Sunday, October 18, 2015

Townsend's Solitaire (but not so solitary) at Lava Beds National Monument

Water, or more accurately, lack of water makes for strange bedfellows. Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California is really a semi-arid climate, supporting a forest of Pinyon, Juniper and Ponderosa. But surface water is practically non-existent because precipitation sinks into the fissures and cracks that are characteristic of basalt lava flows.
As we've been finding over the last three posts, there is a secure source of water in the monument, at the campground faucets. We were awakened each morning of our recent visit at Lava Beds with the chattering of different kinds of birds waiting for a chance at the water. We've already seen the Robins, the Red Crossbills, and the Pinyon Jays. Today's bird is the Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi), which I've only seen once before.
Sibley's guide had this to say about the Solitaire: "Usually solitary, perching inconspicuously in trees". The lack of water seems to have changed that metric. I counted at least half a dozen Solitaires perched conspicuously in the top branches of the Junipers in the campground waiting for their turn at the water.
The bird is also described as "uncommon", but they certainly seemed common enough that morning in the campground. They no doubt spread out widely during the day, looking for looking for juniper berries or mistletoe. 
There were lots of birds at Lava Beds and Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge. After a slow summer for birding, I've now got a serious backlog of bird sightings to share. More to come!

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