California, USA – Week 2 (1 August – 8 August 2016)

Before we arrived in California, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After spending two weeks here, so far, it had been amazing for birds though a little bit tough to find them in this quiet period after breeding when many birds stop singing and disburse from their breeding sites. The views have also been really amazing especially in Yosemite NP.

On Tuesday 2 August 2016 we spent our second day at the stunning Yosemite NP. The park was the first one set up in the USA 150 years ago. This time we took the higher road stopping at Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, which were stunning. We had the added bonus that there were a lot fewer people in this area and loads more birds. The best bird of the day was Mountain Bluebird, which was scarce after they had finished breeding and feeding young.


Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Mountain Bluebird at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Mountain Bluebird at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Although there were very few African American people at this park (maybe because it was midweek and it has a relatively high entrance fee of $30) we met a lovely young African American Ranger, who was really inspiring.

That day, in the late afternoon, we left Yosemite NP on the northeastern road and dropped into Lee Vining in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, with its surrounding canyons and the huge Lake Mono. We had very little knowledge about the birds in this area but went into a tourist information shop where we met staff who were very knowledgeable on local birds and so left with a plan for the following day.

On Wednesday 3 August 2016 we set out early. Our first stop was Bodie, now a ghost town, but in the time of the gold rush a huge town. On the way, we saw a stunning Pinyon Jay.  We saw our target birds, 5 Sage Grouse which were hiding under a building, as well as having a look around this interesting place.


Greater Sage Grouse at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Pinyon Jay on dirt road to Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Chris Craig at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Clark’s Nutcracker at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Sage Thrasher at  Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Next was Mono Lake where we finally caught up with American Avocet but several hundred of them. It was another hot day but we still spent the afternoons at some small pools, which were like a little oasis with lots of fabulous birds including Yellow-headed Blackbird and Virginia Rail.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


American Avocet at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bewick’s Wren at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Northern ‘Red-shafted’ Flicker at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Thursday 4 August 2016 in the morning we visited Lundy Lake and Canyon which were stunning. We were still in the eastern Sierra Nevada and it was great to see the Beaver dams along the river. There was still no sign of American Dipper but we saw lots of fantastic birds including Townsend’s Solitare.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Then in the afternoon, we birded at Lee Vining Canyon where we did see a gorgeous Red-breasted Sapsucker.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Red-breasted sapsucker at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Red-breasted sapsucker at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photography copyright Mya-Rose Craig

From here we drove south to stay the night in Lone Vining, famous for the concentration camp that Japanese Americans were kept during WW2 and for Hollywood westerns being filmed nearby.

On Friday 5 August 2016 in the morning, we woke up in the little town of Lone Pine in the Southern Sierra Nevada. We visited a local overgrown field as we had heard of a couple of birds seen from there. There, we bumped into a local birder, Russell Kokx, who was a biologist. He was really kind and friendly, showing us the birds on his local patch, around town and two new hummingbirds for us on his feeders at home. It was an amazing morning to have seen these birds and met Russell and so a big thank you.


Russell Kokx, Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Helena Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Anna’s Hummingbird  at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Anna’s Hummingbird at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Black-chinned Hummingbird at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

From Lone Pine, you could see the view to Mount Whitney, which is around 4,300 meters and is the highest peak in the lower 48 (states).


Mount Whitney from Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then spent the afternoon birding en-route south, in the heat. One stop was at Cactus Flats with lots of Joshua Trees, where we saw Cactus Wren

We also stopped at Diaz Lake and then Isabella Lake where we saw Tri-coloured Blackbird.


Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet at Diaz Lake, California
Photography copyright Mya-Rose Craig

The last stop was Sequoia National Forest South of Lone Pine, which was absolutely beautiful and this was where we finally saw an American Dipper. It was another hot day and so it was great to celebrate our newest bird by hanging our legs in the cool water.


Sequoia National Forest , California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Sequoia National Forest, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Sequoia National Forest, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Friday night we stayed in the town of Bakersville. After 10 days in California, we had seen 178 birds and 103 of them have been new for me, taking my world list to 4,342.

On Saturday 6 August 2016 in the morning, we left Bakersville and stopped west of Mount Piños. Here we saw a Horned Lark as well as lots of oil derricks. It was really hot, so there was virtually no bird activity.


Derricks. West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Derricks. West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Horned Lark West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then headed up to the top of Mount Piños, seeing 7 Californian Condor on the way. The best bird of the day was definitely White-headed Woodpecker.

On Sunday 7 August 2016, we spend our second day at Mount Piños, which was an excellent day of birding. The best bird of the day was Mountain Quail.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Next, we drove to Ventura on the coast, West of LA, where we stayed the night. We were in planning to get a boat the next morning from Ventura to the tiny island of Santa Cruz for a very special bird.

We started the day on Monday 8 August 2016 by birding on the beach at Ventura before visiting the Settling Pools. These were great and we saw birds like Wood Duck there.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Wood Duck at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then got a boat to Santa Cruz Island where we saw the best bird of the day, the endemic Island Scrub-jay.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Island Scrub-jay at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

That evening we walked along the beach at Ventura and caught this stunning sunset. We also saw and photographed Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs and Elegant Tern. It would be amazing if one of these turned up on my local patch at home.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Snowy Plover at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Willet and Marbled Godwit at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Lesser Yellowlegs at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Elegant Tern at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

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