Thursday, May 05, 2005

5th May - A rainy day

We headed off south in the rain early this morning arriving at Bartlett Park and Lake Success en route to Kernville. On the lake there were 42 Western Grebes but little else. The fields round the perimeter were a bit more interesting with 14 Tricolored Blackbirds, 3 Loggerhead Shrikes and the main target, 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Bartlett Park was good, crawling with American Robins. Wildfowl included 5 Wood Ducks and another Goosander while the trees contained Nuttall’s Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. A Western Wood-pewee was a lifer, although I was to see 6 more the following day.

We planned to drive on up to Quaking Aspen Campground and then south over the pass to Kernville. A sign at the bottom of the mountain mentioned something about the road being closed in 26 miles but we took no notice and carried on. We arrived at Quaking Aspen after 25 of the slowest windiest miles ever and found the campground covered in snow (that didn’t matter – we weren’t planning on staying) and the road closed (a bit more of a problem).

It was bitterly cold and the rain turned into snow which started settling so we thought we’d best get down while we could. This was a shame as the campground was quite lively with the likes of Thick-billed Fox Sparrow and my first Hammond’s Flycatcher. On the way down we passed a flock of 12 Black-headed Grosbeaks.

Ending up back at Lake Success we paused at the car park overlooking the lake while we considered our next move. While I looked at the map Vitty picked up a small cloud of birds moving quickly over the lake. Through the rain I could see they were a tight flock of some 300 waders with 8-9 Bonaparte’s Gulls. Somewhat distant and in heavy rain, identification might not have been easy were it not for the fact that they all settled on the water momentarily – they were Red-necked Phalaropes! For the next 10-15 minutes they flew constantly and rapidly all around the lake never settling at all – an incredible sight.

We continued on to Kernville, going the long way round. A flock of 21 Mourning Doves was the only large flock of this species seen all trip, although small numbers were found virtually everywhere. At Lake Isabella, still in the rain, I picked up another flock of about 300 Red-necked Phalaropes behaving in exactly the same manner as the Lake Success birds, also initially picked up with 7-8 Bonaparte’s Gulls. I’m tempted to think they were the same birds, but if so I bet they took a more direct route!

A recky up Kelso Creek Road towards Butterbredt Canyon produced 11 Western Tanagers, 4 Cactus Wrens, Swainson’s Thrush, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, 30 California Quails and when the rain finally stopped, a superb Golden Eagle.



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