Monday, July 28, 2014

The Monitor Range, July 7-8

In early July, the NBC crew and I headed to the Barley and Cottonwood Creek trailheads, for a couple of days of exploration, to wrap up the birding portion of our field season, and to prep for our habitat surveys a little downstream.  It was a beautiful area; in fact, one of my long-time surveyors said that his transect there along Cottonwood Creek might be his favorite in the state!  For such a beautiful site, sadly we have a dearth of photos, for one reason or another.  However, here are a few, along with our species list for our time there.  Species for which we obtained breeding confirmation are noted accordingly.  
One of my highlights of the season was up Barley Creek, in a very active and vocal MacGillivray’s Warbler territory.  I watched the male flitting low among the willows, and heard a call note low down next to me –  I peered downward to see a very young, very short-tailed MacGillivray’s Warbler fledgling about 2 feet from my right foot.  I watched it for awhile then moved on – the fledgling showed no evident stress, but the male was definitely not pleased with how close I was to his offspring!  

Hope you enjoy the list:
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Common Poorwill
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Red-naped Sapsucker (Confirmed Breeding)
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (Confirmed Breeding)
Gray Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher (Confirmed Breeding)
Plumbeous Vireo
Warbling Vireo (Confirmed Breeding)
Western Scrub-Jay (Confirmed Breeding)
Clark’s Nutcracker
Common Raven
Violet-green Swallow
Mountain Chickadee (Confirmed Breeding)
Juniper Titmouse
Bushtit (Confirmed Breeding)
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Rock Wren (Confirmed Breeding)
Bewick’s Wren
House Wren  (Confirmed Breeding)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend’s Solitaire (Confirmed Breeding)
Hermit Thrush
American Robin (Confirmed Breeding)
Orange-crowned Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warbler (Confirmed Breeding)
Yellow Warbler  (Confirmed Breeding)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Confirmed Breeding)
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Confirmed Breeding)
Yellow-breasted Chat
Green-tailed Towhee (Confirmed Breeding)
Spotted Towhee (Confirmed Breeding)
Chipping Sparrow (Confirmed Breeding)
Brewer’s Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Confirmed Breeding)
Song Sparrow (Confirmed Breeding)
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak (Confirmed Breeding)
Lazuli Bunting
Western Meadowlark
Brewer’s Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cassin’s Finch (Confirmed Breeding)
Lesser Goldfinch

Happy birding,

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pine Nut Range

The Nevada Bird Count has included several surveys in the Pine Nut Range over the past few years, and in 2014, we stepped that up quite a bit.  Most of our surveys have been/are in areas that will be undergoing (or have undergone) some pinyon-juniper treatments, along with control surveys in areas with no treatments planned.  Other transects were burned in the 2013 Bison Fire.  The goals of our surveys are to provide baseline monitoring of birds within the Pine Nuts, and to use those data to evaluate the impacts there (both short- and long-term) of treatments and fire.  

Some of these areas are in pure upland; others are along streams and drainage bottoms.  The Eldorado Canyon area is one of our survey areas (see previous post), but we’ve been covering the length of the mountain range, from the north near Dayton, all the way south to Bald Mountain.  In the process, we’ve been enjoying some great birds, beautiful views, crazy roads, and more than a few close encounters of the predator kind (mostly bears, but several mountain lions, as well).  In the case of the cats, one of those encounters was a little too close for comfort!  

What follows is not a full species list from our 2014 surveys, since our data entry/proofing process is not yet complete, but hopefully is enough to spark your interest!  For those of you that remember my request to keep your eyes and ears pricked for breeding Gray Vireos , we were sadly unsuccessful.  Maybe next year!  Please do let me know if you had better luck!

Mountain Quail
California Quail
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Common Nighthawk
Common Poorwill
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Wood-pewee
Gray Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Western Flycatcher
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub-jay
Pinyon Jay
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Mountain Chickadee
Juniper Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
Orange-crowned Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Green-tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cassin's Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch

Happy birding,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of the Nevada Bird Count

Bzzzzzzt.  My alarm goes off at the crack of why-am-I-awake.  Actually, it’s not so bad – my and Kelly’s surveys for the morning are within walking distance of last night’s camp, so no driving this morning, just the usual getting everything together – datasheets, binocs, rangefinders, GPS, extra pencil, waterbottles, and so on.  Usually, I bring my habitat assessment gear with me, too, but yesterday was an incredibly long day, and the afternoon’s agenda includes an unknown amount of driving and scouting on roads better suited for ATVs than pickups.  We’ll veg on our next survey here!
It’s still dark as Kelly heads uphill to her site, and I pick my way downvalley to my transect, to start my first point as the clock ticks over to official sunrise.  A Dark-eyed Junco pair in the adjacent willow greets the new day with me.

My pre-survey drill: I get to my point, and start filling in the headers of my datasheet.  Transect name, point, date, weather conditions.  I haul out my rangefinder, and double-check where my 50m and 100m boundaries are, then I take a photo of my datasheet headers, then another one (or more) of the transect point.  By this time, if any of the birds in the area were disturbed by my arrival, they should have calmed down a bit.  I note the start time on my datasheet, and start my watch timer.  Go!

Basically, the idea behind our point counts is to record every bird we see or hear from the point during the 10-minute survey period, with no double-counting of individuals within or between points.  Each of those detections is recorded by the minute at which we detect it (e.g., minutes 1 through 10), and the distance band (e.g., within 50m, 50-100m, beyond 100m, and flying over).  Inevitably, birds move over the course of the survey period, so we’re trying to stay aware of where our birds are moving, so we don’t double count them.  It’s critical to use the distance category at which we first detect the birds, so we don’t inflate our density estimates.  I like to think of our point count survey as a snap-shot of the bird community in that first split-second of the survey – it’s just that, given some individuals and species are more detectable than others, we have 10 minutes in which to try to record everybody!

By the time my watch beeps out the end of my count, I have several Spotted Towhees singing, along with a Bewick’s Wren, American Robin, and Mourning Dove.  My Dark-eyed Junco pair has stuck around, too.  I don’t have any unknowns to track down, so it’s time to walk to my next point.  A few meters further on, I hear a Lazuli Bunting male start singing about 75m away.  I record him as an incidental, and keep on downvalley, until I reach #2, and start the process over again.

By the time I finish #10, it’s coming up on 9am.  Usually, I’ll then run our rapid habitat assessments on each bird survey point, as I make my way back to the truck, but we’ll be coming back here in a couple of weeks, so it’ll get done on our next round.  I make my way back up Eldorado Canyon – such a beautiful spot – taking a time-out at the rock arch to drink some more water and enjoy the view.  Happiness.  And then back up to the truck, where I rendezvous with Kelly, and we scout out the road access to our upcoming surveys.  Then camp!  Some paperwork, listening to bird calls/songs, a book and a letter, and dinner.  As the evening wears on, Kelly and I scout out the lower canyon on foot, get acquainted with some more of the plants of the Pine Nut Range, then head back to camp to get things ready for the morning.  As lower Eldorado Canyon falls into darkness, I hear one last loud feeding run by the Robins nesting a bit down the road, and I am out like a light.  Until the next morning, when the whole thing starts up again!