Death Valley Birds

From: C. McCreedy, C. Rintoul
Remote Name:
Date: 10/28/02
Time: 10:42:52 AM


Rintoul and I spent the weekend hobnobbing with RVs, diabetes bike-a-thon riders in strange and dangerous spandex, and automatic sprinklers at Furnace Creek Ranch and Death Valley in general. Our trip started with a lone White-throated Sparrow calling in a mostly-dead ash tree in front of his apartment in Lone Pine. We stopped at Panamint Springs and watched a sooty Fox Sparrow, Black-throated Grey Warbler, and Cedar Waxwings feast at the oasis. A raven slowly devoured a Western Meadowlark (roadkill or stolen from an Accipter) atop the Panamint Springs RV sign. An Audubon Warbler ripped the wings off a huge moth before beating it into submission and devouring it whole (Death Valley = death). At Furnace Creek, we came across a sooty Fox Sparrow, a red Fox Sparrow (it may not have been Sibley's "Taiga" race, but perhaps the "Rocky Mountain" intermediate instead), Golden-crowned Sparrows, a Song Sparrow without a tail, and oddly, a Belted Kingfisher. As riders from the bike-a-thon began crossing the finish line at the gates to the ranch, 1980's hip hop began to be blared from two huge speakers as DJ "Phat Kat" congratulated the winners from the epicenter of a massive sound system. We felt strange looking at migrant sparrows while this was happening, and we quickly left. We travelled up the Furnace Creek Canyon and walked the springs, detecting a Verdin (C.R's first), a Say's Phoebe, and my favorite part of the weekend: 3 White-throated Swifts. Somewhat invigorated by the Verdin, we drove to Wildrose and camped. At dusk, we watched a Sharp-shinned Hawk stalk, pounce on, and kill a Lesser Goldfinch. Luckily, our Sunday was death-free, though at Panamint Springs we watched a Western Meadowlark escape death-by-female-Sharp-shinned Hawk only because a young male kestrel bombed the hawk as it bombed the meadowlark. This same kestrel was observed to twice attack and miss Audubon's Warblers.