Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Great Basin Keeps Giving

I've been working out here for about a month and a half now but there are still many birds in the Great Basin that I have yet to photograph, or even see! I hadn't had the luxury of surveying the Virginia Lakes area until a few days ago (7/7/2013). It seemed like every round something prevented me from surveying this high alpine canyon. Kevin and Jeremy, the bird guys, told me about Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches that sometimes can be seen at the top.

On their last survey, they only had a flyover. We got to Virginia Lakes a day before we had to survey, so I hiked up to the top hoping to get lucky. I had visions of trying to snap a few pictures of a Rosy-Finch as it flew high overhead, praying one would be in focus. I wasn't prepared for what happened next.

As I was trying to photograph little Skippers (butterflies) I heard wings whizzing past me from behind. Upon turning around, a Gray-crowed Rosy-Finch had landed only feet away from me and was calmly foraging on the ground in the meadow. Another joined it. I sat for at least a half hour while these two birds surrounded me. It was magical.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Today, while surveying Cottonwood Canyon in Nevada, we stumbled into a ton of Greater Sage-Grouse. We knew they were here, but until today (7/9/2013) we hadn't seen or heard them at all. We ran into at least three females with older young. However, when I'm surveying butterflies, I rarely carry my long lens. Instead, I carry my 90mm macro. I was able to snap photos of this female with young from the car as they would just not get out of the road. Maybe better quality pictures next time.

Greater Sage-Grouse
These can be told from the Sooty Grouse by their long pointed tails. If you could see the front of the female, you would see a black belly. The Greater Sage-Grouse is also much larger than the smaller Gunnison Sage-Grouse. Also, I'm not anywhere near the Gunnison Sage-Grouse range.

Phew, I was getting a little worried about the Grouse.

Now I have three days off and will spend them in the Sierras cleaning up my Great Basin birds and enjoying some beautiful scenery. What will #500 be?

Great birding!


  1. Hi David, been keeping an eye on your progress from the sunny UK! Do you have separate year lists for birds only seen and for photographed birds? I noticed your Surbirds entry and was wondering if you were aiming to at least see 700 :-D Good luck either way!

  2. Hi Tony, I do have a separate year list, but it isn't that much more than the photographed list! I've now photographed 506 species, and seen (or heard) 535. There is no way I will see 700, but I could get close to 600 if all goes well. I'm starting graduate school in the fall that will take up most of my time. Thanks for the comment, and thanks for the support!

  3. No problem, glad it's going well and hope you do make it to the 600 - maybe save the 700 for another year! :-D