Rosy-Finch Rendezvous: Stop 9 – Cottonwood Canyon


By Jim Gain
Rosy-Finch Rendezvous Birding Adventure Series


This morning’s route was going to take us away from the Sierra Nevada landscape and into the Great Basin and Range geography that dominates much of Nevada and Utah.

Creative Commons Image by KMusser

Today’s target birds were species such as Juniper Titmouse, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Pinyon Jay and other desert-type birds. We had barely pulled off the Pole Line Rd onto Cottonwood Canyon Rd when I heard the mechanical tinkling calls of Black-throated Sparrows. We observed several over the first couple of miles.

Black-throated Sparrow

A Red-tailed Hawk was not the least bit concerned by us as we slowly drove past it.

Red-tailed Hawk

As we got out to photograph the hawk, I could hear distant Pinyon Jays in the not too distant hills and a couple of singing Brewer’s Sparrows hiding in the sage. Soon one of several Lazuli Buntings made an appearance, posing close enough and long enough to snap a decent photo.

Lazuli Bunting

As we paused on the road at a spot next to the creek with a good stand of willows, I heard a different warbler singing nearby. I stopped and scanned the willows, not finding the warbler. But it was loud and incessant and very nearby us. I finally spotted it, not in the willows, but 40 feet above us on the telephone line.

Low and behold, it was a MacGillivray’s Warbler and he was putting on quite a show.

GEEZ! How Close Can it Get?

I admit that I made a playback call from my Sibley’s Bird App and it came down to check us out, landing right next to us. Using the car as our blind, we took dozens of images while the bird made sure that we knew that this was his territory. Typically, this species is a skulker, staying hidden among low shrubs and trees. This guy was not shy at all and gave us the best Kodak moments I ever had with this species.

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Keeping our visit as short as possible we moved on and the bird immediately flew back up to the wire to continue its buzzy song as if nothing had happened. Next up were several Green-tailed Towhees, each one singing from a different snag, in slightly different spots. One popped up off to our side and promptly began singing its heart out.

Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee

Soon we came upon a nice-looking bird box that had a baby Mountain Bluebird peeking out.


Immediately first one adult, and then another took turns bringing in snacks for junior.

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

We arrived at a particularly rich vegetative spot along the creek and spotted what I first thought was a Dusky Flycatcher, but further analysis of the enlarged photos showed that it was a Willow Flycatcher.

Willow Flycatcher

Next Stop: Bodie State Park

2 thoughts on “Rosy-Finch Rendezvous: Stop 9 – Cottonwood Canyon”

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