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Monday, December 02, 2013

Birdie Day!

I'm back in California, and happily, that horrid cold I had in Baltimore is now just a virus ridden memory. As today seemed like a good day for some birding, my birder buddy Don drove over from the Bay Area and we hit the road for Tahoe. It was nice and cold - as in, as cold as you can get without being snowed on. What with the cold and all, I was loath to get out of the car so there aren't as many photos for today's jaunt as I would like.  very close to none actually. None the less, here they are.

Let me set the scene. We first drove east to Tahoe and took the back country road to Markeeville. Along the way we stopped to peruse for birds and there we found some Clark's Nutcrackers. 

Clark's Nutcracker
I love flight shots - however in or out of focus
  Not long afterwards we were in Markleeville where I wasn't too cold to not get out and do a bit of shopping at the tiny local general store. We stopped along the Carson River by the overpass bridge where Don went off to look for water Dippers - a little gray bird that walks along under the river water. No Dippers today but Don did spot a Bald Eagle that we got decent looks at. Unfortunately for you, the eagle was too far off for photos.

On our way back to highway 50, we took a little road off hwy 89 to Indian Creek Reservoir and Steven's Lake. I drove while Don scanned the road for any birdie type movement. We didn't see much and then suddenly - and I wish the hell I'd used my video to capture the moments - a HUMONGOUS flock of Pinyon Jays were shooting over the road & us, and into a pine forest. There must have been 150 Jays in my perhaps over generous estimation.Jay after jay, screaming, shot past us. Don and I just about lost our minds with excitement.

Once upon a time, Don and I dedicated trips to finding the 'ever elusive' damned Pinyon Jays. The birds seemed to be purposefully avoiding us. We hit their habitat again and again and no Pinyon Jays. Finally, last year, we found a flock at Mono Lake - hurray! I always joke that it may take half of forever to find a lifer species, but once you do, the danged things will pop up everywhere. So, here we were, at a spot we'd visited before with no Pinyon jays, and now - as we weren't looking for them - them, here was the biggest flock of the things one could hope for. Oh how ironic is that?

One fleeing Pinyon Jay out of 150+
There are at least 3 Pinyon Jays in this pic - bet you can't find more than one.
I tried - how I tried - to get photos of the Pinyon's but they were ever moving and after what I estimate at 15 minutes, the entire flock was long gone. I barely managed to document their presence with a few photos. It only occurred to me later, if I'd just used my iPhone video I could have recorded, not only the the jays shooting through the trees, but also their raucous calls. Maybe next time, eh?

Another bird we spotted by Steven's lake was a v. far off Golden Eagle. All in all today we saw two Bald Eagles and the one Golden Eagle. 

A Golden eagle - far, far, far away
The wonderful mega flock of Pinyon Jays was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. Afterwards we stopped in South Lake Tahoe for a nice Chinese buffet that was, I believe, better than either of us expected. The time was next taken to cruise up the California side of Lake Tahoe. North of the lake there was a stop in Squaw Valley but there wasn't much luck, so the next stop was Fair Oaks. All in all, I must say, no day spent in the Sierras is ever wasted. 

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