Kelly and I completed our second winter survey for birds using Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, catching a ride over with the Fish and Wildlife Service, on their boat. Thank you! Blue skies, unseasonably warm, and beautiful views. (I wrote about our first visit here.) We didn’t see anything unexpected, but Prairie Falcons and American White Pelicans flying overhead are always a treat, and the Say’s Phoebes were new since our January visit. In some years, the pelicans have started constructing nests by late February; this year, while a few were seen in the area, breeding hadn’t yet started, so we had our last full survey of the island until autumn. I am still impressed by the sheer numbers of Rock Wrens!
Flowers were starting to bloom, particularly Erodium cicutarium (stork’s bill), and there were huge swathes of blinding white tufa gravel and rocks, interspersed with the dark green and purple plants.
Kelly wrote that “there is very little time on Anaho Island that is unimpressive. While doing grids or point counts, it is typically easy to get into the zone of surveying and tune out your surroundings that are not avian related. This doesn’t happen quite as often on Anaho. Walking along the ridgeline of the mountain while looking out over the expanse of Pyramid Lake you feel you are basically alone in the moment with this entire mountain to yourself. I remember looking down to the beach to see six American Coots fighting the waves beside a large rock outcrop, totally unaware anything was watching. Only a few meters out were a pair of Western Grebes unaffected by the waves, diving simultaneously for lunch. Though these are pretty common species in the area this time of year, for some reason they seemed incredibly special in that instant.”
I agree – there is definitely no zoning out on Anaho! Aside from the beautiful views, it is incredibly rocky: just making sure of your footing can be a challenge. I’ve heard lots of tales about Anaho as one of the rattlesnakiest places in the state – I imagine a little later in the year it’s going to be interesting trying to combine birding and balancing on rocks, while trying to avoid stepping on lurking reptiles!
While Anaho Island is closed to the public, Pyramid Lake is not – though you will need to have a tribal use permit (you can get them online here). The Lahontan Audubon Society has a useful run-down of birding at Pyramid Lake – though do note that as of this writing, the eastern shore (their Side Trip C) is closed to non-members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.