The blue heron in its solitary and stately watchfulness is occasionally seen, and again etches itself like a Japanese picture against the pure blue of the sky. The American bittern is also seen rarely.
Kingfishers are found, both on the lakes and streams. It is fascinating to watch them unobserved, perched on a twig, as motionless as if petrified, until, suddenly, their prey is within grasp, and with a sudden splash is seized.
On several of the lakes, occasionally on bays of Tahoe itself, and often in the marshy lands and sloughs of the Upper Truckee, near Tallac, ducks, mallard and teal are found. Mud chickens in abundance are also found pretty nearly everywhere all through the year.
The weird cry of the loon is not infrequently heard on some of the lakes, and one of these latter is named Loon Lake from the fact that several were found there for a number of years.
Flocks of white pelicans are sometimes seen. Blackbirds of two or three kinds are found in the marshes, also killdeer, jacksnipe and the ever active and interesting spotted sandpipers. A few meadow-larks now and again are heard singing their exquisite song, reminding one of Browning’s wise thrush which “sings each song twice over, lest you should think he cannot recapture that first fine careless rapture.”
Doves are not common, but now and again one may hear their sweet melancholy song, telling us in Joaquin Miller’s poetic and exquisite interpretation:
There are many to-morrows, my love, my love,
But only one to-day.
In the summer robins are frequently seen. Especially do they revel on the lawns at Tahoe Tavern, their red-breasts and their peculiar “smithing” or “cokeing” just as alluring and interesting as the plumage and voices of the richer feathered and finer songsters of the bird family.
Mountain quails are quite common, and one sometimes sees a dozen flocks in a day. Grouse are fairly plentiful. One day just on the other side of Granite Chief Peak a fine specimen sailed up and out from the trail at our very feet, soared for quite a distance, as straight as a bullet to its billet for a cluster of pine trees, and there hid in the branches. My guide walked down, gun in hand, ready to shoot, and as he came nearer, two others dashed up in disconcerting suddenness and flew, one to the right, the other to the left. We never got a sight of any of them again.
At another time I was coming over by Split Crag from the Lake of the Woods, with Mr. Price, of Fallen Leaf Lodge, when two beautiful grouse arose from the trail and soared away in their characteristic style.
At one time sage-hens were not infrequent on the Nevada side of the Lake, and as far west as Brockways. Indeed it used to be a common thing for hunters, in the early days, to come from Truckee, through Martis Valley, to the Hot Springs (as Brockways was then named) and shoot sage-hens all along the way. A few miles north of Truckee, Sage Hen Creek still preserves, in the name, the fact that the sage-hen was well known there.