Thursday, October 11, 2012


Having never crossed over the Sierras on Hwy 120, I was looking forward to the experience. On Sat. at 5a.m. headed east, following Hwy 41, passed Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite and finally came to the turn on to Tioga Pass Road.  Pulled off the road numerous times to ooh and ah over the massive granite slopes, the acutely blue lakes, and the rugged mountain peaks. By the time I arrived at Tioga Pass, elevation - 9,943 ft. (3,030 meters), I was starving, as I had not wanted to take time to eat. As I was setting up my picnic on a rock (photo-yes the sky is that blue), saw a Stunning Black-backed Woodpecker on a nearby pine tree.  He sported a yellow cap and a long stout bill (very masculine).  His drumming sounded like a jackhammer. (hard not to miss). First time sightings are always exciting (camera was in the car).
 From Tioga Pass to Hwy 395 it is all down hill, 3,044 feet in 13 miles, about 7 miles at a 7% grade and on some of the sharper curves, no guard rails (Yikes!!).  Next stop Mono Lake's South Tufa State Park Reserve.  Fortune shined when I walked down to the water with the park interpreter. She was an avid birder and a few days ago a seldom seen bird had arrived.  A precious little Sabine's Gull (another first) was at the end of the boardwalk feeding on Alkali Flies, of which there are trillions. In the dense brush we got a glimpse of a Brewer's Sparrow.  White-crowned Sparrows were numerous.  On the lake were thousands of Eared Grebes and Ruddy Ducks feeding on Brine Shrimp.

Next stop was Niceley's Restaurant, the only open Restaurant in Lee Vining.  Fortunately, the food was good.  Sunday's destination was Devil's Post Pile, above Mammoth and Hot Creek, south of Mammoth.  Quite a few international tourists at Devil's Post Pile.  I looked at the rocks, took a few photos, and then concentrated on birding along the absolutely, glorious Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River; found an area where birds were dashing back and forth across a quiet flowing stream - the water was crystal clear. Was able to identify Hutton's Vireo and MacGillivray's Warbler. In the pines were numerous Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Brown Creeper (my favorite), and a White-headed Woodpecker.  Overhead Ravens soared.

 Onward and southward to my favorite place on the Eastern side of the Sierras, Hot Creek Geologic Site. The area is highly unstable.  At any time a scalding Geyser can erupt  in the creek or from one of the thermal pools.  There is some fencing which is in dire need of repair. Water temperature in the pools 93c/200f.  Along the edge of the creek are numerous steam vents and small bubbling hot springs.  A Great Blue Heron appeared focused on the abundant population of crickets.  Downstream were several Eared Grebe, a Lincoln Sparrow feeding along the edge of the creek, and a precious Rock Wren.

Due to the rutted gravel road back to the highway, I was driving slowly, which was fortunate, because I had another first sighting, three Black-billed Magpie sitting on a water tank - a very nice way to end the day.

1 comment:

  1. What a journey Joyce ! I was aww and ahh too about many things.The sky is amazing , a real beauty.
    I would love to see a REAL woodpecker and hear it live.
    Oh my ! All this high without guard rails , sorry I wouldn't do it hehe
    Happy for you that you got the chance to see so many firsts :)