Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ruby Mountains- Last Few Days in the West

I spent the last 3 days climbing up and down the Ruby Mountains in Nevada. Whenever the Ruby Mountains and birding are mentioned, one bird comes to mind; Himalayan Snowcock. Introduced 50 years ago, they inhabit the steepest, highest, rockiest terrain imaginable. This make locating them tough. One spot, in particular, is a good bet, but it requires a 2-mile, one way steep hike above Island Lake. I spent 7 hours the first day looking for them with no success.

Therefore, I was forced to make the 4am hike again the next day. I got to the spot before sunrise and with food to last me the entire day. I had mentally prepared to sit and wait all day. But when 5:55am rolled around, I heard some foreign sound I knew would be the Himalayan Snowcocks. I found them in flight and watched where they landed but they disappeared. Finally, after another 25 minutes of trying to locate them in my scope, I found them foraging in some greenery. Success! The digiscoped pictures I took would do them no justice, so I started to climb the scree hoping to get better photos.

Himalayan Snowcock
As I climbed, the birds moved further ahead and did not allow close approach. I got the photos I wanted, though, and was ready to climb down when I heard Black Rosy-Finches even higher up the cliff. I knew they wouldn't come down low, so up higher I went. This was an intense climb! Once I reached the area the Rosy-Finches were, they couldn't have been more cooperative. At least 11 birds, mostly young and curious, were actively feeding and being fed. Being surrounded by Black Rosy-Finches was wonderful! And all this before 7am.

Black Rosy-Finch
Relieved that I didn't have to make the climb again the following day, I worked my way down toward the parking lot.

Later that day, I looked for Cordilleran Flycatcher with no success. But as I was walking back to the car, two Dusky Grouse were feeding right off the main path. They couldn't have cared less about my presence. This was a bird I had figured would be easily missed and was not counting on seeing this year. It helps to be lucky!

Dusky Grouse
One last bird I had hoped for in, or around, the Ruby Mountains was Ferruginous Hawk. I drove Ruby Valley twice, seeing just about every other bird of prey imaginable, but dipping on Ferruginous Hawk. However, I just may have some photos of one from a different location, but more on that later.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was going to try to get the other half of the newly split Sagebrush Sparrow. I have photos of Bell's, and now I have photos of Sagebrush as well. I stopped off highway 80 in some appropriate habitat and it wasn't long before I found one skulking along the ground. As I approached, it perched perfectly for me.

Sagebrush Sparrow
This is how I spent my last few days in the west. I go back to Michigan on Friday and will waste no time cleaning up some missing shorebirds among other things. I only have a few days home before moving to Minneapolis. It is going to be a crazy, fun next two weeks!

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