- Vic Leipzig
thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.
Living on the coast in sunny southern California,
it’s hard to remember what real winter is like. We had a taste of it
on this spring trip with John and Laura Klure to Big Bear Lake, a
mountain resort community only two and a half hours from the coast.
Although we needed coats at night, daytime temperatures were T-shirt
Vic scanning Big Bear Lake
The Klures wanted a mix of mountain birding, antique hunting,
and good food. Big Bear offered all three.
| The Klures were more interested in savoring
the ambiance of the mountain community than hard-core,
dawn-to-dusk birding, so I planned the trip accordingly. My wife,
Lou, and I scouted the area before the Klures arrived, finding a
golden eagle, a flock of 50 pinyon jays, and some good places to
|We met the Klures for a delightful lunch in the
Village at Big Bear Lake. After a successful search for antiques,
we strolled through the pine and manzanita forest in the fading
afternoon light, taking time to sniff the vanilla fragrance in the
bark of the huge Jeffrey pines. We picked up band-tailed pigeon,
mountain chickadee, Steller’s jay, white-breasted nuthatch, and
western bluebird. Laura spotted a coyote skulking through the
On our way to dinner at a restaurant that served Chinese, Thai
and Japanese cuisine, we stopped by the lake to see American white
pelicans, gadwall, and other waterfowl. We had reserved more
serious birding for the following day.
John scraping ICE! off the car
Laura, Vic, & John
In the morning, we meandered through the back streets of Big
Bear near our motel, breathing in the frosty, pine-scented
|The daffodils and pussy willows of spring promised
that summer wildflowers would soon follow. We picked up pine
siskin, red-breasted sapsucker, Cassin’s finch, pygmy nuthatch,
acorn woodpecker, brown-headed cowbird, and others, all before
|We drove around the lake, stopping to get
violet-green swallow, white-throated swift, hooded and common
mergansers, wood duck, ruddy duck, cinnamon and green-winged teal,
northern shoveler, and others.
Big Bear Lake
At one stop, we picked up Lewis’s woodpecker, male and female
white-headed woodpeckers, and Townsend’s solitaire. Laura said
the best sight of the morning was the pygmy nuthatch going in and
out of its nesting cavity in one of the large Ponderosa pines.
|On our way home, we stopped at Onyx Summit at an
elevation of 8,443 ft to search for Clark’s nutcracker. A short
hike through the pinyon-juniper forest to an overlook yielded a
spectacular view of Mt. Gorgonio, plus the nutcracker,
sharp-shinned hawk, a pair of red-tailed hawks, and others.
After a wonderful lunch at a Yucatan-style Mexican restaurant in
Mentone (I had goat tacos; Lou had cactus salad and fried
bananas), we parted company with the Klures, who were delighted
with the many mountain birds that we found over the weekend.