Sunday, August 11, 2013

Clark County Species List, 2013

Summer Tanager at Warm Springs
Ha! Look what I found!  Tucked into a 3 foot tall stack of data was the list of species my NBC crew recorded in Clark County this year, mid-April to mid-June.  It had hung on our field house's refrigerator and was carefully tended whenever folks returned.  Looking through it again, it brought back more than a few fun memories, and I thought some folks might be interested.  It’s certainly not an exhaustive list of what can be found down there  – we weren’t hitting hot spots in order to build a list, we were visiting random locations within the County, which sometimes took us to really birdy places, and other times took us to some barren creosote scrub with a couple of Black-throated Sparrows.  It was a lot of fun, but – as my crew can attest – there’s a lot of really tough terrain down there!  Anyway, here it is …

  1. Canada Goose
  2. American Wigeon
  3. Mallard
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. Chukar
  6. Ring-necked Pheasant
  7. Gambel’s Quail
  8. Pied-billed Grebe
  9. Eared Grebe
  10. Western Grebe
  11. Clark’s Grebe
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Least Bittern
  14. Great Blue Heron
  15. Great Egret
  16. Snowy Egret
  17. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  18. White-faced Ibis
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Osprey
  21. Northern Harrier
  22. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  23. Cooper's Hawk
  24. Common Black-Hawk
  25. Swainson's Hawk
  26. Zone-tailed Hawk
  27. Red-tailed Hawk
  28. Virginia Rail
  29. Sora
  30. American Coot
  31. Snowy Plover
  32. Killdeer
  33. Black-necked Stilt
  34. American Avocet
  35. Spotted Sandpiper
  36. Ring-billed Gull
  37. Rock Pigeon
  38. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  39. White-winged Dove
  40. Mourning Dove
  41. Greater Roadrunner
  42. Barn Owl
  43. Western Screech-Owl
  44. Great Horned Owl
  45. Burrowing Owl
  46. Lesser Nighthawk
  47. Common Poorwill
  48. Vaux's Swift
  49. White-throated Swift
  50. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  51. Anna's Hummingbird
  52. Costa's Hummingbird
  53. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  54. Belted Kingfisher
  55. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  56. Hairy Woodpecker
  57. Northern Flicker
  58. Gilded Flicker
  59. American Kestrel
  60. Peregrine Falcon
  61. Prairie Falcon
  62. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  63. Western Wood-Pewee
  64. Willow Flycatcher
  65. Gray Flycatcher
  66. Dusky Flycatcher
  67. Black Phoebe
  68. Say's Phoebe
  69. Vermilion Flycatcher
  70. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  71. Brown-crested Flycatcher
  72. Western Kingbird
  73. Loggerhead Shrike
  74. Bell's Vireo
  75. Gray Vireo
  76. Plumbeous Vireo
  77. Cassin's Vireo
  78. Warbling Vireo
  79. Western Scrub-Jay
  80. Pinyon Jay
  81. Clark's Nutcracker
  82. Common Raven
  83. Horned Lark
  84. Tree Swallow
  85. Violet-green Swallow
  86. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  87. Barn Swallow
  88. Mountain Chickadee
  89. Juniper Titmouse
  90. Verdin
  91. Bushtit
  92. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  93. White-breasted Nuthatch
  94. Pygmy Nuthatch
  95. Rock Wren
  96. Canyon Wren
  97. House Wren
  98. Marsh Wren
  99. Bewick's Wren
  100. Cactus Wren
  101. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  102. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  103. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  104. Western Bluebird
  105. Mountain Bluebird
  106. Townsend's Solitaire
  107. Swainson's Thrush
  108. Hermit Thrush
  109. American Robin
  110. Northern Mockingbird
  111. Bendire's Thrasher
  112. Crissal Thrasher
  113. Le Conte's Thrasher
  114. European Starling
  115. Phainopepla
  116. Orange-crowned Warbler
  117. Lucy's Warbler
  118. Virginia's Warbler
  119. MacGillivray's Warbler
  120. Common Yellowthroat
  121. Yellow Warbler
  122. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  123. Grace's Warbler
  124. Black-throated Gray Warbler
  125. Townsend's Warbler
  126. Wilson's Warbler
  127. Yellow-breasted Chat
  128. Green-tailed Towhee
  129. Spotted Towhee
  130. Abert's Towhee
  131. Chipping Sparrow
  132. Brewer's Sparrow
  133. Black-chinned Sparrow
  134. Vesper Sparrow
  135. Lark Sparrow
  136. Black-throated Sparrow
  137. Song Sparrow
  138. Lincoln's Sparrow
  139. White-crowned Sparrow
  140. Dark-eyed Junco
  141. Summer Tanager
  142. Western Tanager
  143. Black-headed Grosbeak
  144. Blue Grosbeak
  145. Lazuli Bunting
  146. Bobolink
  147. Red-winged Blackbird
  148. Western Meadowlark
  149. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  150. Great-tailed Grackle
  151. Brown-headed Cowbird
  152. Hooded Oriole
  153. Bullock's Oriole
  154. Scott's Oriole
  155. Cassin's Finch
  156. House Finch
  157. Pine Siskin
  158. Lesser Goldfinch
  159. American Goldfinch
  160. House Sparrow

