Friday, February 3, 2012

Sierras Birding Trip with the Gang

Cory and I have been wanting to take a trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a while, now, and on Tuesday all the PRBO interns took off so that we could do so.  There were a few lifers that we were hoping to get and lots of year birds.  We started the trip off by listening for owls, hoping for Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Spotted Owl among others.  However we only got Northern Saw-whet, Great Horned, and Barn Owls.  Not a bad start.  For whatever reason, birds were mostly NOT cooperative, and most of Luke's photos were pretty poor from the trip, but enjoy them anyway!
Clark's Nutcracker, Fay-Luther Trail, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
We camped in the eastern foothills just south of Lake Tahoe on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land on the border of Nevada and California.  Tuesday Morning we hiked up the Fay-Luther Trail specifically looking for Townsend's Solitaire and White-headed Woodpecker.  Although we missed the solitaire, we found a number of good birds including White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Clark's Nutcracker, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (apparently fairly uncommon in winter), White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Black-billed Magpie, and lots of Red-tailed Hawks (including a dark morph).

Williamson's Sapsucker (terrible photo), Fay-Luther Trail, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
White-headed Woodpecker, Fay-Luther Trail, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
After our short hike we headed to the Carson City, NV area to look for Pinyon Jay and Juniper Titmouse.  We saw large numbers of Pinyon Jays, but couldn't locate any Juniper Titmice.  We also had Lesser Goldfinch at this spot.

We then drove north to the Sierra Valley of California stopping briefly along the Truckee River outside of Reno to look for American Dipper.  We heard one distant individual, but couldn't locate it.  We also had two Common Goldeneye.

The sierra valley is a large expanse of marsh and farmland north of Lake Tahoe.  It is an excellent spot to look for raptors and Northern Shrike in winter.  We had somewhere around ten Rough-legged Hawks, ten Ferruginous Hawks, and many Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks.  Although we couldn't find any Northern Shrikes we did see one Loggerhead Shrike, which has few winter records in this area on ebird.  We also searched extensively for Mountain Bluebird and Townsend's Solitaire in the appropriate habitat but had no luck on either front.  A group of five to ten Red Crossbills feeding in a yellow pine were a nice consolation.
Red-tailed Hawk (first winter), Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Rough-legged Hawk, Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Loggerhead Shrike, Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Ferruginous Hawk, Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Ferruginous Hawk, Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Rough-legged Hawk (first winter), Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]
Rough-legged Hawk (first winter), Sierra Valley, CA [Photo by Lukas Musher]

By Luke Musher and Cory Ritter


  1. Wow, you really did have bad luck with the photos. I like how distant the shrike is; looks like I used my tiny camera. Ha! And I thought there were some decent ones of the FEHA in flight. Or were they too far away? Eh, great trip anyway, so many new birds. Fun fun!

    PS: Sorry about the snowballs in the car again... :D

  2. Wow, you weren't exaggerating when you were complaining about all the terrible photo opportunities. I figured some of the ones of the FEHA in flight would have been good, or maybe they were just too distant. I also like how tiny the shrike is. It almost looks like I took the picture with my wee awful-for-taking-bird-photos camera. Ah well, great trip nonetheless. And sorry about the snowballs inside the car thing, again. :D Fun fun!