Common Goldeneye, photo by Steve Brad

Another year has passed in the Eastern Sierra and, as always, many interesting birds made their way to our beautiful spot on Planet Earth. For the journal North American Birds, the fall season extends 1 August to 30 November. In reality, southbound migrants begin arriving in June (Wilson’s Phalarope, Rufous Hummingbird, etc.) and extend exceptionally into December (Black-and-White Warbler, Hammond’s Flycatcher, etc.).

The Fall Season broke records because of the dedication of a group of field observers who provided evidence for their “outlandish” claims. The earliest ever Common Goldeneye was photographed at Little Lake 11 September (SKB) and a very late Turkey Vulture, rare after the first week of October, was photographed at Lone Pine 20 November (RDK). Shorebirds of note included Solitary Sandpipers with one photographed at Bishop 7 August (J&DP) and two birds, one photographed, at Deep Springs 7 September (SLS, C&RH), two Sanderlings, one photographed, at Owens Lake 11–17 August (B&SS, C&RH), and Pectoral Sandpipers, at Owens Lake 20 August (C&RH) and Klondike Lake 30 September (T&JH). The only Semipalmated Sandpipers were two birds at Owens Lake 11 August (B&SS). The last water bird was a juvenile Sabine’s Gull photographed at Tinemaha Reservoir 28 September (J&DP, R&NO).

Ash-throated Flycatcher, Photo by Debby Parker

Three dove types of interest were documented. A Band-tailed Pigeon photographed at 10,400 ft near Schulman Grove, White Mountains, 10 August (SLS, R&NO), a White-winged Dove photographed at Lone Pine 8 September (RDK) and a Common Ground-Dove photographed at Deep Springs 27 August (C&RH). Three surprising woodpecker species made appearances with Lewis’s Woodpecker at Aspendell, one bird at 8500ft, a new high elevation record for Inyo County, 30 August (B&SS), eight birds, one photographed, at Lone Pine 30 September (RDK), and eight birds at Furnace Creek Ranch 30 October (MjSM), followed by an Acorn Woodpecker at Aspendell 5 September (B&SS) the northernmost record for the county, and a Northern ‘Yellow-shafted’ Flicker photographed at Furnace Creek Ranch 20 October (C&RH).

A rare-in-fall Dusky Flycatcher was recorded at Deep Springs College (restricted access) 19 September (JLD) and an Olive-sided Flycatcher at Rovana tied the latest record ever for the species on 9 October (JLD). A very late, unexpected after August, Ash-throated Flycatcher was photographed in Bishop 6 October (J&DP) and three Vermilion Flycatchers were scattered throughout the county with one bird at Deep Springs (SLS), one bird photographed at Lone Pine (RDK), and another photographed at Shoshone (C&RH). The only vireo of note was a Red-eyed Vireo photographed in Bishop 20 September (CBG, LSN). There were two Pacific Wrens, one photographed in Bishop 26 September (C&RH, J&DP) and another bird at Aspendell 26–30 November (WHM, B&SS).

Pacific Wren, photo by Debby Parker

It is easy to think that if a migrant is very common in one season, they are likely very common in the other season. That often is the case but not with Swainson’s Thrush. This common spring migrant is very rare in
fall in the Eastern Sierra, thus the one bird at Aspendell 5 September was noteworthy (B&SS).

