Scouting Stanislaus, part I

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!

There will be so many juncos here!

It having been a long car ride, I headed first for the restroom, where I startled/was startled by:

This is MY small smelly room full of insects!

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.

Male Western Bluebird

I also made a hawk fly away:

Flee the ornithologist!

Then it was time to head for my next campground.

*I might have been looking for salamanders

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