Date of sighting: Dec. 19, 2012
Better late than never to post the results of the Dec 19th Mono Lake Christmas Bird Count.
Participants enjoyed a clear, crisp (sub-zero) morning. It was an incredibly successful count! 75 species were counted, plus an additional 4 were seen on count week – well within the top tier of Mono Lake counts (done continuously, minus one year, since 1977).
Waterfowl: near record numbers of not only species, but high counts of individuals for many species. 10 Duck species, including 100+ wigeon (highest count ever, by far), plus Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Ring-necked, Lesser Scaup, C. Goldeneye, and Buffelhead, along with the few other usual species. Tundra swan: 34 birds counted, consisting of small numbers by several parties. Most counts we don’t have any! A Cackling Goose (small Canada) is one of only a few winter Mono Basin records.
Western Grebe – 2 different ones seen on Mono Lake, not only a high count (previously only singles occurred), but only about the 4th time they’ve been recorded on the count.
Raptors: A high count of 6 Rough-legged Hawks was pretty remarkable. And participants cleaned up on most raptor species: Coopers, Sharp-shinned, both eagles, kestrel, Prairie Falcon: almost all the expected species, and more.
Gulls: I don’t know what was happening with California Gulls, but something that’s never documented here before – large swirling flocks of them! My husband Joel estimated close to 300 very high over where we live in the north Basin – reminiscent of the springtime flocks that arrive flying over the crest of the Sierra. Looks like those birds (or smaller groups) were detected by a couple parties, making a new CBC high count. Count parties had of a conservative 175, and Joel’s group. There were also 32 Ring-billed gulls at the Rush Cr. delta – a high count.
Owls: Also incredible for numbers and diversity. Three Pygmy Owls were found – a new high count. The Counts’ second only Barn Owl was found by the north shore team, and Great-horned and Short-eared helped flesh out the diversity.
Kingfishers: Lundy had the only ones
Sapsuckers: a whopping 3 Red-breasted were found, plus a new one for count week, making a high count
Northern Shrike: Although more frequently found in past decades, since the late 1980’s or so these have been very scarce. One was photographed by Todd and Paul. It seems to be a pretty good winter for them in the eastside.
Sparrows! Sparrow diversity kicked butt, with the northshore team finding some bolded species including American Tree and Sage (3 Sage sparrows, continuing the trend of multiple individuals of rare species). Teams also found pretty much all the generally expected species to help keep species tallies high (Savannah, Song, White-crowned, etc.). Really good for a cold winter, when passerines often bolt out of the highlands!
Finches: A low year for these. The only Cassin’s was a single bird in Lundy Canyon! Most years these birds are relatively widespread, but they are irregular. Only 2 Siskins was also unusually low, so it’s not a finch year.
Count Week: Helped clean up on some misses: GB heron, Dipper, RC Kinglet, but Erica’s male Hooded Merganser was by far the best. This is only the 3rd CBC they’ve been found – although those 3 years have all been among the most recent – the species has been expanding its range in recent years and the Mono Basin has certainly been part of that.
This post was submitted by Kristie Nelson.