We drove Highway 395 from Lee Vining to Bridgeport to enter the Bodie Hills via Aurora Canyon Road.
First we stopped at the north end of Mono Lake at the County Park and Mono Lake Tufa Reserve. There we saw rabbits, chipmunks, Brewers Blackbird, Red Winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, many California Gull, Raven and our destination bird Wilson’s Phalarope, which found in abundance. Flowers in bloom were Yarrow, Willows, Yellow Monkey Flower, Meadow Goldenrod, Paintbrush, Brewer’s Angelica, Rein Orchid and Pepper Grass.
Along 395 there were Evening Primrose, Blazing Star, and Prickly Poppy in bloom. Also seen was a Sierra Nevada Red Fox, which is considered state endangered.
Next we entered Aurora Canyon. The first seven miles of unpaved road had only a few flowers in bloom. We saw Prickly Poppy, Erigeron, a yellow composite, alien Woolly Mullein, Bitterbrush, Paintbrush, Lupine, Buckwheat and Yarrow. There was a fair amount of bird activity but our only successful ID was a Green-tailed Towhee. Most birds were very active and it was hard to get a good look. We did see a large hawk chase a small bird into the brush.
After about seven miles we turned right on Geiger Grade Road towards Bodie. This is where the bloom takes off. There are large displays of blue and white Lupines, Long-leaved Paintbrush, and yellow Buckwheat. Also in bloom were Pussy Toes, several more species of Buckwheat, Coyote Mint, one Wild Iris (the rest were all past), Drummond’s Thistle, at least two species of Erigeron, at least three yellow composites, and tiny Gayophytum. It had rained and hailing on and off and we had seen some thunder and lightning. When we had gone about three miles on Geiger Road towards Bodie, we came to a stream that had swollen from the rains and we decided to not attempt to drive across and instead backtracked to Bridgeport. The three miles of Geiger Road had many good flowery stops and is recommended but will dry out soon (though certainly not today). Just after we got back to Bridgeport the storm complete with frequent thunder, lightning, periodic hail and very heavy downpours began. We had to pull over a few times on the way back to Lee Vining to wait for it let up.