Owens Valley and its surrounding mountains are home year-round to a long list of interesting birds, and a seasonal resort for many more part-time residents and migrants. The area around the town of Lone pine offers a wide range of habitat for the birdwatcher to explore.
Varied habitats along the water’s edge and in the trees sand fields surrounding the lake, especially on the south and west sides, support a variety of resident and migrant species. Yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds nest in the reeds and interesting migrants such as double-crested cormorants and white pelicans visit in spring and fall.
Birdlife is abundant along the Owens River, east of town. Several paved and unpaved roads provide access to the river from Lone Pine, including highway 136 from the Visitor Center.
Lone Pine Creek
A walk along Lone pine Creek may reveal a kingfisher or at a higher elevation, a water ouzel. The creek parallels Whitney Portal Road west of town.
Though dry, is far from dead; at many locations around the edge of the old lake bed, springs feed marshy areas and ponds which attract a wide array of birds and other wildlife, Many birds spend the winter at the lake; large flocks of avocets are commonly seen, along with numerous other species of shorebirds, ducks and geese, most of ht access to these areas is by dirt roads and a high clearance vehicle is desirable. If you decide to go exploring the vicinity of the lake be cautious, some of the roads are quite sandy and it’s easy to get stuck.
In summer, the roads to Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal afford opportunities to view the very different birdlife at higher elevations. Horseshoe Meadow is an especially pleasant place to spend a day. The foxtail pine forest is full of chickadees, nuthatches and songbirds and there is plenty of streamside habitat. Look for mountain bluebirds hovering over the wide meadows in spring. The five-mile hike to the Cottonwood Lakes basin takes the bird seeker into the alpine meadows above the tree line where the gray-crowned rosy finch spends the summer. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see a golden eagle soaring over the peaks.
Download your own copy of the Eastern Sierra Birding Trail map here.