August 4, 2012

California Wanderings, Part 10: Kings Canyon and Sequoia

A quick national park hop to the south on June 25, we entered the combined Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  Besides being home to the largest trees on the planet, the Giant Sequoia, these parks also host an incredibly diverse array of habitats, from the foothills at 1,300’ to the high sierra at 14,494’ (the highest elevation in the lower 48).

Controlled Burn

Because we got to the park in the late afternoon and there were pending road closures, we practically drove straight down the Generals Highway to the small city of Three Rivers with only a few stops between.  We were loath to miss exploring Kings Canyon, which is spectacularly wild and mostly road-less, but a return trip someday with backpacks is on the wish list.  The following morning as we were packing up to head back into the park, we suddenly noticed half a dozen Black Swifts hunting above the parking lot!  They won silver as the most random bird of the trip (behind our Kelso Blackburnian Warbler).

Black Swift - by Joel Such

Anna's Hummingbird - by Joel Such

Western Bluebird - by Joel Such

Western Scrub-Jay - by Joel Such

Great Horned Owl Feather - by Joel Such

From the Buckeye Flat Campground, a hike up the beautiful, tumultuous, and crystal clear Paradise Creek was one of our favorite hikes of the trip and had some very nice birds.  Our first Black-throated Gray Warblers sung from the scrub-oak, a lone female Common Merganser rode the rapids, and an American Dipper chattered on its way downstream.

by Joel Such

by Renée Haip

by Renée Haip

California Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris mundus) - by Joel Such

by Renée Haip

Common Merganser - by Marcel Such

Upon a ranger’s suggestion for Mountain Quail and Sooty Grouse, an hour-long drive up a winding dirt road to the Mineral King site and Silver City commenced.  Upon arrival at the rustic Silver City Resort, Joel was immediately out and about scouring the surrounding area while I took a catnap hoping to revive my sleep-deprived mind.  So it should come as no surprise when Joel rushed back to the car to fetch me after he had heard a Mountain Quail up the hillside.  Despite much searching, the quail failed to re-proclaim themselves.

Hiking up the Eagle Lakes trailhead at the end of the road was our last chance of the trip for Sooty Grouse, and we were not disappointed (as I was with my now nemesis Mountain Quail).  A mere half-mile up the extremely steep trail, we heard a male booming down the slope.  We descended quietly, and stumbled across a female and two chicks, which distracted us enough to lose track of the male.  Booming continued on up the trail, with additional females with families, until our Sooty Grouse total reached an incredible nineteen (our conservative estimate, as the booming males are extremely hard to count due to the considerable distance their calls travel).  Other notable birds include Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, American Dipper, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Willow and Dusky Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, and Hermit Thrush.

Mineral King area of Giant Sequoia National Park

Wilson's Warbler - by Joel Such

White sp.

Black-tailed Deer - by Joel Such

Male Sooty Grouse - by Joel Such

Female Sooty Grouse - by Joel Such

Female Sooty Grouse - by Joel Such

Female Sooty Grouse - by Joel Such

Sooty Grouse Chick - by Joel Such

Sooty Grouse Chick - by Joel Such

Marmot - by Joel Such
These guys love to nibble on car tires, so it was interesting to see the backpackers' vehicles and their attempts to safeguard their tires.  The chicken wire fortress was the most impressive.

Following another car-sickening ride back down the valley, we emerged from the mountains at the end of our last full day of the trip.  The next blog post will cover our final day, and the birds and experiences that made it memorable.


John Garrett said...

Glad you guys had a good trip! Btw, your "white sp" actually looks like a Parnassian, nice.

Marcel Such said...

Thanks John! That's why I couldn't find any matches in Kaufman...