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11-31 October 2002

Part 10:  Yosemite National Park

The next day was definitely one of those, "Had I to do it again I'd stay overnight in the park" sort of excursions, but as it was, picked up a couple of trip birds and a whole slough of county birds for Mariposa, so I certainly can't complain!  But I did want to bird Glacier Point Road mile by mile (or as closely as I could) just to see what would pop up by the road.  I got there earlier than anticipated, so the first couple of stops were actually before daybreak, allowing me to pick up Great Horned Owl for the day.  No other nightbirds, though: the moon was full and there was actually quite a bit of light; somewhere I think I heard that nightbirds tend not to vocalize on moonlit nights in order not to draw attention to themselves, but I'm not sure if that's true or not.

As the day got lighter, more high mountain stuff vocalized, including Pine Grosbeak and Varied Thrush (they must move into the Sierras during the winter, because I certainly wouldn't expect them there in the summer).  Red-breasted Nuthatch seemed to be the most ubiquitous thing all day!  I was hoping I might run into a Blue Grouse, as I had my life bird at my feet at one of the scenic pullouts (someone had been feeding it), but no such luck this time.  But I had Glacier Point all to myself that early (aside from some employees), and the early morning sun was energizing a flock of Juncos and Mountain Chickadees, one of the latter coming close for point-blank views!  A Golden-crowned Sparrow was in with the junco flock, and a nice male Cassin's Finch fed at the base of a tree that a Brown Creeper was also flitting around on.  Pine Siskins called overhead, which was good for the trip.  Several Western Bluebirds were around, including one individual who posed on top of an eye-level pine tree for a great shot along with North Dome!  And of course, nothing could beat the stupendous views of both North and Half Domes and that entire panorama!  On the way out a gorgeous male Pine Grosbeak sat in the sun, and at one of the stops a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers called, which was also new for the trip.

 

Birds and other critters at Glacier Point...|

                        

L-R:  Dark-eyed Junco; Mountain Chickadee; Cassin's Finch; Lodgepole (?) Chipmunk

       

Half Dome and North Dome (look hard for the bluebird on the tree!)

    

     Views looking into Yosemite Valley and the Merced River  

My plan was to stop every mile or so until noon, figuring that by that time the birds would be quieting down and traffic would be picking up.  Well, traffic picked up a lot earlier than that (including three tour busses in a row coming up Glacier Point Road; glad I left when I did), and I really shoulda started hiking some trails, but I guess I was lazy and wanted to see how far down Tioga Road I could get before having to head for Mariposa (which is why I decided that next time I'm gonna stay in the park; unless I get any tips as to where the absolute best birding stops are, trying to do Yosemite in one day is an impossible task!).  I stopped several places in the Valley, and did end up hiking a little bit of the Bridalveil Falls Trail, which yielded a "beeping" Canyon Wren and a talkative Steller's Jay that posed for pictures.  Several stops, while quiet for birds, begged for photography (including the meadow next to El Capitan), but a few low altitude things like Black Phoebe and Anna's Hummer were nice for the day.  On that ten-mile stretch between the Valley and Crane Flats had a productive turnout along the old burned area that yielded Hermit Thrush, plus Lincoln's, Chipping, and Fox Sparrow (that sure looked like a Sooty but I'm not sure that race occurs here).  Unfortunately, even with all those burned-out trees I could not pick out a Black-backed Woodpecker, although the Acorns were having a ball...

      

View heading towards the Valley and trail to Bridalveil Falls

           

Common Raven and Steller's Jay

    

Burned areas look unsightly, but the birds love it!

    

The meadow in the Valley, and El Capitan (didn’t see Capt. Kirk, but did see a lot of other crazies...)  

Made a quick stop at Crane Flats to scan for Great Gray Owl (which woulda been a miracle that time of day, but stranger things have happened), then continued on; they were doing prescribed burns so the air was very smoky.  Added Hutton's Vireo at one stop, plus a big flock of Band-tailed Pigeons.  At another stop a sapsucker drummed, which I would have loved to have called a Williamson's but since I couldn't rule out Red-breasted I had to let that one go.  Soft tapping at several other stops allowed me to practice the aggravating "Find the Woodpecker" game; most of them turned out to be Hairies.  White-headeds were pretty common, too, but they were all calling from a distance.

At 2:30 it was time to turn around, so I headed down beautiful highway 140 to Mariposa along the Merced River; I would have loved to stop and take pictures, but I had already passed two slowpokes (and since I’m usually the slowpoke, that's really saying something) and I didn't wanna risk getting behind them again...you know how that goes... 

Continue to Merced NWR

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