Rosy-Finch Rendezvous: Stop 8 – Earthquake Fault Trail

The Strange Case of a Solitary Solitaire and a Missing Phone

By Jim Gain
Rosy-Finch Rendezvous Birding Adventure Series


As one strolls through old-growth red fir and Jeffrey pine forest to explore this unique and relatively recent geological feature: a deep fissure in a flow of volcanic rock, in places as narrow as 10 feet wide and as deep as 60 feet, that lines up with the Inyo-Mono Craters.

We had barely reached the edge of the amazing physical manifestation of what an earthquake fault looks like when Rich spied a distant perched bird.

As we crossed the somewhat risky-looking bridge to get to the other side of the fault, we paused to admire this force of nature. Briefly, because there was a perched bird waiting to be photographed.

We got back to the spot that we had seen the perched bird and noted that it was a Townsend’s Solitaire, a somewhat drab thrush related to the American Robin.

Townsend’s Solitaire

It flew from tree to tree, pausing and posing like some a model in a fashion show. The paparazzi side of us obliged with a steady stream clicking of mirror-less camera images.

Townsend’s Solitaire

Bird photographers know that you never can be sure how cooperative a bird will be and for how long. We try to balance getting a good shot without causing undue stress on the birds. Fortunately, our Canon R5 comes with an extreme 45 megapixel sensor and 500 mm lens, allowing us to get close, but not too close.

Townsend’s Solitaire

After several scores of images, we walked along the trail admiring the trees and their colorful bark. The ground was scattered with the cones of the magnificent Red Firs. I switched over to my iPhone to try and capture the essence of the scenery in a wide-angle format.

Red Fir

I noticed that Rich seemed preoccupied searching through his pockets and backpack. It seemed that he had misplaced his iPhone somewhere. We backtracked to where we had photographed the Solitaire with no luck. He decided to return to the car to see if he had left it there. In the meantime I would randomly call his number and kept searching the area we had walked by.

As I scoured the ground along the path looking for his iPhone, a White-breasted Nuthatch landed on the fallen trunk in front of me.

White-breasted Nuthatch

I felt obligated to take a couple of images while waiting for Rich to return.

White-breasted Nuthatch

With my iPhone in my hand making call after call to his phone, I also took a couple of images of the trees.

Red Fir


Soon Rich caught up with me again with a very unhappy face. His iPhone was definitely AWOL. We made a slow return hike back to the car, all the while calling his phone incessantly. As we approached the car, we could hear the tones of his iPhone chiming away, completely hidden between his seat and the center console. Disaster averted, and a little out of breath from the 8,500 altitude, we opted to head back to the hotel to grab dinner and check in on our Pygmy Nuthatch neighbors.

We spotted this interesting sign as we were leaving.


Next Stop: Cottonwood Canyon.

2 thoughts on “Rosy-Finch Rendezvous: Stop 8 – Earthquake Fault Trail”

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