West Camino Cielo Black-chinned Sparrows

Florence Sanchez

I walked part of WCC this morning, starting from the driveway for 11500 WCC to the end of the pavement.  I started my hike at about 7:15 a.m.  It was warm above the fog and more than a little muggy.

Compared to prior years, bird activity over all was down but the quality was good.  I had a singing Rufous-crowned Sparrow below the road about 1/4 mile from my car.  Next surprise at about .5 miles was hearing a Northern Pygmy Owl calling from behind a clump of oaks on the left (SY Valley) side of the road.    I was close enough to be sure it was not a Chipmunk.  I tried to coax it out when I got to the oaks, but it went quiet and I could not locate it.  Then at about 1 mile from my car, I heard the first Black-chinned Sparrow singing below the road.  I was able to get a good look at it singing from the tops of some burned branches.  At one point, it got in fairly close.  Then about 1/4 mile further, I had another one, also singing below the road.

Compared to last year, Lazuli Buntings were much fewer in number.  I had a total of 12 on the way up the road (10 miles, 2 females), more of them on the upper half of the hike than on the lower.  Mountain Quail and California Quail seemed to be calling from everywhere.  I had a few Warblers too:  1 female Wilson's, 2 different Townsend's.  The only Hummingbirds around were male Anna's.  Not seen this morning were any Swifts or Swallows.

Fire regrowth has reached the point where the annual fire followers are gone, but Dendromecon (Bush Poppy) was having a field day.  It's in bloom everywhere.  I also found a large patch of Pitcher Sage below the road, just starting to open up.  It may bring in some hummingbirds when it does.

I tried to mark where I saw the first Black-chinned, but the only thing I could find on the road was a discarded blue and white coconut-water carton.  I put it at the edge of the road next to a blooming Black Sage and tied a Kleenex onto the sage as well, but I have no idea how long these markers will last.  As I mentioned, the location for the second sparrow was about 1/4 mile further up the road.  There is a dead Yucca stalk near the roadside that is clearly visible and that sparrow was generally below that point.  Coming down the road, I heard both sparrows singing in the same locations where they'd been when I walked past on the way up, so they may be staking out territories.

Florence Sanchez