I arrived at my first target campground in Stanislaus National Forest around 4pm on Tuesday, after only minorly getting lost. It was pine and oak forest, with lots of open patches: great junco habitat!
It having been a long car ride, I headed first for the restroom, where I startled/was startled by:
Several hours of walking trails did not yield any juncos. The land was beautiful, hills covered in green and pink.
Wait, pink? Yes: the young oak leaves were all pink.
Eventually I discovered that all the birds were back in camp. A hummingbird squeaked its ownership of a snag, a Spotted Towhee and an Ashy-throated Flycatcher sang, a flock of Acorn Woodpeckers made sounds like a parody of crazed monkeys. Just as the light began to fall I spotted one male junco foraging on the ground with three Chipping Sparrows. Almost as soon as I saw them they all took flight.
The next morning I walked trails again, and found forest that looked like a child’s fairy-tale idea of a forest: lots of straight trees on bare ground. (A Disney fairy tale, that is, not a Grimm one.)
I found Chipping Sparrows, Acorn Woodpeckers, Nashville Warblers… no juncos.
As I was turning over rotten logs, looking for juncos*, I found:
I turned over another log and found another one:
Did you know that there are scorpions in the Sierra foothills? I did not! It was awesome.
However, I still hadn’t seen any more juncos. I went back to camp, in case the first junco wanted to come back, and watched a pair of Western Bluebirds fly to and from a hole in a tree with long grass in their bills: building a nest.
I also made a hawk fly away:
Then it was time to head for my next campground.
*I might have been looking for salamanders