Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Great Basin- Nevada and California

For the past couple weeks, I've been working on butterfly surveys and my grad project in the Great Basin of Nevada and California. The birds and butterflies have both been spectacular! This area is host to a whole new suite of birds that I had yet to see this year.

Some of the more common birds out here are Mountain Chickadee, Spotted Towhee and MacGillivray's Warbler. They are in seemingly every canyon we survey and are very vocal.

Mountain Chickadee

MacGillivray's Warbler

Spotted Towhee
Swifts are tough birds to get a decent picture of. White-throated Swifts can be seen flying high around the steep canyon walls. I had the opportunity to watch as some descended early one morning.

White-throated Swift
There is plenty of Sage out here, the preferred nesting habitat of Brewer's Sparrows. They are also abundant. However, I have yet to see a Sage Sparrow...

Brewer's Sparrow
We pass by the Bridgeport Reservoir just across the border from Nevada. This place is loaded with close grebes. I think this is a much "cleaner" Western Grebe than the one I posted about earlier.

Western Grebe
Because some of the canyons are high in elevation, we are treated to Cassin's Finches regularly.

Cassin's Finch
Below are more of the regular breeding birds that we run into while camping or out surveying.

California Quail

Virginia's Warbler

Western Meadowlark

Canyon Wren (with nesting material!)

Western Scrub-Jay

Sage Thrasher

Lazuli Bunting
While driving to a new field site the other day, this Golden Eagle was soaring above the little-used road.

Golden Eagle

One of the coolest birds (in my opinion) that I have seen while in the basin is this Calliope Hummingbird. It was patrolling a small area of aspens, but would always return to this same perch. I never see many Calliope Hummingbirds, and finding this one in the "wild" away from feeders was very cool!

Calliope Hummingbird (male)
I've only had one day off since I've been here, but used it to visit Mono Lake with the rest of the western Great Basin crew. Here I added California Gull and Virginia Rail.

California Gull

Virginia Rail
I have two more days of butterfly surveys this week. Kevin and I will leave right after field work on Friday (6/14) and head for the Kern River Valley of California. These are old stomping grounds for me. My first field job was with the endangered subspecies of Willow Flycatcher that nests in the valley, so I know the area well. We will have two full days to go birding. Hopefully another update soon(ish).

Also, I recently learned that there is another birder doing a "photographic big year" this year! He is at least 20 species ahead of me. Just the kick I needed to get myself in gear, and I'm already looking into pelagics... The above pictures will be posted to the Flickr webpage when I get better internet.

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