Blackpoll Warbler, photo by Debby Parker

And then there are the warblers…that colorful family that makes birder’s hearts and legs race. It was an exciting fall with many notable records scattered high and low and far and wide. The rarest was a Louisiana Waterthrush photographed at Shoshone 4 September (JEP) and it’s more common, but rare relative, the
Northern Waterthrush was photographed in Bishop 24 October (J&DP, R&NO). A photographed Black-and-white Warbler remained at Bishop City Park 16 October–5 November (C&RH, R&NO, J&DP, DJH, ADeM) and a photographed Prothonotary Warbler lingered in a Lone Pine yard 21 September–6 October (RDK). On one hike in the Bishop Lake area, 11,4000ft, two highest ever elevation records were set. On the way in a MacGillivray’s Warbler was recorded near the lake 2 September and on the way out an Orange-crowned Warbler was near the same lake 7 September (WDS). Two female/immature male Northern Parulas were recorded with one bird at Lone Pine 30 August (RDK) and another at Furnace Creek Ranch 30 October (MjSM). A Virginia’s Warbler appeared in Rovana 31 August (JLD) and while a regular breeder on the east slope of the White Mountains, the species is only rarely reported in the Owens Valley. An immature male American Redstart was photographed at Coso Junction 28 September (SKB), a very rare Bay-breasted Warbler was photographed at Diaz Lake 18 November (RDK), a late Blackpoll Warbler was photographed at Bishop 16 November (J&DP), and a Hermit Warbler was photographed at Coso Junction 13 October (KHL) tying the latest record ever.

Red-eyed Vireo, photo by Carolyn Gann

Sparrows were well represented with a Clay-colored Sparrow photographed at Furnace Creek Ranch 18 October (C&RH), one Swamp Sparrow at Furnace Creek Ranch 11 November (DS) and another photographed at Pleasant Valley Reservoir 24 November (J&DP). Seven White-throated Sparrows were documented and photographed between 10 October and 25 November and a Harris’s Sparrow was photographed at Furnace Creek Ranch 20 October (C&RH) and was reported there again 30 October (MjSM). ‘Pink-sided’ Juncos were reported at Big Pine 14 November (T&JH) and Starlite, W of Bishop 27 November (DVP, LBH) and a ‘Gray-headed’ Junco, casual in the Sierra Nevada, was at Aspendell 9 November (SLS).

Bay-breasted Warbler, photo by Russell Kokx

Three Summer Tanagers were scattered throughout the county with one at Aspendell 11 August (B&SS), one at Lone Pine 20 August (RDK), and one at Crystal Spring in the Kingston Range 11 September (JEP). Four Indigo Buntings were scattered throughout the Owens Valley, one adult male at Rovana 11 August (JLD), one male at Lone Pine 20 August (RDK), one female Deep Springs College (restricted access) 28 September (B&SS, R&NO), and an adult male at Birch Creek, near Big Pine, 26 November–2 December (JEB). Orioles of note included an immature male Baltimore Oriole at Rovana 18 September (R&NO, JLD) and an Orchard Oriole photographed at Rovana 18 September (JLD, R&NO) and another one photographed at Big Pine 8 October (T&JH), both birds were female/immature male types. Lastly, are a Lawrence’s Goldfinch at Deep Springs 28 September (R&NO) and an Evening Grosbeak in Big Pine 17 November (T&JH).

Black-and-white Warbler, photo by Nancy Overholtz

And a final note for all the thrasherophiles…Rick & Karen Scott’s Curve-billed Thrasher was photographed monthly from August through 23 November!

Kudos to the following bird data gatherers who are leaving behind more than wind-blown rumors of what they saw: [initials alphabetized by first name] ADeM–Al DeMartini, B&SS–Bob & Susan Steele, CBG–Carolyn Gann, C&RH–Chris & Rosie Howard, DJH–Debbie House, DS–Dennis Serdehely, DVP–David Vander Pluym, J&DP–Jim and Debby Parker, JEB–Jan Bowers, JEP–Jim Pike, JLD–Jon Dunn, KHL–Kelli Heindel-Levinson, LBH–Lauren Harter, LSN–Larry Nahm, MjSM–Michael San Miguel, Jr., RDK–Russell Kokx, R&NO–Ron & Nancy Overholtz, SKB–Steve Brad, SLS–Susan Steele, WDS–Dave Shuford, and WHM–Bill Mitchel.

Prothonotary Warbler, photo by Russell Kokx

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