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Friday, September 11, 2015

Chuffed for Chuckars

Scenic creek on the drive to Mono Lake
Every once in a bit I visit Mono Lake, most often with my birder buddy Don. We headed there today, swinging along Hwy 50 towards Lake Tahoe then through Markeleeville were we stopped at a favorite area good for Bald Eagles and occasionally American Dippers. Usually Don hurries off while I hem and haw back at the car, then when he races back with news of a Dipper, I race off in time to see the little wet footprints where the bird is no more...

Today was different, Don found a bird and when I finally arrived, darned if the bird was still flittering about.  The cove it bounced in was dark and far more than 500 yards away so my shots are not exactly National Geographic quality, but they're better than a poke in the eye.

Cheeping along the water's edge
Don't get to see Dippers too often
Am totally stoked, as these are the first ever photos I've taken of an American Dipper. They're famous for their ability to run and even 'fly' under fast running mountain streams in their search for insects.
Showing a little enthusiasm for water
The little dipper left me feeling ecstatic we drove off down the highway, my thoughts at least on Mono Lake. We briefly stopped at a camp ground along the way. Then we headed south through Monitor Pass.  Suddenly Don spotted something on the rocky cliff to the right, and to my astonishment, asked me to back up the car. He almost NEVER asks for such things (unlike me, who would back up on the damned LA freeway if a good bird were possible). I rather blindly backed up onto the shoulder, both of us sort of expecting to see Grouse or the like. But nope... big surprise... Chuckar!
Find Six Chukars...
Obviously an animatronic bird... I think...
Chukars! At the start of the trip, Don said he wanted to find Chukars and I thought he must be nuts. We've been to Mono Lake numerous times and have never seen a trace of the birds. So why this time, when he mentioned them for the first time ever, did he manage to spot a half dozen birds? He CHEATS! Obviously these lovely birds were stuffed specimens, secretly stashed there by Don. Yeah, OK, they walked and jumped and called out "CHU-KAR!" once in a bit, but surely they were Disney quality animatronics. Clever boy...
Masked Bandits with Red Bills
The birds were a lifer for Don, and only a second sighting for me. I haven't seen a Chukar since I saw my lifer birds in 1981 in a canyon outside Winnemucca Nevada. Never expected to be lucky enough to see any again.

The little resort Restaurant
We hadn't stopped slapping ourselves on the back before we arrived at our next stop, just past Bodie State Park: Virginia Lake Resort. I was hoping to get - uh... my umpteenth try since 2000, of Gray-crowned Rosy Finch. *sigh* No such luck, as it is too warm and the birds are still at higher elevations. Will have to return, perhaps in March. I'll get my Rosy Finches some day, damn it!

The glory of the Virginia Resort is you can eat your meal, while watching your lifer Gray-crowned Rosy Finch eating its meal. Alas! Nothing at the feeders today but cute little Pine Siskins.

Another critter enjoying a meal, under the bird feeders was a little Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel.

This healthy guy wandered around, looking like he was wanting a meal. 

This fellow seemed to be wanting a nice meal too.

Rather Chuffed for Chili at Virgina Lakes

Pinyons remain no easier to photograph - little pills!
The rest of the day was spent at various points around Mono Lake. Oh, and may I point out, at least 100 Pinyon Jays were spotted. The little buggers were every place we went, from Markleeville to Mono Lake, everywhere. You know, we spent several years hunting for Pinyons, with them nowhere noisy Pinyon Jays! I'm hoping Gray-crowned Rosy Finches will be unavoidable for me some day. I wish! We finally found some in 2012, and ever since, the things practically plague us. Really. No getting away from them now.

White-breasted Magoo.. I mean, White-breasted Nuthatch near Mono Mills

Nuthatch enjoying my car's... er... shine(?)

At the Mono Mill site,White-breasted Nuthatches bounced back and forth on my car.
Skitter! Skitter! Skitter!
As dirty as my car was, they loved its shine
Creek by Virginia Lake
Evening came and we drove up and down the road in the County Park by the lake looking for Common Poorwills. Managed to get a glimpse at two different birds, but I was bummed as didn't even come close to getting any photos of them; maybe next year.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed.
    My favorite however is the Chipmunk.