Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Eastern Sierra and Western Mojave

  Only a few people know what I'm talking about when I describe where I am right now.  Some people know Frazier Park, less know Pine Mountain Club, where I actually am.  The best way to explain it is that I am in the east/west running mountain range that seperates the Coast Range and Central Valley from Los Angeles.  My good friends Scot and Kristin have put me up for a few days rest after crossing the Mojave kind of worked me.  What a relief this overcast day in the mid-eighties is!
  So a lot has happened since I last wrote from Bridgeport.  Put simply 500 miles and 12 new species.  But that leaves out a lot of what really happened.
  Leaving Bridgeport, I made my way down to Lee Vining.  I birded the County Park area on the north end of Mono Lake.  The nesting Osprey were a treat as the parents took turns flying off to other lakes and coming back with fish.  Wilson's Phalaropes spun in the water.
  After a day at Mono I hustled back north to Lundy Canyon where the birding was decent, though I didn't pick up any new species.  A BALD EAGLE up in the canyon was a very cool sight, as was a nice show of wildflowers.
   Back to Lee Vining, I watched a band play at the famous Mobil Station while I ate a nice meal from the gas station.  Those who have been there, know that the food is actually decent.  The band played a couple of Townes Van Zandt songs which was a great way to end the evening and head down into the sagebrush for a night's sleep.
  Out in the sage, COMMON NIGHTHAWKS were everywhere, and upon waking, there were multiple GRAY FLYCATCHERS calling around my tent.  Southbound to Mammoth Lakes.
  Due to a heatwave, I had to hangout in the Mammoth area for several days.  Bishop (where I was headed next) was 110 degrees, and Ridgecrest was 117!  Yikes.  Mammoth was alright with me.
  One night, while waiting for the heat to break, I headed out to the ESE side of Glass Mountain to a little aspen grove called Wildrose Canyon.  It was an awesome morning birding.  A RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was a great bird to find for the year!  I missed a Virginia's Warbler that people had seen a couple of weeks earlier.  Damn!  I've still never seen one.  Looks like I'll have to get back there sometime.
  Fortunately, a friend of mine, Sierra, was staying with her family in Mammoth.  They were so sweet to put me up for a few days while I waited out the heatwave.  Two night sleep in a bed did wonders for the body!  Thanks Sierra!!!
  So with the heatwave beginning to subside, I rode down towards Bishop.  I think the high that day was only 104!  I was shocked when I stopped on the way into town in Birchim Canyon to find quite a bit of bird activity at around 11 am.  The creek running through was substantial, and I had to dunk my hair to cool off.  In all the heat, I managed to hear one and see another YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.  Very cool to watch them sing.  The BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS there, were my first of the trip.
  Views from the eastside were incredible.  Unfortunately, my camera is a bit temperamental.  I didn't get any good shots of Mt. Whitney for example.
  Lone Pine was another stop for the night, camping out in the random sage again.  I got up at 5 am (what had become my normal schedule to beat the heat) and headed for Carl's Jr.  Don't worry, I had already eaten breakfast.  Folks had told me that the land behind this fastfood joint was good birding.  It sure was!  A BLUE GROSBEAK was a new bird for the year.  Again however, I missed another good bird that was supposed to have been around...Summer Tanager.  Maybe one will turn up again this year in Pescadero.  Slim chance, but I've got to hope.
  South to Ridgecrest.  GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE on the way down at Diaz Lake, well actually five of them.
  Ridgecrest was hot.  108 or so.  I got a hotel and tried to fix my flat.
  Up in the morning at 5 am.  Flat again.  Pulled lots of metal out of the tire, put in a new tube and started headed towards Red Rock Canyon State Park.  I got nine miles out of town and...FLAT TIRE AGAIN!!!  I didn't get it.  It was already 9:30 and nearing 95 degrees.  I was trying to get out fast, but had to hitch a ride back into town.  It didn't take more than 25 minutes to get a ride with a guy who was retired military.  He said he felt bad for me standing out in the heat.  He even took me to a bikeshop, where I learned I had pinched the tube when I replaced it and that's what caused the flat.  At least all the metal was out!
  Back out riding that same nine miles out of town.  11am.  Sure was later than when I had wanted to start.  Sure was hotter (100+).
   Now the heat is one thing.  I can handle a little heat, but when you add a headwind.  Now that's just cruel.  Fortunately, despite the Mojave being hot and desolate, I kept running into service stations at the right times.  I made it to Red Rock just in time to run into a couple of other birders from Sacramento.  The encounter went like this:
"Is that your bike over there?"
"Do you want a cold beer?"
"Wow... yes."

  Those sweet folks gave me one for then and one for after dinner too.  Wish I could remember their names.  (If you are reading, drop me a line and THANKS AGAIN.)  Nice moments in bike touring happen when you least expect them.
   Then we found out we were all birders...
  Too bad the birds were so quiet, it would have been fun to have all walked around together.  I birded the evening and the morning there and found a whopping 9 species.  At least there were a couple of CACTUS WRENS about.  
  Next day, I rode to Lancaster.  Near the town of Mojave, at 9:30 am, there was a WESTERN SCREECH OWL on an exit sign.  Pictures to come...  It was, in fact, my first screech of the year.  I never thought my first one would be in the Mojave Dessert.
  Okay... I've got to run.  I'll have to catch yall up the rest of the way soon.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mark! We are those crazy birders from Sacramento! We finally got around to looking up your blog. Glad you got Cactus Wren at Red Rock and got out of the desert alive!
    Neil and Erica from Sacramento