Hot Times in the Way Cool Sierra
- My husband and I just returned from a weekend trip to PiPi Valley in the Central Sierra. It was ostensibly a mushroomer's weekend, but it is hard to ignore all of the wonderful birds, busy in their mountain spring.
Our first stop was at the uniquely managed, historical and real-time
Indian Grinding Rock State Park. This vastly underused park has the largest group acorn grinding rock ever found in North America, and the only one that also showed petroglyphs amongst the grinding holes.
But it's not all about dusty history, despite a wonderful visitor center that has plenty of good info and beautiful artifacts. It is also a modern day Native community. We passed by a sweat lodge taking place along a creek, and saw a beautiful old ways (but still used) meeting hall.
But that is just the setting; this is really about the birds. Right outta the visitor center is a grove of ancient oaks, and everywhere amongst the bark and branches were Sierran birds. Western Tanagers, Bullocks Orioles, Western Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings flycatching, Vireos, Warblers, Acorn Woodpeckers, a pair of testosterone poisoned Lark Sparrows in a flying death roll, Western Bluebirds, the biggest Red Tailed Hawk I had EVER seen (the local Native docent and campground host considered that one HIS spirit bird. Big spirit.), and of course the now onmnipresent turkeys, in this case nearly grown, fully feathered young with a smattering of down on their heads, walking through the tall grass.
There was apparently a big, recent hatching of oak worms; their cobwebby threads were everywhere, and the birds were taking advantage of the feast. There were so many birds it was hard to pick just one to zoom in on.
Two thumbs up.
At the lovely PiPi campground, a bit further down Hwy. 88, the fungi were scarce but the local birds and flowers made up for it. We drove into PiPi in mid-afternoon and I walked along the Cosumnes River to see what I could see. The mountain rhubarb had its pink flowers on long stalks proudly waving in the riverbed, and seeps were covered with Mimulus and Five-Spot Flowers.
I heard an unfamiliar screeching in the willows along the river, and stopped to see what might be making that noise. Turned out to be dipper pre-fledges. Three birds were still in a buried nest, on a moss covered rock across the river. The nest was a hole in the bottom of a rock shelf, whitewashed below, and when the parents arrived with beaks stuffed with insects (after madly foraging along the banks, catching many insects, one after another, before swishing them thru the water and stuffing those great maws), the young stuck their beaks down right outta the hole, and one maw completely occluded the space. Man, that's a hungry baby! Lemme tell ya, those parents looked a bit frazzled.
Two days later, David spotted two dippers fledged on the river rocks, feathered and fluffy downed all at the same time. Awwwwwwww. Mom Dipper let David know that he was NOT welcome, and he beat feet in retreat.
We should all be so polite to our fine feathered friends, working hard to survive in a tough world.
Tis a good time to head for the hills. Visual feasts await you.