On my way to the Sierras, I stopped near Mono Lake to look for Sage Sparrows. It wasn't long before I found them. They were quite active and had fledged young. Based on my location (and lowland saltbrush/sagebrush habitat) and comparing with the subspecies map in National Geographic, it seems this is likely the canescens subspecies. This is an important note as the "Bell's" Sage Sparrow will probably soon be split (any day now...) as a distinct species from the interior nevadensis. It will be interesting to see where "canescens" ends up.
|Sage Sparrow canescens subspecies?|
Not far from the trailhead I came across my first new bird for the year; Pygmy Nuthatch. There were family groups all over the trail with somewhat recently fledged young. They look similar to Brown-headed Nuthatch, but their cap is more gray and there is no range overlap.
|Female Williamson's Sapsucker|
On 7/11, I got up very early and made my way to the Yosemite Valley. I had a few destinations I wanted to check for Black Swift and Vaux's Swift. I got a little lost and ended up right near the western entrance to the valley. I saw a swift over the meadow, so parked and got out. Then, the floodgates broke loose and there were swifts everywhere. Dozens of Black Swifts and White-throated Swifts swirled through the air. It took a minute to find a Vaux's Swift, but during my time at the meadow, I had nice looks at a few (a long overdue lifer!). This was one of my favorite birding experiences this year.
As I was watching the Pacific Wren, a Cassin's Vireo started calling in the background. They spent most of their time in the high canopy, but eventually worked their way close enough for a photo. Notice the yellow flanks and greenish/yellow on the secondaries.
To me, the "sibip" call of the Dusky Flycatcher sounds lower pitched than Hammond's.
This was another incredibly successful break for me. It seems my original goal of 500 was set a little low.This "big year" has resulted in pledges worth over $3000 that will be donated to the American Bird Conservancy for Hawaiian bird conservation. Still plenty of time to pledge. Every little bit helps!
I only have two more breaks. On 7/19, after work, I'll once again head to the CA coast. On 7/21, there is a pelagic trip out of Half Moon bay that I have signed up for. If all goes well, this will be my last big slug of new birds before heading back east.
Before the weekend, I hope to finally get a photo of a Mountain Quail. The young are growing up fast and should be more obvious than they were earlier in the year. Fingers crossed.