Happy birding!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Farewell to the Sage Sparrow; Hello to the Bell's Sparrow and Sagebrush Sparrow within Nevada

In 2010, the Sage Sparrow was classified as a species of conservation concern within Nevada.  In the latest changes to the AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union) Checklist, the Sage Sparrow has been split into two species, the Bell’s Sparrow and the Sagebrush Sparrow.  Both of these species breed within Nevada.  The Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) is far more common within the state, and found through much of the Great Basin, predominantly within sagebrush, but also within greasewood community types.  A typical example of the Sagebrush Sparrow’s breeding habitat can be seen in the header photo at the top of this page – I heard several territorial males singing within this stand of sagebrush, and one individual was carrying food.

The desert race of the Bell’s Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli ssp. canescens) is also found breeding in southern and western Nevada, where we have found it primarily within relatively dense stands of Atriplex (saltbush), though it can also be found in sagebrush within its range.  Note that most maps I’ve seen showing the breeding range of the (canescens) Bell’s Sparrow do not include its range within southern Nevada.  However, we have confirmed them breeding within salt desert both east and west of the Spring Mountains.  Their range continues northward along the western edge of the state, towards Bishop.  Below is an example of Bell’s Sparrow breeding habitat near the Spring Range in Clark County – within 50m of this location, I watched an adult Bell’s Sparrow feeding a fledgling.

In 2007, Carla Cicero and Ned Johnson documented a zone of contact between the 2 species in the Owens Valley, near Bishop [1].  Walter Szeliga provided a useful discussion on Nathan Pieplow's of the differentiation between the former subspecies of the Sage Sparrow, including a map from Cicero (2010) showing the known range of the Bell’s Sparrow (ssp. belli), Bell’s Sparrow (ssp. canescens), and Sagebrush Sparrow.  The map is useful for Nevadans in approximating the extent of the Sagebrush Sparrow, but does miss the Bell’s Sparrows breeding in the southern portions of the state.  In the end, Szeliga concludes that the canescens subspecies’ song appears confusingly intermediate between the belli song and the Sagebrush Sparrow’s song, but speculates that some of this confusion may be due to clinal differences in song, or perhaps incorrectly identified examples.  Personally, I haven’t surveyed the canescens subspecies of the Bell’s Sparrow where it nears its contact zone in Bishop, but the breeding individuals I have heard singing in Clark County have sounded quite different than Sagebrush Sparrows, with a song that seems shorter, flatter, and less musical.

