by Debby Parker

Some interesting events are those that don’t reach the norm or expected, based on more than a century’s data. Many fewer Tundra Swans were reported this winter than normal but the single bird that splashed down among the bathers at the Warm Springs pond in Saline Valley 9 December, and photographed, was a new record for that area (REM). The only Barrow’s Goldeneye reports were an adult male and young male at Tinemaha Reservoir 7 February with the adult remaining through 19 February (T&JH). The only Pacific Loon was at Tinemaha Reservoir 8 December (T&JH) and an unexpected Turkey Vulture was soaring over Big Pine 19 January (T&JH) and another 23 February (RSS). The White-tailed Kite found in fall lingered into early January when photographed (MWR, C&RH) and Rough-legged Hawks, which have been increasingly hard to find, were reported and photographed (DAP) from the north end of Inyo with a maximum of four birds in Round Valley 5 January (SLS).

Vermillion Flycatcher, “caught” by Nancy Overholtz last December in Bishop

Surprising were five Lesser Yellowlegs photographed at Owens Lake 31 December (AMS) and a Short-eared Owl at Round Valley 14-15 December (DJH, JLD). A male Vermilion Flycatcher, lingering from 28 November, continued at the Bishop County Club 15 December when he was joined by a female and photographed by many (C&RH, NJO, SKB, B&SS). Perhaps the find of the season was a “Solitary” Vireo in Bishop 15 December (KNN). The observer felt that it was an eastern Blue-headed Vireo although she said she could not positively eliminate a bright male Cassin’s Vireo. There are just two Inyo records for Blue-headed Vireo, both in fall, and Cassin’s Vireo is fairly common as a migrant. There are no winter records for either species so this is a remarkable event regardless of which species it was. A Pacific Wren was in Round Valley 15 December (JLD) and a Sage Thrasher photographed near Bishop 29 December (J&DP) both species recorded seldom in December.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Owens Lake, Photo by Ali Sheehy

Black-and-white Warbler, photo by Debby Parker

The Amazing Curve-billed Thrasher wintered at Starlite! First found 11 June 2012 by Rick Scott, the bird was photographed 25 February (KBS) and into spring photographed singing on 11 April 2013 (KHL, T&JH). The only longspur reported was a Chestnut-collared Longspur at Bishop 26 December (T&AD) and a Black-and-white Warbler was photographed at Bishop City Park 15 December (BSM, J&KW) reported through 30 December (C&RH, J&DP, and T&CD). The Lark Bunting, found mid November off Sunland in Bishop, was last reported and photographed 17 January (J&DP) and a Sooty Fox Sparrow was photographed in Birchim Canyon 14 December (J&DP). A Harris’s Sparrow was recorded in Round Valley 15 December (JLD) and two birds were in Independence 6 February (JTZ) with one bird remaining to the following day (DJH). There was only one report of a “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco at Millpond County Park, N of Bishop 15 December (JLD), a species that usually garners one to three reports a winter.

Lark Bunting, Photo by Steve Brad

So this recent Winter season was interesting and exciting! And we would have not known just how interesting and exciting were it not for a cadre of competent, cautious, and dedicated observers who write up their claims and submit them, often with images, to present as complete a snapshot view as possible on the avian history of this season in Inyo County. To the following we offer our deepest gratitude for their efforts in compiling a reliable avian database for this past Winter: Steve K. Brad, Tim, Angela, & Collin Dillingham, Jon L Dunn, John & Ros Gorham, Charity Hagen, Bartshe Miller, Todd Vogel, Debbie J. House, Chris & Rosie Howard, Bob E. Mauer, Jr., Kristie N. Nelson, Ron & Nancy Overholtz, Jim and Debby Parker, Rick & Karen Scott, Allison Sheehey, Bob & Susan Steele, James & Kay Wilson, Maggie Wolfe Riley, & Jerry Zatorski.

We solicit your help in making each seasonal report more complete so consider submitting reports of interesting and unusual sightings of rare or very rare species, along with documentation and/or images to tjheindel@gmail.com.

Curve-billed Thrasher, photo by Karen Scott

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