[Tweeters] road trip (out of area/long)

pan panmail at mailfence.com
Sat Jul 20 14:06:11 PDT 2019

As it's possibile some of you may wish to chase these birds, I offer a note of my recent road trip. Feel free to contact me for more details.

9 July, 2019
I arrived at Diamondfield Jack campground (barely in Cassia County, ID) around 1 p. m., and tried to find shade. The first half dozen bird species were not crossbills (one heavily molting Ruby-crowned Kinglet, though), but a few minutes into lunch, I heard some. Small parties flew past over the low, open pines. There has been a lot of “cleaning up” in these woods recently, with many stumps and piles of cut tree parts, but Cassia Crossbills are still frequent. I soon had a few males and immatures in a scope view atop a nearby tree. Later, chasing a few harder to see birds, like Mountain Chickadee, I looked down to see a couple crossbills feeding on fallen cones six feet from me. If I’d fallen over, I’d have landed on them.

There may not be “sciurus” (or Tamiasciurus), but there were ground squirrels and chipmunks. There’s no water at this campground (nor the next), so I camped lower down, across the road from a beaver pond. (The outhouse and your neighbor’s commotion seem the only advantages of the campground.) Investigating splashing around the beaver lodge, I shared mutual surprise with a moose (!). Bonus: Cordilleran Flycatcher, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Red-naped Sapsucker, gray-headed junco, Hermit Thrush, and Calliope Hummingbird. I may have had some other type of Red Crossbill.

10 July, 2019
I again arrived, at the end of the road in Lamoille Canyon (Elko County, NV), mid-day. I leisurely put together my backpack and set out up the two miles of trail. From 8800’ to 9700’. With my walking stick. Slowly (having blown my knees 25 years ago under a backpack). The trail’s gradual and well engineered, but sunny. I dropped my pack near Island Lake under a whitebark pine, and scrambled farther up in the cirque with my scope (to over 10,000’). I spent hours admiring the cliffs and (loud) rushing water from fairly extensive snow fields. A few noisy people left the lake, and I had the place to myself. A few birds were singing, but no galliformes. A couple of passing Golden Eagles probably didn’t help me. As evening progressed, I scrambled back down to eat something and set up camp. A late hiker looked like he knew something as he scanned the cliffs, so I went over to collaborate. I found him some mountain goats (his target), but no new birds.

11 July, 2019
This was the only night of the week with mosquitoes, and they didn’t begin till after midnight. I’d known a half mile up the trail that I’d forgotten the repellent in the car, and had brought neither net nor tent up the mountain, so I struggled with a sheet on my face the rest of the night.

I also didn’t know to which time zone my clock was set, and opted to err on early. So I actually was in position a few hundred feet up the cirque by 3 a. m. rather than a civilized 4. (Thanks, Idaho.) Lovely stars. Loud water. I’d forgotten my binoculars in camp. Dawn came. And sunrise. I heard only the four or five common breeding birds. I was ruminating on how to get myself back up here for the next morning, when around 7 a. m., I saw what looked like about eight pigeons fly in to a high broken rock outcrop just below the snowy ridge. Only there aren’t any pigeons up here. I fixed the spot and got the scope on it. Zooming to about 60x, I had great views of five Himalayan Snowcocks, three adults and two immatures, on near vertical blocky terrain. Four soon calmly walked out of sight behind obstructions, but one adult stood, preened, and stretched for several minutes before also walking around a rock. The better to avoid eagle eyes, I expect. I never heard a peep. This doesn’t match the noisily-fly-down-and-walk-up reports, but I was glad to see them. A younger person might have scrambled higher up the scree and snow after waiting hours yesterday and this morning, but it didn’t look so easy with a scope along. It looks like another several hundred to a thousand feet up to the peaks. (I checked. One of the more accessible is 11,140’.)

I was glad to be reunited with my binoculars, then by 10 my car (having worried about the broken car window glass on the parking lot). Lamoille Canyon bonuses: weasel, marmot, Green-tailed Towhee, Mountain Bluebird, golden-mantled ground squirrel, gray-headed junco, Clark’s Nutcracker, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Fox Sparrow.

12 July, 2019
Having dithered for hours in an air conditioned library in Elko before deciding, I didn’t arrive at Big Sur (Monterey County, CA) till mid-afternoon. Having wasted time at the wrong Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (there are two), then finally getting good information at the nearby Big Sur Station (thanks, Forest Service), I stopped at the spectacular view point at mile 41 on highway 1. I was setting up the scope when a California Condor soared low overhead (!). He spent the next 15 minutes perched on a crag a few tens of feet above the road. I was able to explain and give scope views to a few families before watching him soar off north at eye level over the abyss. I did venture on to the other Pfeiffer park and view points, and may have glimpsed other condors, but none definitive. There’s no place to camp simply around there, so though I’d have loved to have seen other condors, I headed north. Bonuses: redwood-nesting Purple Martins, Acorn Woodpecker, White-throated Swift, Wrentit, Brown Pelican, Red-shouldered Hawk, Big Sur.

(Also along the way, Burrowing Owl, White-tailed Kite, White-faced Ibis, Oak Titmouse, pronghorn, ...) Thanks to those who shared information.

Alan Grenon

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