Yosemite National Park
13-17 June 2010
by Henry Detwiler

Six days of wonderful scenery and great birds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

130 species seen  Click here for bird checklist
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  

Suzanne, Gaby, and I left early on Saturday morning and made a short stop at the Salton Sea, where we saw Gull-billed, Caspian, and Forster's Terns, several species of summering waterfowl, and a few late shorebirds. By lunch we were at beautiful Morongo Natural Area, where we had Yellow Warblers & Yellow-breasted Chats, Bewick's Wren, and a host of riparian species.

Steller's Jay
Steller's Jay

Common Raven

We made it to Lone Pine before dinner, so we took a quick trip up to the Whitney Portal, where we were greeted by our first birds of the Sierras--Common Ravens, Steller's Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Mountain Chickadees. And also very nice, our first waterfall and cool weather of the trip!

The next morning we drove north to Mono Lake County Park, where we walked the short trail to the lake. Wilson's Phalarope, a calling Wilson's Snipe, and flocks of dazzling Violet-Green Swallows were some of the birds we spotted. From there we drove to Bodie, a fine ghost town from the late 1800's. Say's Phoebes and Brewer's Sparrows mingled with the tourists. By mid afternoon we were back in the Sierras, this time in Tuolomne Meadows, up in the high country of Yosemite National Park.

Violent-green Swallow
Violet-green Swallow

Mountain Chickadee

Dusky Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher

Mountain Chickadees and Dusky Flycatchers were two of the fairly common birds along the trail to Soda Springs. Once we got there, we saw that deer enjoyed the place even more than we did, licking up the minerals which were lining the rocks and grass.

Several Yellow-bellied Marmots were running around the meadow and between the rocks. This one tried to become "invisible" by flattening itself against the rock as I approached it.

yellow-bellied marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

On Monday morning we visited some of the valley's waterfalls, marveling at the mist and thundering water. An afternoon hike to McGurk Meadow took us over patches of snow, and gave us a glimpse of a Black-backed Woodpecker.

bridal veil falls
Bridalveil Falls

Wawona Meadow
On Tuesday we made it to Wawona Meadows, where Suzanne spotted our only Red-breasted Sapsucker of the trip. The meadow and the trail was ringed with beautiful wildflowers.

Wednesday morning's destination was the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. We hiked over the massive dam and along the scenic reservoir, spotting beautiful butterflies, flowers, and birds. The slightly lower elevation was home to different species, like Hutton's Vireo and Black-throated Gray Warbler.

pacific rattlesnake
Pacific Rattlesnake

Variable Checkerspot
Variable Checkerspot

On the way back to the vehicle, a small crowd was pointing at something in the bush alongside the trail. It turned out to be a Pacific Rattlesnake, and once the hikers moved on, we got photos of it crossing the path.

Striped Coralroot Orchid
Striped Coralroot Orchid

After lunch overlooking the Tuolomne River, we took a longer hike down to the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. We were back in the deep forest, and we again heard the sweet call of the Hermit Thrush. The sequoias were grand, and we lingered among them before hiking back uphill to the parking lot. On the way out, I spotted my first western orchid--this handsome Striped Coralroot.

Bristlecone Pine, White Mts.
Bristle-cone Pine

The trees are at the crest of the White Mountains, providing ideal perches for high-elevation birds such as Mountain Bluebirds and Clark's Nutcrackers.

On Thursday afternoon we drove up to the top of the White Mountains to see some of the oldest trees alive on the planet. Some of these ancient Bristlecone Pines are said to date back three thousand years.

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow

For about an hour we had the trail to ourselves, and were able to enjoy Fox Sparrows, Orange-crowned Warblers, and Spotted Towhees

On our last morning we once again drove up to the Whitney Portal, this time to hike part of the trail to Mt. Whitney.

orange-crowned warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
black-throated sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow

By the late morning we were at Randburg, where a tourist stop to see the old mining town turned up Black-throated Sparrows and a covey of Chukars!

Dinnertime saw us back in Yuma, already talking about plans to return to the Sierras again in the fall.

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