During winter and migration, we have both species in southern Nevada, and absent song or a good look, differentiating between them is a tad difficult.

Happy birding-- and stay tuned!

[1] Cicero, Carla, and Ned K Johnson.  2007.  Narrow contact of Desert Sage Sparrows (Amphispiza Belli Nevadensis and A.B. Canescens) in Owens Valley, Eastern California: Evidence from Mitochondrial DNA, Morphology, and GIS-Based Niche Models.  Ornithological Monographs 63: 78-95.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Nevada Bird Count 2013 Has Wound Down, Part the Last

And with this installment, I grudgingly admit that the NBC is over for yet another year.  As you probably remember from previous posts, awhile back I asked the crew to shoot me an anecdote from their season, and here’s a final few –

Dennis:  [Becca and I had a] sighting of a Big Horn Sheep at the McCarran Ranch on the morning of our first area search in May. Becca dropped me off at my plot before going across the river to her’s …. I was at the car putting on my boots and gaiters when she came running back yelling “Big Horn Sheep! Big Horn Sheep!” I ran down the dirt road with her past the amphitheater only to see the sheep running away from us east down the road. After Becca left I started down the road again on the way to my plot when I saw the sheep approaching me again. I slowly took off my backpack and got out my camera, but just as I got the camera up to shoot it turned and ran away. I did however get a shot of it running away. I told Chris Sega [The Nature Conservancy] about it and he was quite excited. Apparently Nevada Department of Wildlife released some in the hills to the south of McCarran Ranch and they have been coming down to the river to drink and feed, but this was the first time one had been seen on the north side of the river.
Becca:  This was a great year for critters. I was area searching around the McCarrran Ranch east end pond when I came face to face with a skunk. He stopped. I stopped. He stared at me. I stared back. He raised his tail, and I turned my tail around in a hurry. Who was I to interrupt a skunk’s morning stroll?

Laura:  It feels like such a privilege to see what we see and work where we work. Private lands and reservations aside, it's not too terribly difficult to access some of the sites that we do provided you have four wheel drive and the gumption to do so. But most people stay on the beaten path which I suppose is best for us. The wildlife and soaring vistas I've seen on the job, the latter usually earned after an arduous hike, are sights the average person probably never sees. I'm glad to have witnessed them and in some small way aid in making sure they'll remain in good condition for years to come. My two favorite sightings hands down: a roadside Gila Monster and a female Greater Sage-Grouse my partner and I flushed in the Desatoyas.

I just had an interesting realization the other day, as I was writing about my Warm Springs Natural Area territory maps and going through nest photos – I had a snag where I observed 3 different pairs building nests – Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, and Lucy’s Warbler.  And every single one ended up abandoning their nest either late in construction or shortly after nest completion - it's a little hard to tell with cavity-nesters!  This seemed unlikely to have just happened.  I was trying to think about what was special/different about this snag.  It was probably the major perch used by Brown-headed Cowbirds on the plot, but while they could conceivably get past one of the Western Kingbirds (though they’re pretty rare hosts), it’s difficult to see them getting into the Flycatcher’s cavity (I suspect it’s possible, but unlikely, and there are no North American records of them as hosts mentioned in their BNA account), and fitting into that Lucy’s Warbler fissure/cavity was even more unlikely – it was a pretty small opening.  The only other thing I could think of was (well, other than random chance) maybe an ant colony had moved in and swarmed.  I don't remember seeing high levels of ant activity at the snag, but I wasn't really looking, and they're certainly in the area.  Any other ideas?

Western Kingbird nest, mid-construction - bit of an odd location for a Kingbird!
Lucy's Warbler nest cavity

Well, that’s it for the anecdotes for this season.  Thanks again to my awesome field crew:  Becca, Brian, Dave, Dennis, Kathryn, Kelly, Laura, Rayann, Russ, Rya, Sam, and Sue.  Seriously, you guys rock beyond the telling of it!


Happy birding,
-- Jen