Sunday, 7 October 2012

California, September 2012 - Angels Camp and Yosemite National Park

After eight days on the coast it was time to move on, this time inland. Our plan was to spend a few days at Yosemite National Park, despite the warnings from the locals in Bodega Bay, who suggested that we would not like it since there were too many people around. But having never been there before, and seen so many interesting wildlife programmes about Yosemite, we had to go a see for ourselves. We set off early as we had a long drive ahead of us and wanted to arrive in good time since we had yet to book any accommodation. After a couple of stops on the way, we eventually stopped in the town of Angels Camp, just to the north of Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park (along the Tioga Pass)

Angels Camp was an interesting place with a mix of modern industrial units and old buildings typical of a scene from a John Wayne Western! Some of the saloons still had swing doors and I wondered that if I ordered a beer it would have been slid down the bar to me. We managed to get the last room in the local Travel Inn, and after a quick break we headed out to find somewhere to stretch our legs. At the eastern end of the town we found a recreation area called 'Glory Hole recreation Area' and so decided to go and have a look. By now the light was fading, but we found an area that looked as if it might produce some birds, and got out for a stroll. Given the lateness in the day there wasn't much around but we did see a covey of over very vocal 30 California Quails. The scrub produced a flock of 10 Bushtits, and six Californian Towhee, Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawks, several American Robins, American Kestrel, Merlin and over five Acorn Woodpeckers.


The next morning five Lesser Goldfinches were feeding in the car park at our Travel Inn, so after a quick look at them we headed off. Our first stop on the way to Yosemite was Big Trees State Park. I was eager to do some woodland birding, and hopefully catch up with some new species, but I hadn't expected it to be so hard. A combination of evergreen foliage, very tall trees and all the birds being in the canopy, made birding pretty tough, nonetheless I did manage to find a few species that had opted for a lower elevation to feed at. Red-breasted Nuthatches, Oregon Junco, Brown Creeper and Chestnut-backed Chickadee were numerous.

Hermit Thrush

In addition, we saw Wilson's, Orange-crowned, Nashville and Black-throated Grey Warblers and a cracking male Golden-crowned Kinglet. A single Hermit Thrush was a nice find, whereas the juvenile Townend's Solitaire had me scratching my head for a while.

Townsend's Solitaire

Our next stop was Yosemite, our accommodation was located in the village of Buck Meadows along Highway 120, which was located approximately 25 minutes drive from the entrance to Yosemite. In the grounds over 15 American Robins, more Acorn Woodpeckers and Californian Towhees, Mourning Doves and a large flock of Brewer's Blackbirds were present. For our first full day in Yosemite we elected to go into Yosemite Valley and see some of the famous sites. Parts of the valley were spectacular, but as had been suggested, there were a lot of people around, and it was difficult to find places that we could be alone. The birding was fairly poor also, with the highlight being White-throated Swift, which as swifts go is a cracking bird. Other species included American Dipper, Steller's Jay, Band-tailed Pigeon, Bushtit, Hairy and Acorn Woodpeckers, Black Phoebe and Northern Flickers, the latter of the western Red-shafted form. At the end of our first day in Yosemite Valley I have to say I felt very underwhelmed by the experience, I expecting to see large open areas and get a feeling of wilderness as we wandered, but with the network of managed walkways, lots of traffic, organised stopping places, large numbers of people, and lack of wildlife, I unfortunately did not get that.
Oregon (Dark-eyed) Junco

For our second day we decided to take Highway 120, otherwise known as the Tioga Pass. We began at Chevron Meadow, which is located behind the gas station at the junction of Big Oak Flat Road (the road to Yosemite Valley), a dawn start can produce Great Grey Owls, but I did not see them, but did see White-headed Woodpecker, Lincoln's Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Oregon Junco, Band-rumped Pigeon, Mountain Chickadee, Red-brested Nuthatch, Steller's Jay and White-Crowned Sparrow.

Mountain Chickadee

Our next stop was White Wolf Camp, the camp itself was closed, but there are meadows and woodlands to explore. There must have been a fall on the day we were there since I was seeing loads of warblers, on the move, the majority of which were Yellow-rumped Warblers but also Yellow and Orange-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We stopped in the lay by at Porcupine Flat and were immediately greeted with a flock of several hundred birds, the majority of which were Oregon Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows. There were also a few MacGillivray's Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Downy Woodpecker. Violet-green swallows were also present overhead.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Tenaya Lake was an excellent stop where the highlights included Clark's Nutcracker, more MacGillivray's and Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated and Song Sparrows. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

In contrast to Yosemite Valley, the Tioga Pass was everything I expected, wild and open space, fantastic scenery and very few people and traffic. It was possible  to walk a trail and not meet another person for a couple of hours, which is what I was hoping for, more importantly  the birding was much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...